Kids thrive on pleasing their parents, so when your child does something well you want to praise them! Have you ever said “you are so smart” or “you are so talented” at a sport? It’s not that simple, as the way you praise them can impact their confidence and drive.
As an example, our son picked up a baseball bat at 2 ½ years old and was able to hit a pitched ball (no tee!) that same day. I was an extremely proud dad, especially since all the other parents at the park were clearly impressed. We enthusiastically complimented his natural talent and he seemed so proud. When we signed him up for a t-ball team his enthusiasm faded and we noticed he was less interested in trying to learn the game. We wondered why he was not excited to play.
My wife and I noticed some patterns at home and school. He would only attempt tasks that he felt confident or had already possessed a level of skill. As it turns out, what we were doing when we were praising his natural ability was feeding into his ‘fixed mindset’. With a fixed mindset, Carol Dweck writes in her book Mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or athleticism, are fixed traits and don’t change over time. They believe their talent alone creates success—without effort.
So how do we make sure that we are praising our kids ‘the right way’ to be sure they give their full effort? One idea is to encourage them to have a ‘growth mindset’ – where people believe their skills and abilities can be developed over time through hard work.
When our son took up hockey and was learning to skate we saw this as an opportunity to try out a growth mindset. We were determined to focus on praising his effort since we knew learning to skate would be potentially frustrating for a kid who is naturally athletic. We talked with him beforehand about how hard it would be, that he would fall a lot, but getting back up and trying again was most important and after each session we were enthusiastic about his effort.
And guess what? It worked! Towards the end of the 8 week session he even started coming off the ice bragging to us about how hard he worked. Even though he was not the fastest or best skater on the ice he was proud of his own resilience and what HE accomplished. As parents, we too were bursting with pride for him!
I strongly encourage you to ask yourself how you can start incorporating this type of growth mindset approach with your own children. Learn to recognize how you praise your children and ask questions such as “What did you try that was difficult or challenging today?” I bet you’ll be surprised how quickly you will see a positive impact. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
FIXED MINDSET (Intelligence is static) → Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) avoid challenges → (Obstacles) …get defensive or give up easily → (Effort) …see effort as fruitless or worse → (Criticism)…ignore useful negative feedback → (Success of Others) …feel threatened by the success of others → AS A RESULT, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.
GROWTH MINDSET (Intelligence can be developed) → Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) embrace challenges → (Obstacles) …persist in the face of setbacks → (Effort) …see effort as the path to mastery → (Criticism)…learn from criticism →(Success of Others) …find lessons and inspiration in the success of others → AS A RESULT, they reach ever-higher levels of achievement.
Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!