Growth and Fixed Mindsets
A Guide for Parents
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy
Do you believe that intelligence is fixed for life and cannot be changed?
For years, we were brought up to believe that our intelligence (IQ) is fixed for life and cannot be altered. But recent advances in neuroscience demonstrate that we can physically grow our intelligence through our own effort or reduce it through mental inactivity. This is true at any stage of life, but is particularly pronounced in the first 10 years of life. At school ,we are calling the process of growing our intelligence a ‘Growth Mindset’ that matches our ‘I can’ philosophy.
We have been doing lots of work with the children about what type of mindset they have, how this affects their learning and how they can shift their mindset. We hope this leaflet will help you to find new ways to encourage your child to realise their capacities and to keep stretching themselves.
Tips for helping your child move from a fixed to a growth mindset:
1. Believe intelligence can changeDo you believe that intelligence is fixed or that it can be changed? Recent research and advances in neuroscience reveal that intelligence can be changed throughout our lives.
2. By adopting a growth mindset yourself, you can help your child do the same. When you hear them say, “I’m rubbish at…” , try to challenge that response and remind them about growth mindset requiring effort to change, for example, “You’re not rubbish. You’re just not good at it…yet!” Perhaps try to have a go at something new yourself and let them see that it is OK to take a risk and find things tricky to start with. We often quote Michelle Obama’s words: “No one is born smart. No one is born knowing how to read, right? No one is born knowing how to do math, or no one is born knowing how to play the flute – all of that comes with a lot of hard work.
3. Raise effort/ process, not achievementAccording to research, praising ability decreases success. The most important thing is to praise the process rather than the end result. Try to avoid saying, “You’re so clever/ talented/ able/ brilliant“ etc, however proud you are. Instead, try to say, “That’s great. You must have worked so hard.” Try to avoid asking, “Did you pass?” Ask, “How was it? What did you learn? Was it tough?” A focus on effort and practice leads to more success in the long run. Children quickly realise that taking risks will lead to praise, even if they fail. Remember, praising ability or achievement can actually lower intelligence as children feel they want to keep the ‘clever’ label and this stops them learning.
PRAISE is great, but praise the effort to foster growth mindset.
4. Embrace failure and be honest
Fail intelligently. Point out your own failures and how you learn from them regularly. Ask your child what marvelous mistakes they made today and what they learnt from them. Encourage your child to see failure as essential for growth and always be honest if your child does fail or have a setback. Encourage them to think about what they could do differently next time.
5. Promote challenge
Fixed mindsets avoid challenge. They like to do what they are good at so they can reinforce the fact that they are clever. If a child does well with little effort, point this out – “This was clearly too easy for you. That’s a shame. Maybe next time you could try a challenge so you learn something new.” Try not to value achievement unless it has involved learning and hard work. You can find out more at www.mindsetonline.com We hope this helps you support your child to become more of a growth mindset learner.
The poster below advertises a book we have used with children called ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain’ and is available from Amazon and other booksellers.