The Missed Target When Developing Children’s Growth Mindsets: Parents

Carol Dweck’s thesis revolutionized education: Our genes influence our intelligence and talents, but these qualities are not fixed at birth. If we mistakenly believe that our capabilities derive from DNA and destiny, rather than practice and perseverance, then we operate with what Dweck calls a “fixed mindset” rather than a “growth mindset”.

Mindsets are important because they affect learning. Children who understand that the brain can get smarter—who have a growth mindset—do better in school because they focus on improvement and see effort as a way to build their abilities. They see failure as a natural part of the learning process. In contrast, students who have a fixed mindset—those who believe that intelligence is fixed—tend to be more concerned with proving that they are smart or hiding that they’re not. And that means they tend to avoid situations in which they might fail or might have to work hard (Mindset Kit, 2016). 

When Carol Dweck formulated her thesis on mindsets, she stated very clearly that our parents and teachers exert a big influence on which mindset we adopt. Parents are children’s first, and oftentimes the most influential, role models. Kids’ Vision’s —STEM programs for girls— focuses on helping parents learn how to help their children develop a growth mindset at home. 

Dweck is very clear that we all have a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. Some people take a growth mindset approach more often than others. Whether people have mostly a fixed mindset or mostly a growth mindset, it took them time to develop the mindset they have now, and this process to develop their predominant mindset mostly involved observing how other people acted and reacted in everyday life, and deciding whether or not to adopt or not their ways.

Parents exert a big influence on which mindset their children adopt by role modeling how to act and react to everyday life events. Parents in turn were influenced by their own parents. 

As parents we are not always mindful that we are role modelling for our children, with our words, attitudes and actions. Being mindful of what we say, the attitude we have and the actions we take is the first step to developing a growth mindset.

Mindfulness means being aware of and controlling our experience. When we are not mindful, we feel the victim of circumstances, events, and others. We can’t see past obstacles. We don’t understand cause and effect. We are worrying about the future or regretting the past. We allow our emotions to get out of control. We speak without thinking. We expect others to take care of us. We are powerless and overly emotional.

At Kids’ Vision, one of the things parents learn is how to practice mindfulness. They learn that until they can be in 100% in the moment while doing something, they are   not fully mindful. By the end of the workshop parents understand that if they want to help their children develop a growth mindset they need to develop a growth mindset themselves.