October 23, 2020: I’ve heard so many kids and teens say things like “I’m dumb”, “I can’t”, “I’m just not good at it” when I ask about what’s difficult in school, relationships, or hobbies. They’ve dismissed their abilities, identified as a failure, and don’t see how their current self can be any different in the future. They see any mistake as a result of a personal defect rather than underdeveloped skills.
When a child (or adult) has a fixed mindset, they see themselves as unchangeable. It destroys confidence, stirs up anxiety and hopelessness, and can create helplessness. As adults in a child’s life, we can often see their potential easier than they can. In order for a child to see potential in themselves, they need to adopt a growth mindset. This lets them know that they have the ability to learn, grow, and change.
Here’s how to help your child or teen shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:
- Add the word “yet” to their vocabulary, as in “I can’t do this…yet.” or “I don’t understand that…yet.”
- Give specific feedback in place of labels. Instead of “You’re smart”, tell them “You organized your thoughts so well in this paragraph.” Instead of “You’re talented”, tell them “You have been practicing a lot and it shows.”
- Let children know they can ask for help when they feel stuck instead of hiding their struggle or muddling through a challenge.
- Change the language. Replace “I can’t figure this out” with “I need to do this a different way.” Replace “They’re good at that and I’m not” with “I wonder what they did to make it look so easy.”
- Encourage persistence, reflection, and the process of improvement.