Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles exploring the pillars and core principles of the iLEAD approach to education.
At the heart of iLEAD’s motto — “Free to Think, Inspired to Lead” — is a belief that challenges can help kids grow into the people they’re meant to be. As part of our emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL), we believe it’s important to develop what we call a growth mindset.
Let’s do a quick test. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements?
- My intelligence is something very basic about me that I can’t change very much.
- I’m a certain kind of person and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
- I often get frustrated when I get feedback from my performance.
- Trying new things is stressful and I avoid it.
How we respond to these statements reveals whether we have a fixed or growth mindset. Many children are raised and exposed to situations that create a fixed mindset, which may seem harmless on the surface, but actually creates long-term challenges for them in school and in life, when they fear failure and tend to avoid challenges.
Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to learn from their mistakes, tackle challenges head on, and be motivated to succeed.
Some contrasting statements may be helpful for bringing this into focus:
- A growth mindset says: “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”
- A fixed mindset says: “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”
- A growth mindset says: “I can learn to do anything I want.”
- A fixed mindset says: “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
- A growth mindset says: “Challenges help me to grow.”
- A fixed mindset says: “My abilities are unchanging.”
- A growth mindset says: “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”
- A fixed mindset says: “My potential is predetermined.”
- A growth mindset says: “Feedback is constructive.”
- A fixed mindset says: “Feedback and criticism are personal.”
- A growth mindset says: “I like to try new things.”
- A fixed mindset: “I stick to what I know.”
The development of a healthy growth mindset is all about helping kids realize and embrace their potential; and equipping them to be empowered and fueled by challenges, rather than hindered.
A growth mindset will intrinsically motivate children to improve, learn, and grow in school and all other areas of their lives.
Writing in Scientific American, psychologist Carol S. Dweck unpacked “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” and the importance of fostering a growth mindset, stressing the importance of seeing success as the result of hard work instead of simply inborn talent.
“When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability,” she wrote. “In contrast, students praised for their hard work did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed.”
Make no mistake, it is good to praise our children for their strengths and talents; but it is crucial to encourage them to see challenges as opportunities. If they can learn and embrace this at school age, there’s no telling what heights in life they may achieve.
More on Growth Mindset
“Are we raising kids who are obsessed with getting As? Are we raising kids who don’t know how to dream big dreams? Their biggest goal is getting the next A, or the next test score? And are they carrying this need for constant validation with them into their future lives?” — Carol S. Dweck