Counselor's Corner

May Notes from Your Counselor.......................................Gloria Silverberg

How To Help Your Child Develop A Growth Mindset

In order for children to succeed in school, they must believe that they are as capable as their peers, which involves changing a child's mindset and self-esteem.  Often, well-meaning parents and teachers try to motivate children by telling them, "You can do this because you are so smart." Then they cannot figure out why this encouragement does not inspire their children to perform better.

Before learning can happen, you must believe that you have the ability to learn.  Many children do not believe this and they shut down when presented with a challenge.

A researcher named Carol Dweck studied the mindset-learning connection working with 7 th  graders.  She asked them to complete puzzles, away from their peers so that they would not be afraid of looking foolish.  To half the students she said, "You must be smart at this."  When the other half finished, she said, "You must have worked really hard."  Then she gave both groups more challenging puzzles.  With each new puzzle, she asked the students if they wanted to do a more difficult puzzle or if they wanted to do another easy one.

The results showed that the first group, the ones praised for being smart , showed lower levels of confidence as the puzzles became more difficult, and their performance dropped dramatically .  They also became more risk averse .  Even if they successfully completed a puzzle, they were hesitant to move on to a more challenging one.  They started to give up, because they had convinced themselves that they could only do it if they were smart.  So, if they could not do the puzzle, they were not smart.

On the other hand, the students praised for working hard focused on learning the task rather than looking smart.  With each more challenging puzzle, their level of confidence, motivation, and performance actually increased.  The reason is that they believed in their effort, and their ability to work   hard, so they kept trying .  In addition, when given a choice between an easy puzzle and a harder one, they were willing to take a risk and pick the harder puzzle. 

Dweck's work demonstrates the impact of a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset .  In a fixed mindset, you believe that success is based on fixed, unchangeable traits and abilities.  Children think that some people are smart, and others simply aren't.  With a growth mindset, you believe that intelligence and expertise can be developed through effort and instruction.  Effort combined with effective strategies and support equals mastery.

How can you impact your children's mindset?

  1. Teach your children how learning happens.
  2. Create a growth culture mindset at home by utilizing positive self-talk, strategy exploration, and rewarding effort.
  3. Teach children how learning happens by explaining how the brain functions.  The prefrontal cortex controls executive functions like planning, organizing and self-talk.  The middle of the brain, the hippocampus is where memories are stored .  Tell children that you want them to send information to the center of their brain so they can stay there for a long time.   Then explain how the amygdala deals with emotions and helps to connect our feeling with what we are learning.
  4. Teach children about the concept of neuroplasticity, which means our brains change physically as we learn new things .  Every time they learn something new, their brain forms new connections.  The more you use your brain, the stronger it becomes !
  5. Recognize that failure is data.  It helps you figure out what you need to learn and what strategies you can use to help you perform .  When children learn from mistakes and do not give up, they have a higher rate of success.
  6. Recognize and reward effort!
  7. Notice when your children do something positive .
  8. Name what you notice to your child, and explain the value of it.
  9. Nourish your children with warmth   and kindness .
  • Thank you to Mr. Levy for speaking to Ms. Segal's class about your career!  The students loved having you present to their class!


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