Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

Mock exam results are in and many children will be feeling pretty disappointed. Some results may have been promising, but there have probably been few surprises. ‘Oh well, he’s always been good at geography’ or the big one in our house, ‘None of us have EVER been able to do maths’, are the kind of throwaway comments that are actually judgments, and imply that they have permanent traits that cannot be altered.

Thinking of intelligence as a fixed commodity handed out at birth, leads to a tendency to give up easily, avoid challenges and see effort as fruitless. Carol Dweck has developed a study on this and calls it having a ‘fixed mindset’.

The alternative is to foster a ‘growth mindset’. Here, the belief is that you can develop intelligence, by embracing challenges and persisting in the face of obstacles. Only by failing, can one truly learn and improve.  The brain is a muscle and can be strengthened by continued effort. It is said that anyone who practises anything for 10.000 hours can become an expert at it.

Even at maths? That’s the Easter holidays taken care of, then.


Taken from: : MindSet: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Every word and action from parent to child sends a  message. Tomorrow, listen to what you say to your kids and tune in to the messages you’re sending. Are they messages that say: “You have permanent traits and I’m judging them?” Or are they messages that say “You’re a developing person and I’m interested in your development?”

How  do  you  use  praise? Remember that praising children’s intelligence or talent, tempting  as it is, sends a fixed ­mindset message. It makes their confidence and  motivation more fragile. Instead, try to focus on the processes that used­ their strategies, effort, or choices. Practice working the process praise into your interactions with your children.

Watch and  listen to  yourself carefully when your child messes up. Remember that constructive criticism is feedback that helps the child understand how to FIX something. It’s not feed­back that labels or simply excuses the child. At the end of each day, write down the constructive criticism (and the process praise) you’ve given your kids.

Parents often set goals their children can work toward. Remember that having innate talent is not a goal. Expanding skills and knowledge is. Pay careful attention to the goals you set for your children.

Great teachers believe in the growth of talent and intellect, and are fascinated by the process of learning. As parents and teachers our mission is developing people’s potential. Let’s use all the lessons of the growth mindset—and whatever else we can—to do this.


Michelle Spirit from https://www.spiritresilience.com (whose company runs training courses in Emotional Resilience) illustrates it this way: