“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!’” — Audrey Hepburn
A growth mindset is the belief that you can improve on your talent and intelligence. A person with a growth mindset is not afraid to try and fail. This person understands that the road to success can be obtained by everyone. Intelligence and talent come with practice. Granted some people are born with certain skills. However, most people can improve their skills over time. As a mindful parent, observe your child, does he or she have the growth mindset?
As a parent, I dread the day that my son will say, “Oh, I’m so stupid. I can’t do this. This is too hard.” When a child is young, it’s easy to be frustrated with minor setbacks. As a parent, I hope that my child will be able to try again. However, it sometimes takes ages for a sensitive child who’s failed to try again. This is where the growth mindset can help.
A growth mindset emphasizes “growth” and “improvement”. On the road to “growth” and “improvement”, there’s always that bit of pain that’s necessary. Like all learnings in childhood, when a growth mindset is modeled in everyday life, it will become a habit. Then, it’s easier for children to internalize this concept as their own. Once the growth mindset is modeled, children have to practice it every day. When it becomes a habit, then there’s no thinking on the part of the child. He just automatically reverts to a growth mindset every time that child needs it in the child’s life.
How can I teach my preschooler to internalize a growth mindset?
1) When we play together, we both fail a lot.
One of the best ways to teach a child a “growth mindset” is to demonstrate failure. When we play together, I will often fail on purpose. For example, a block wasn’t stacked correctly; the wrong piece of lego for that structure, etc.. Then, we solve the problem together. I get my son’s help in resolving my failures. This way, we go through the process of failing and then recovering from that failure.
2) Break things and mend things, repeat the process.
My son was great at breaking all sorts of things these days. Each time, when he broke something, I would fix the item in front of him. Sometimes, we fixed the item together. Fixing things is another way of demonstrating improvement and recovery from failure.
3) Disagree, then compromise
As soon as my son turned into a toddler, I started to move to his rhythm less than when he was a baby. Instead, once in a while, I will disagree with him on purpose. For instance, “Mommy, cookie good!” I would say, “You like that cookie. Mommy likes this cookie better.” I would point to a different kind of cookie. Then, I would say with a smile on my face, “You eat yours. I’ll eat mine.” This demonstrates to him that we are different people. One person’s likes and wants are often different from the other.
4) There’s no such thing as “smart” or “stupid”
I never mention “ smart” or “stupid” when we are together. They are not labels we use in our household. Instead, I make a point to say, “Oh, no, it didn’t work out for this boy. I’m sure he’ll try another day.” “He’ll get there eventually.”
5) There’s no such thing as “can’t”.
When my son wants to quit something, I often find myself asking him to repeat the activity the next day, next week or next month. Each time I ask him to repeat it, my action says to him that “There’s no such thing as I can’t.” Eventually, with time to practice, he’s always able to complete the activity.
6) There’s no comparison
One of the things I refuse to do with my son is to compare him to other children. This was very hard to do in the beginning. Now, I’m getting better at it. If another kid show special skills that my son’s envious of, I just let my son know that he has special skills too. This way he feels special in his life and can be proud of his achievements.
7) Cheer for others, get inspired by others.
One of the things we’ve been doing a lot lately is to cheer for others. If I see another child succeeding at a skill on the playground, I always tell the mom that her child is special. At the same time, I make a point to cheer my son on as well. He can learn from my cheering for others to take the competition out of play.
8) Teach my child to move on, flexibility.
Like all toddlers, my son likes to repeat activities until he’s satisfied. This inflexibility often leads to obsessions. Nowadays, I support him performing tasks long enough just to learn it. Then, we move on to more difficult levels of the same activity. By constantly presenting new skills, I’m letting my son know what it means to “grow”. We never stay the same. We always grow.
Originally published at https://www.wellplayedchild.com on February 21, 2019.