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How to Help Your Kid Develop a Growth Mindset

One evening my parents and I were sitting around my living room watching my 2-year-old son put together a puzzle. After days of working on the same puzzle, he finally finished it and clapped for himself. “He’s brilliant. I knew he would be smart,“ my dad said. Of course his saba thinks his grandson is brilliant. In that moment, I wanted to say, “Actually, he showed persistence, changed his strategy and stayed focused.” It also happened to be only a 12-piece puzzle. Of course, I want my dad to get nachas from his grandson, but I also want him to understand that my son’s ability or inability to complete his puzzle had very little to do with his intelligence. Saba was looking at the situation from a fixed mindset.

A fixed mindset leads us to believe that we all are born with natural abilities. Some of us are gifted with the ability to learn easily, while others struggle. However, Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, introduces us to an alternative concept called growth mindset. A growth mindset teaches us that we can actually become smarter by challenging ourselves. Our brain is like a muscle and the more we push our brain to engage in difficult work, the stronger it becomes. It allows us to rebound, become more resilient and push ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of doing.

What can we do, as parents and educators,  to support our children in developing a growth mindset?

1. First, we need to allow our children to struggle. This doesn’t mean that we are going to throw them in at the deep end. It does mean that we will allow them to make mistakes, that we will not rush to solve their problems for them or clear their path of every obstacle. As parents, we want our children to be both successful and happy. What we sometimes don’t realize is that these goals are not at odds with allowing our children to struggle. In fact, allowing our children to make mistakes and to fail gives them the tools to problem solve, experiment and develop the confidence to pick themselves right back up when things do not go as planned.

2. It’s also important for us to reflect on how we offer praise. While we want to celebrate our children’s achievements, it’s equally, if not more important, to offer praise for effort, progress, persistence, using new strategies and rising to a challenge. It’s not all or nothing in terms of achieving or failing.  When our children do not meet expectations or goals, we are able to say, “You don’t know how to do that yet, but if you continue to learn and practice, you will!”.

3. We can work hard to set an example for our children. In the words of Joyce Maynard, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.” We must be mindful of our own thinking and the messages that we give to our children through our actions and words. We need to think about how we react when we fail or what we say when we are faced with a difficult problem.

Whether we are learning a new language, solving a math problem or even completing a 12-piece puzzle, our mindset is what truly sets us apart from those around us. For the record, I do think my son is brilliant. What mother doesn’t think so? It’s just that achievement is far less important to me than rising to the challenge.

To learn more about a growth mindset, as well as growth mindset statements and affirmations, please click here.

Karen Lidor
Primary Vice Principal

We’d love you to share your experiences with growth mindset with the community. A perfect time to practice is over the holidays — give your child a challenge and work with them to solve it!  Post and tag your challenges with #GrowthMindset #BialikHDS