One of the biggest hurdles for my children is mindset. I can’t do it. I don’t know how to do that. It doesn’t work. I give up. It’s such an enormous hurdle that my primary focus at the moment is helping my sons turn a fixed mindset into a growth one.
Struggling with Hurdles
My 9 year old goes to a weekly pull-out enrichment class for gifted children. He came home one week talking about fixed and growth mindsets, so I began digging. Self-analysis tools in school concluded that my son has a fixed mindset.
He’s a highly sensitive child and he picks things up quickly. He picks most things up so quickly that there is no real learning process taking place. He just gets it.
That’s great, but because it has become such the norm for him he shuts down when he sees something as a hurdle. He believes he’s not able to do something so there’s no point starting. He sees mistakes as failures, and not learning experiences. His elder brother is, incidentally, exactly the same.
He is now going through the process of learning to learn. And we are working on helping him move his fixed mindset to a growth one.
What is a Fixed and Growth Mindset?
Having a fixed mindset is about believing that you have a certain level of intelligence or creativity or certain character traits and that doesn’t change.
A growth mindset is believing that putting in the effort leads to a change in intelligence or ability, for example.
Why Does Mindset Matter?
Why does it matter if a child’s mindset is a fixed one? It matters for a whole heap of reasons.
A primary problem for a child with a fixed mindset is a lack of self-confidence. If you consistently believe you don’t have the skills to complete tasks then your self-confidence will eventually erode. You will hide your mistakes. You won’t ask for help. You will feel like you are incapable. And that has a devastating impact.
Challenges and Experiences
A fixed mind will lead a child to avoid new experiences, something that many HSCs already struggle with. They will shy away from challenges, further eroding their self image and confidence.
To keep growing and developing we all need to try things outside our comfort zone, beyond our obvious capabilities. For that we need to believe that putting in the effort can yield results – and that requires a growth mindset.
Feeling of Failure
A child with a fixed mindset will see a failure as a devastating result, which only goes to prove they are incapable of completing the task in hand. A child with a growth mindset will bounce back from a failure more quickly, with the attitude that with more effort or a different approach they can turn a failure into a success.
Help a Child Turn a Fixed Mindset into a Growth Mindset
- A brain can grow. That’s important for a child to understand.
- When we practice something we get better at it. Use examples like riding a bike, swimming, football, writing. The more we do something, the better we get – and that applies to everything we do! (There’s a great BBC clip here for older children about our brain during the learning process.)
- Changing a fixed mindset means focusing on the effort put into a task, and not on the result.
- Focus on how a child has solved a problem.
- Use specific praise that puts the spotlight on the enormous effort a child mustered to attempt to jump a hurdle, even if they didn’t quite clear the hurdle. Praising the effort will motivate a child to try again next time.
- Look at lessons when things don’t go to plan – how can a child do it differently next time? What have they learned? Everything we do is a learning experience, even if we don’t achieve the result we wanted.
- Use the word yet a lot. I can’t do that yet.
- Show them that failures are okay, and that we learn from failures. Give your child permission to fail.
- Help them see their learning as a journey. The path isn’t always straight and obstacle free, but that’s part of the fun of getting to where we want.
Mindset written by mindset guru Carol Dweck.
(For Dutch version click here)
You Are Awesome: Find Your Confidence and Dare to be Brilliant at (Almost) Anything
This is a fun book for children, written by bestselling mindset author Matthew Syed.
The You Are Awesome Journal: Dare to find your confidence (and maybe even change the world) is an accompanying journal for the above book.
Challenges Kit (ages 5-12) including 5 Day Growth Mindset Challenge: (This is the kit I am currently using with my two eldest sons.)
For your convenience, this post includes affiliate links to products and books I find useful for the HSK community. They cost you nothing more to buy, but I get a small commission.