Is there an easy way to increase your child’s perseverance, intelligence, or even ability to successfully overcome challenges?
According to decades of research by Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol S. Dweck, the answer is yes! How? By redefining failure through a new paradigm called mindset.
Why is mindset important? It helps kids learn that with practice, something that is hard (or seemingly impossible) today can become a skill tomorrow.
In this post I’ll define two opposing mindsets and show why a growth mindset is ideal. Then, I’ll reveal three effective strategies to install a growth mindset in your child. Finally, I’ll explain how a growth mindset can even help kids turn away from pornography.
Fixed vs growth mindset
Many of us grow up with what Dweck would call a fixed mindset, the idea that a person’s intelligence is an unchangeable part of who they are. People with a fixed mindset might see themselves as good at math, but not creative. Or, they may think of themselves as a writer, but not mechanical. People with this type of mindset see their strengths and weaknesses as a fixed part of their character.
In addition, those with a fixed mindset tend to focus on tasks they are good at as a way to prove their view of themselves to others. People with this mindset become easily discouraged when their performance does not line up with their self-beliefs. To avoid discouragement, they may not ever try new things.
Steering clear of anything challenging or risky is a fantastic way to limit growth!
In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that through perseverance they can improve their abilities in any area. Rather than seeing themselves as inept at drawing, they might see art as hobby they have not chosen to spend much time learning.
Growth mindset people have confidence that if they practice a new skill, in time, they will become better at it. (This doesn’t mean they think they will become the next Rembrandt; they just acknowledge that they have no idea what type of artist they may become if they try.)
Less likely to perceive mistakes as failure, those with a growth mindset
- work harder
- find more joy in learning
- and are more resilient (even to pornography!)
Ultimately, those with this type of mindset are able to achieve more than those who maintain a fixed mindset.
3 strategies to a growth mindset
So what can parents do to help their kids take on a growth mindset?
1. Praise effort rather than intelligence or results. When we praise children for “strategies, focus, effort, persistence, and improvement,” we help them recognize their own growth. On the other hand, when we tell kids they’re smart, we create an environment where they’re afraid of stretching because any type of “failure” would contradict their self-beliefs. To encourage a growth mindset, try statements like this:
“I was impressed with your determination during the basketball game today. Even though your team was behind, you never lost focus.”
“I admire your willingness to redo that math problem when you didn’t get the right answer the first time. It’s hard to start over, but I’m sure your perseverance will pay off.”
“The second draft of your essay includes so much more evidence than your first draft. I can tell you understand that writing is a process which takes time and practice.”
2. Model the growth mindset by sharing stories of your own growth experiences. Here’s one I’ve shared with my kids:
When I didn’t pass the driving test for my driver’s license because I backed into a telephone pole while parallel parking, I was painfully disappointed. I also felt guilty (I damaged my parent’s car) and embarrassed (I was worried about what my friends would think).
There was a part of me that wanted to give up trying to learn to drive altogether. I didn’t know if I could find the confidence to ever take the test again. I had to learn to shut off the voices in my head that said I should give up.
Then I realized I had learned some important lessons from my first attempt at the test. When I tried again, I succeeded. Years ago, I met someone who failed the test at least five times before passing. That person is my hero for not giving up!
Besides sharing your own stories, you can also teach your children about famous people who endured major setbacks before finding their niche at success. Watch these great examples of famous failures in this three minute video:
3. Teach your children to reflection their experiences in ways that encourage growth. How? Help your kids to ask questions like these:
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I do this better the next time?
- How can I improve?
- What strategy should I try in the future?
- How can I think about this in a new way?
With these strategies, we essentially redefine the concept of failure for our kids. We help them see that all people, including themselves, are a work in progress.
Each of us has the potential to learn, to improve, and to become someone different tomorrow than we are today.
A growth mindset can help kids reject pornography
In Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Kristen Jenson explains that pornography may feel like the pull of a giant magnet. At some point most kids will wrestle with the desire to look. Some children will need extra practice (and mentoring) to learn to resist.
Kids who have been drawn in by porn in the past can still become successful at rejecting porn in the future. In addition, kids who are pestered by pornographic memories can use a growth mindset and the CAN DO Plan™ to create new thought patterns.
Our brains are not fixed, but to create new behavior patterns we must divert our attention away from an old habit and practice a new one. Mindful repetition is the key to forming new neural pathways in the brain.
It’s important kids don’t perceive themselves as permanently stuck. And it’s equally important they learn that past mistakes do not define their future.
When parents encourage a growth mindset, kids learn they can become increasingly in control of their thoughts and behavior—not just in relation to porn, but in all areas of their lives.
Are you looking for a way to talk to your kids about the dangers of pornography without losing their innocence? Download our FREE Quick-Start Guide for Proactive Parents.
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