One Little Change in How You Talk to Your Kids Can Help Them Be More Successful

December 19, 2016

When expecting a child, many parents read books about all the things that can happen during pregnancy, about how to raise a child, how to ensure they’re healthy and safe, and so on.

But few of these books will tell you about one simple thing you can do as part of your child’s upbringing that will help them be successful in the future.

Dr. Carol Dweck claims that a person’s successful future depends on what type of thinking they develop in childhood: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

A fixed mindset refers to the idea that our personality, intellect, and creative abilities are static and given to us by nature.

A growth mindset is possessed by those who aren’t afraid to confront problems, or who see defeat not as proof of their stupidity, but as a springboard for development and new opportunities.

A person’s career, relationships, and ultimately their ability to be happy depends on what kind of thinking forms in their head from early childhood onwards.

Here are a few simple examples of the difference between the two ways of thinking. A child should be praised not for their talent, but for their ability to learn.

When your child reads to you:

  • FIXED MINDSET: ’You are so smart!’
  • GROWTH MINDSET: ’You worked so hard to learn how to do that, and now you can! Congratulations!’

When your child assembles a jigsaw quickly:

  • FIXED MINDSET: ’What a smart kid!’
  • GROWTH MINDSET: ’I’m sorry I wasted your time with an easy puzzle — let me find another one that will give us a bigger challenge. I know we can do it!’

When your child does well in a test:

  • FIXED MINDSET: ’You got 80% on your test? Well done!’
  • GROWTH MINDSET: ’You got 80% on your test; that means you are well on your way to knowing this stuff! If you review the ones you missed and take the test again tomorrow, I bet you’ll get closer to 100%.’

The difference in the two ways of communicating is very subtle, but the differing influences they can have on a child’s future can be huge.

When you give praise to a child not for the talents they have, but for their striving and ability to learn, you help them understand that they weren’t simply born with inbuilt abilities, and that they have to work hard to achieve a lot in life, with patience and persistence. And when they get tripped up by life’s difficulties, it really is OK. In this case, the child’s opinion of himself or herself will not be lowered, because they’ll understand that much depends on their own efforts and that their failures aren’t intrinsic to their character.

Dr. Dweck and her colleagues have carried out research into this issue. Over the course of two years, they observed a group of seventh graders who had been intentionally brought up according to different methods and ways of thinking. They found that although the kids all got similar grades, their goals in school were completely different.

Goal number one for the children with a fixed mindset consisted of making sure they looked clever in the eyes of those around them, whatever the cost. Their behavior was determined by their desire to avoid the opposite situation. In contrast, children who possessed a growth mindset were not scared of failure. Their overriding goal was to learn, whatever the situation and whatever the cost.

It’s obvious who’ll be the ones that will find it easier to cope with life’s difficulties and achieve personal growth. So pay attention to how you’re shaping your kids’ mindset. This is a very important aspect of their upbringing — for their sake, don’t neglect it.

Author Angie Aker

Based on materials from upworthy