Nurturing A Growth Mindset In Children: Why Is It Important?

Have you noticed how some kids give in to their fears and quit playing outdoors whereas others pick themselves up after every fall, learn and thrive from their mistakes? Why? “Playing isn’t fun anymore,” “I’m bored,” etc., aren’t valid excuses. There may be multiple reasons for a child to drop their favourite hobby.

Some children are embarrassed over their mistakes, so they quit. Others feel that quitting relieves stress and it keeps them safe in their comfort zone. That’s why they do it! Even we’re tempted to do the same, at times!

Quitting may bring momentary relief but unfortunately, it pulls the plug on the learning process for our children.

When kids crumble in the face of setbacks, they start questioning their own capabilities and skills. When we unintentionally label them with seemingly harmless sentences, like “What’s wrong with you?” “You’ve been a bad child” or “You’re the best.” it probes them to question themselves ‘how’ and ‘why’.

From the answers they find, they form strong beliefs about themselves—beliefs that ultimately affect their mindset. The difference between positive and negative behaviour is likely to stem from having a fixed or growth mindset.

Why Is It Important For Children To Have A Growth Mindset?

The term growth mindset is often used by renowned authors like Carol Dweck, Mary Cay Ricci and Heather Hundley in context with winners and successful people. So, what is a growth mindset?

It is believing that anyone can grow with passion, purpose, toil, and training. And whenever our child intends to quit, we need to revive this belief by making them understand that challenges, though inevitable, are surmountable with self-reflection, efforts and tenacity.

Children are born with unique traits in their personality. Some are timid, some stubborn, some go-getters and some laid-back. We’ve been told that everyone comes out a little pre-baked. The truth is we’re not a ‘finished product’ but a ‘project in progress’ and there’s always scope for improvement!

When kids believe that progress, talents, skills, etc. aren’t fixed and are cultivated if the focus is on the process, not on the outcome (success or failure), then they start improving every day, ultimately becoming the best version of themselves.

Developing A Growth Mindset In Children

Being elders, we need to play the role of dream-makers, caregivers and mentors because kids are more likely to follow our example, not advice. Whenever kids are plagued by doubts or failures put a dent in their self-esteem, we must assure them that everything they require is inside them. It is possible by—

  • Encouraging Self-Reflection To Find Answers

If the little one believes she/he can do a tricky problem sum, they will undoubtedly succeed. However, to develop this belief, they would first need to think on their own. The idea is to shift their focus from ‘Can it be done?‘ to ‘How can I do it?’ Defining the ‘correct way to do it’ hampers a child’s ability to monitor, regulate and control their doings by taking ownership of a task.

  • Helping them re-frame their thoughts to reach a decision

What do you think is a better way for helping kids reach a correct decision—yelling “Share your toys with your sister,” or questioning them “Would you like it if your sister doesn’t share her toys with you?” It’s crucial to remind children not to forget about what they think, feel and do, in order for them to develop a better understanding.

When children start analysing their decisions based on introspection, they develop skills and intelligence, even empathy, which develops their decision-making abilities. Therefore, for us, valuing their answers, opinions and expectations, is equally important.

  • Preparing them to learn from challenges to improve

Our child is disinterested in drawing and painting: we end up doing their art homework. They’ve had an argument with a friend: we mediate. They score poorly: our first reaction is to criticise the teacher. Whenever we see them struggling, we swoop in to iron out the wrinkles.

They have never experienced failures or bumps! Consequently, they don’t acknowledge it, neither learn from it nor put in efforts to turn their weaknesses into strengths. At such instances, we should inspire them to—

  1. Enjoy their task (by highlighting the way it’s positively contributing to their growth)
  2. Persist better on their current task in hand
  3. Put in efforts to perform better on future tasks.
  • Giving our feedback on ‘efforts’ and not ‘outcomes’
Children know when we’re pouring it on a bit too thin or too thick because they understand praise and criticism, right and wrong, at some level.

Praises should be saved for genuine achievements, mainly efforts – “I love the way you use colours in this picture.” not “Wow, you’re a natural artist!” And criticism should be subtle, private and self-reflective – “Would you like it if your friend hits you?” Our feedback must encourage kids to reflect on their negative behaviour, only then it will have a greater impact.

Every individual demonstrates a fixed or growth mindset at different points of time, sometimes both. Therefore, we can’t expect kids to be a perfect model of growth in all the spheres of life- and that’s okay! However, steering them from a fixed to a progressive mindset frequently will help them live content and successful life. Don’t we all want it for our kids?

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