Carol Dweck keeps popping up in all the things I’m learning, as a person, an educator and a mother. Dweck is a motivation researcher who has published her findings in a book called Mindset. You can check out her TED talk here, if you’ve got 10 minutes. But here’s a good, kid-friendly Sesame Street version:
Dweck’s research centers on the notions of fixed and growth mindsets. If we have a fixed mindset, we believe that we have an immovable amount of talent or intelligence, and there is nothing we can do about it. Conversely, a belief in a growth mindset means that, with hard work and perseverance, we can change our abilities. In fact, research, has led us to understand that students can improve their school performance if they are willing to adopt a growth mindset.
Dweck’s position has a far-reaching effect on education in our country, and many teachers are changing the way they teach students and react to their performances. The willingness to embrace a growth mindset has powerful implications for parents, too.
For instance, when we talk to our kids, do we praise their brilliance or their hard work? “You’re so smart!” pushes them towards a fixed mindset; “Look how hard you worked! Wow!” gives them space to develop a growth mindset. If our children are struggling, as we are reminded by the Sesame Street gang, we might choose to say, “You haven’t mastered this yet. You’ll get there.”
Here’s another perspective, from Neil deGrasse Tyson:
At the Kindermusik studio, we embrace growth mindsets. In fact, it is the very basis of what we do. We are not scouting for child prodigies in music educating only them. Rather, we believe that every child deserves music education. We strive to increase and strengthen the neural pathways of your little ones through sensory interactions with their environment like playing with instruments, keeping a steady beat, moving to favorite songs, or giving you time to connect with each other.
Perhaps the best part of developing a growth mindset occurs for us personally. We don’t have to be perfect at this parenting gig. We don’t even have to be good at it always. It doesn’t mean that we’re failures. It just means that we’re not there yet.
As Maya Angelou says, “I did then what I knew how to do. When I knew better, I did better.”
May this apply to all of us today!