Three powerful ways to develop your child’s growth mindset

The way a person thinks about their own abilities and qualities is referred to as their mindset.  Carol Dweck proposed that there are two types of mindsets:

  • Fixed Mindset: This is the belief that intelligence is fixed and that any subject that is difficult or requires more effort simply means that you are not good at it.
  • Growth Mindset: This is the belief that intelligence can be grown and subjects that are difficult or require extra effort means that you are increasing your intelligence.

Ask your child whether the following statements are true or false and make a note

1. If I have to work at something, it means I’m not smart.
2. I like to try things that are hard.
3. When I make a mistake, I get embarrassed.
4. I like to be told I’m smart.
5. I usually quit when something gets difficult or frustrating.
6. I don’t mind making mistakes, they help me learn.
7. There are some things I’ll never be good at.
8. Anyone can learn something if they work hard at it.
9. people are born stupid, average or clever, they can’t change it.
10. Doing my best makes me proud, even if it’s not perfect.

How many odd number statements did they think were true? ___
How many even number statements did they think were true? ___

What this means
Odd number statements are characteristic of a fixed mindset and the even number statements are characteristic of a growth mindset.

Fixed mindset: Assumes intelligence, abilities and talents are fixed traits and cannot be improved upon.

Growth mindset: Assumes Intelligence, abilities and talents can improve over time with effort, learning and perseverance.

The first thing you and they need to understand is that our intelligence isn’t fixed, it can increase or decrease in strength depending on how much effort we apply.

Ensure your child understands that the brain is like a muscle that needs exercise/practice to get stronger. To begin with when we learn new things they are difficult but practice makes them easier. This process can be even more effortful for children with dyslexia and thus developing a growth mindset is crucial to alleviate any negative self-esteem which comes from the difficulties.IMG_5187

Strategies to teach children about a growth mindset

1. Telling stories about achievements that resulted from hard work

Chat with them about how people with a growth mindset develop skills needed to succeed by believing that they can learn and become better equipped to handle mistakes and setbacks. Through persistence, they know that hard work can help them achieve their goals.  Talk about some well-known people who have achieved their ambitions by developing and applying a growth mindset.

For instance: before the publication of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling believed herself to be “the biggest failure I knew”. Her first book about Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers but her courage, determination and growth mindset kept her going and led to the creation of the best-selling book series in history.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, amongst a number of other great ideas, was quoted as saying that “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work”. When asked about all the times his ideas didn’t work he famously replied “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

2. Model a Growth Mindset

Children form their mindset observing and listening to you as their parent. Therefore it’s on you to demonstrate how to recognise fixed mindset thoughts and replace them with growth mindset thoughts.

See the table showing examples of how to do this.

3. Praise the process

Be specific and praise of the process rather than the outcome.  This will have a big impact on your child’s self-confidence. Many children with dyslexia develop low self-esteem with regards to their educational achievements so, they can feel starved of praise due to difficulties with school work. However, by focusing on the effort they make will encourage them to persevere and increase their resilience. For instance, praise for

  • Focusing on their homework for 10 minutes rather than the number of pages they have read.
  • Concentrating on learning a challenging maths calculation rather than completing a page of work
  • Correcting their own errors rather than how many errors they made.

Let them know that you can see just how hard they are working.  You could say:

  • OK, so it didn’t go as well as you wanted it to. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to learn and work out how to do it differently.
  • Is there anything we could do to prepare differently next time?
  • It might be hard, but your brain is getting stronger and you are making progress… (in these places).
  • I admire your persistence and I can see how hard you are working. It will pay off.

Author: Zoë Brown

I am a dyslexia specialist, qualified in assessing dyslexia and literacy related difficulties as well as tutoring dyslexic children and those who need additional literacy support. Having been diagnosed as dyslexic at an early age, I have a personal understanding of both the challenges and advantages that dyslexia brings. I feel strongly that when given the right support and positive encouragement, dyslexic people of all ages can excel in confidence and academic attainment.

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