I just listened to Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success ,
I wrote about this game changing book a year ago, here.
I highlighted a woman who was a hoarder, and had accepted, at 35, that she and her family would always have paths crammed with stuff from room to room, and the kitchen piled high with dirty dishes. She happened on a link one January when she was surfing the internet. The link took her to Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic Art of Tidying Up. She realized she could change. Her house was a 3 month project that she worked and worked on until the junk was gone and there was actual open space. The before and after pictures are amazing!
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, is such a maximizing tool for me, because it is so hopeful. If you believe your talents and abilities will never change, that either you have talent or you don’t, that your intelligence can’t be increased, then you have a fixed mindset. You won’t try out for things unless you know you will achieve them. A growth mindset means that failures only make you work harder, that obstacles are ways to learn and to get through. A growth mindset means you are a life long learner and you know that your intelligence and abilities can increase through your hard work.
If you want to raise gritty, resilient children that realize their well-being and success requires dedication and endurance, read this book.
Dr. Dweck talks about how to praise your child in a growth mindset way. I found the following examples very clear about the right and wrong way to praise your child.
I was raised with a lot of praise. It was my mother’s love language. I have worked many years to be able to receive feedback well, because if I didn’t get a positive message all of the time, I took it hard. I remember making enchiladas in the first few months of our marriage. I asked Craig what he thought and he said, “Well, they were a little spicy.” I remember how much that hurt my feelings! I mean it took me awhile to get over it, in my newlywed way. How exhausting! I love the above picture where it says, “feedback is constructive.” Yes! I have now learned how important feedback is, when you can use it to become better.
Here are some examples from her book, page 184. The messages about failure were extremely enlightening to me.
“Messages About Success”
“Listen for the messages in the following examples:
“You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!”
“Look at that drawing. Martha, is he the next Picasso or what?”
“You’re so brilliant, you got an A without even studying!”
“If you’re like most parents, you hear these as supportive, esteem-boosting messages. But listen more closely. See if you can hear another message. It’s The ones that children hear:’
“If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart.”
“I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.”
“I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.”’
“Messages About Failure”
“Nine-year-old Elizabeth was on her way to her first gymnastics meet. Lanky, flexible, and energetic, she was just right for gymnastics, and she loved it. Of course, she was a little nervous about competing, but she was good at gymnastics and felt confident of doing well. She had even thought about the perfect place in her room to hang the ribbon she would win.’
“In the first event, the floor exercises, Elizabeth went first. Although she did a nice job, the scoring changed after the first few girls and she lost. Elizabeth also did well in the other events, but not well enough to win. By the end of the evening, she had received no ribbons and was devastated.’
“What would you do if you were Elizabeth’s parents?
- Tell Elizabeth you thought she was the best.
- Tell her she was robbed of a ribbon that was rightfully hers.
- Reassure her that gymnastics is not that important
- Tell her she has the ability and will surely win next time.
- Tell her she didn’t deserve to win.’
“There is a strong message in our society about how to boost children’s self-esteem, and a main part of that message is: Protect them from failure! While this may help with the immediate problem of a child’s disappointment, it can be harmful in the long run. Why?’
“Let’s look at the five possible reactions from a mindset point of view [and listen to the messages:]’
“The first (you thought she was the best) is basically insincere. She was not the best – you know it, and she does too. This offers her no recipe for how to recover or how to improve.’
“The second (she was robbed) places blame on others, when in fact the problem was mostly with her performance, not the judges. Do you want her to grow up blaming others for her deficiencies?’
“The third (reassure her that gymnastics doesn’t really matter) teaches her to devalue something if she doesn’t do well in it right away. Is this really the message you want to send?’
“The fourth (she has the ability) may be the most dangerous message of all. Does ability automatically take you where you want to go? If Elizabeth didn’t win this meet, why should she win the next one?’
“The last option (tell her she didn’t deserve to win) seems hard-hearted under the circumstances. And of course you wouldn’t say it quite that way. But that’s pretty much what her growth-minded father told her.’
“Here is what he actually said: “Elizabeth, I know how you feel. It’s disappointing to have your hopes up and to perform your best but not to win. But you know, you haven’t really earned it yet. There were many girls there who have been in gymnastics longer than you and who’ve worked a lot harder than you. If this is something you really want, then it’s something you’ll really have to work for.”
He also let Elizabeth know that doing gymnastics for fun was another option. But if she wanted to be excellent, she would have to do more. This 9-year-old decided she did want to work harder and went on to do much better in her meets. What I like about this example is how her Dad validated and reframed Elizabeth’s losses and told her the truth. Then he turned the responsibility back on her and let her make the decision.
One of Dr. Dweck’s students at Columbia told her,
“I remember being praised for my intelligence rather than my efforts, and slowly but surely I developed an aversion to difficult challenges. Most surprisedly, this extended beyond academic and even athletic challenges to emotional challenges. This was my greatest learning disability—this tendency to see performance as a reflection of character and, if I could not accomplish something right away, to avoid that task or treat it with contempt.”
Dr. Dweck has developed an online curriculum Brainology® online program, for schools and individual children. The curriculum teaches children about the malleability of the brain and how they can increase their own brain development. They understand how to learn at school instead of just memorizing for a test. The cost is 50.00 per student. I would start with the book first and see what changes you can make as you start to understand the differences between the two mindsets.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success , has made me reflect on how I see failure and obstacles and why it’s worth it to work hard at something. I want to be a lifelong learner and see obstacles as something that I can work through. How about you? Do you have a growth or fixed mindset?