This Learn from Home experience is illuminating, isn’t it? It allows us to see parts of our children that we might normally gloss over, which can be trying at times – particularly when there are explosions of frustration or a refusal to work consistently or to persevere.
One of the most powerful indicators of success in academics, and enjoyment in life beyond school, is the factor of mindset. You may have heard the buzzwords ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’ and there is a reason that these concepts have become so popular. Carol Dweck, the author of the book, Mindset, which brought this into the public imagination, speaks of how ‘the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.’
The Two Paths
A fixed mindset is all about proving and validating yourself – sticking to what you are good at and expecting learning to be easy. It is the view that your grades reflect who you are, that when you succeed you are superior, and when you don’t, you are worthless. It is the internalisation of the message ‘I am a failure’ when things don’t go to plan.
Students who exhibit a growth mindset are in it for the learning. They aren’t afraid of a bit of hard work because the ultimate aim is not the grade, but the knowledge they gain in the process. They believe their talents and skills can be developed, that if they want to invest into something, they will improve. If they don’t know, they ask for help. Failure isn’t definitive for these students – it is simply an indicator that they just need to keep persevering or change their strategy for success.
The beauty of mindset is that you get to choose which path to travel. And, in a home-learning situation, you can see instantly which messages your child is telling themselves.
How to Aim for Growth
There are a number of strategies you can take to help your child shift over from a fixed mindset into a growth one.
Drop the praise
Dweck found that ‘telling children they’re smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber but claim they were smarter.’ Encourage effort, not achievement, or you might find your attempts completely backfire.
Prioritise hard work
True genius is exceedingly rare and ‘even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements’. If you want to be good or excel at anything, you must do it over and over again. Is hard work celebrated or avoided in your household?
‘You have to work hardest for the things you love most.’ – Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
The power of ‘yet’
Yes, you may not be good at something the first or even the first dozen times you try it. But that isn’t definitive. Try to get your child to add on that powerful word ‘yet’ onto the end of the sentence if you find them lamenting their failure. ‘Yet’ flips the story into something we have control over, rather than leaving it at despair.
Action is critical
So often we can get mired in something just thinking about what to do. We feel paralysed by the options and the more we spend in that space, the less likely we are to get out of it.
As Marie Forleo says, ‘clarity comes from engagement, not thought’, so the next time you see your child struggling in that zone of chaos, ask them to name one thing they can do right now. It might be as simple as getting a glass of water, but taking that tiny first step makes all the difference.
Growth mindset takes effort to establish, but the path is well worth it. The outcomes for students who choose to love learning, prioritise hard work, use feedback to improve and adapt when things go awry are unrivalled when compared with those who are mired in a fixed mindset.
If there is one thing you can focus on during this Learn from Home period, let it be mindset. For growth springs from a healthy acknowledgement of areas in which we lack, and the determination and courage to improve.
*All photos sourced from Pexels.