The resilience of a child, dyslexic or otherwise, is heavily reliant on how they perceive their abilities, mistakes and capacity for self improvement, otherwise referred to as their mindset.
Carol Dweck and her colleagues coined the terms fixed and growth mindset by finding that when students believe they can get smarter and that effort makes them stronger, they put in extra time and effort in to tasks, achieve more and are not deterred by their mistakes (growth mindset). Those who are convinced that their abilities are limited by outside factors do not achieve as much and lack the resilience to cope with failure (fixed mindset).
You can help your child to develop a growth mindset by:
1. Talking to them about the brain:
Children get excited about the learning process when they understand that their brain actually grows new connections as they learn new things and practice skills. To help them understand this you can say things like:
- “Your brain is a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.”
- “The feeling of this being hard is the feeling that your brain is growing”.
- “Every time you practice, your brain rewires itself, forms new connections and strengthens those connexions which make it easier the next time round.”
When children learn how their brains work and grow, they take the first steps of developing a growth mindset.
2. Praising for effort rather than achievement
Focusing more on the processes of what children do rather than their results can develop a growth mindset. For example:
- “You worked hard to get that right!”(effort).
- “That was a clever idea to tackle the hardest task first” (strategy).
This type of praise helps children to develop the belief that success has more to do with what they do and the effort they put in than any innate skills and talents.
3. Showing them the power of yet
Children can get easily frustrated by difficult and unfamiliar tasks saying that they ‘can’t do it!’ or that they ‘don’t know the answer!’. Encouraging them to add the word ‘yet’ to their complaints, changes how they feel about their abilities. For example:
- “I cant do this…….yet.”
- “I don’t know how to do it……yet.”
- “I don’t understand………..yet.”
This reframes their mindset and teaches them that effort and persistence, will enable them to achieve what they had previously thought was beyond them.
4. Celebrate their mistakes
Get excited when opportunities for growth occur! In a challenging moment, say things like:
- “This seems like a chance to grow our brains!”
- “You can learn from this”
- “Mistakes help you improve”
- “Lets see what other strategies you can try.”
Create an environment where setbacks are expected and even celebrated.
5. Discuss feelings, good and bad
Discuss how positive feelings such as satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness come from persisting through challenges and not giving up when things get difficult.
Sometimes it can be difficult to talk about negative emotions. These suggestions can make it easier:
- Share how you sometimes feel sad, anxious, or even hopeless.
- Explain that negative feelings happen to everyone and are perfectly normal.
- Discuss how these feelings may serve as clues that you need to shift your thinking and attitude. For instance fear means it’s time to be brave, anxiety means it’s time to ask for help, sadness means it’s time to talk, etc.
As a teacher I promote growth mindset development in all I do. For more on this click here.