Parents, Teachers, and Coaches: Where Do Mindset Come From?

Praise should deal, not with the child’s personality attributes, but with his efforts and achievements.” Haim Ginott

Parents, teachers, and coaches have a huge impact on creating children’s mindsets. Every word and action send a message, that is why it is important to talk to children and behave in a growth mindset way. Very often our motivating techniques, lessons we give, words we use to put our children into the fixed mindset.

Is important to avoid praising attitudes like: “You learned that so quickly! You’re so intelligent!” , “This drawing is brilliant. You are the next Picasso”, “You’re so smart, you have “A’s without studying!”, “You didn’t make any mistakes”. We have to remember that speed and perfection are the enemies of difficult learning and completing challenges. Praising the attitudes give kids a boost they need, but it works only for a moment.

As children love to be praised of course we can do it, but in the growth mindset way - by emphasizing the effort they put into the process. We can discuss their strategies and appreciate their choices. Also, it is not recommended to protect children from failure.

It happens that people are very careful with praising their children in a growth-oriented way, but they judge other children: “She is so smart.”, “He is so stupid”, “Look, he has only “A’s”. In that way, we send a fixed mindset message to children.

Many of us in childhood were punished, judged, we were given lessons that we would never forget. It was called discipline. But very often it caused the fixed mindset. The alternative is showing interest, helping one to understand and learn. And of course, it doesn’t mean that we should lower our standards.

For many, it sounds strange but very often our enemy is not failure but success. Failure forces us to develop, work harder, take a challenge, change a tactic. Success can put us into a fixed mindset because we think that we proved something, that from now on we do not have to work so hard, and we will keep winning. It is more difficult to stay AT the top than reach it.

We develop a false understanding of the growth mindset when we don't truly understand it. Here are some common misunderstandings:

Misunderstanding #1

People take what they like from the idea of the growth mindset, not the whole concept. They think that being flexible and open-minded is enough.

Misunderstanding #2

Many think that a growth mindset is only about effort. That is important, but if a child tries very hard but does something in an ineffective way, we should show him new strategies. It is important to encourage children to ask for help if it’s needed and look for alternatives ways.

The second thing is that many times we praise for an effort that’s not there. We talk a lot about it, but both parents and children know that there was no real, hard work. Also, the effort should be connected to the outcome. If the student tries hard but has very little or no progress, we can appreciate the effort, but we should not be content with it.

Misunderstanding #3.

People think that the growth mindset means telling children that they can do anything. But that happens only if we help them gain skills or reach an achievement. Without that, “You can do anything,” are only empty words.

It happens that parents talk a lot about the effort, but they react with anxiety or with concern about the failure. This message is stronger than words and children feel what really is important to their parents.

Actions to take

Principles to follow