“What did you learn today?” (I LOVE this – so much better than “How was your day?”)
“What mistake did you make that taught you something?
“What did you try hard at today?”
It’s really important says Dweck that I share what we learned, too. This models for children that we learn new things every day, even learning from failures.
“You certainly did get smarter today.”
“I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that maths problem until you finally got it right.”
“We all have different learning curves. It may take more time for you to catch on to this and be comfortable with this material, but if you keep at it like this you will.”
(These are direct quotes from Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.)
2. Give feedback on the process only.
Praise effort, persistence, strategies, seeking challenges, setting goals, planning, or using creative strategies.
Don’t praise personal abilities like being smart, pretty, or artistic. This kind of praise actually can lead to a loss of confidence since children won’t be smart at everything. They’ll doubt their ability to be good at something that is difficult initially.
Salman Khan recently wrote that he will never tell his son he’s smart for this very reason. He shares, “Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.”
The research Dweck did on our feedback to children is fascinating.
Explain to kids how the brain can grow stronger and that intelligence can improve throughout your life. Intelligence is not fixed. It’s changeable. This is called brain plasticity. (Aren’t you so glad!?)
What’s more, learning CHANGES our brains. (Again, three cheers for brain growth!) Kids need to know this is possible.
You might like the “You can learn anything” movement that the Khan Academy is doing, too.
Now is the time to let our kids risk and fail. Failure teaches our kids important life lessons. For one, it’s how they learn resiliency
But we often want to prevent our children from failing, from feeling upset or sad.
We must let our kids fail now so that they can strengthen their growth mindset muscles. If we don’t, they will be adults with no perseverance, with no belief in their abilities to work hard and succeed.
In The Blessings of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel says to be compassionate and concerned but not enmeshed.
Let’s keep each other accountable on this. This is hard but so important.
if when your child fails, celebrate the lessons in the failure. Tell them about all the famous people who failed and didn’t give up. Read one of these biographies of individuals with a growth mindset.
Failing means not rescuing her when things don’t go her way; not doing her work for her; not making her life my own. It looks like me showing her how to talk to teachers about confusion over a lesson or a bad score — but not doing it for her.
For me, failing looks like me offering her support and or accountability. “Do you need help getting started on…” or “Please do one thing on your homework by 7 pm and let me know what you choose.” And if she doesn’t do it, that’s her choice and her consequences to live with.