Mind-set, or why I don't tell my kids they are smart

Here's an article from Scientific American about how a focus on your kid's effort — not their intelligence — is the key to success in life (and school). The bottom line is, either your kid believes that she's smart and successful because she was born that way (a fixed intelligence mindset) or she believes she's smart and successful because she works hard and practices (a growth mindset). In either case, eventually your kid is going to run into something she can't succeed at effortlessly. If she has a fixed intelligence mindset she will give up on that thing, assuming that it's just something she's not good at. If she has a growth mindset she will just try harder and harder. Children with fixed mindsets will also be scared to try new things, and to make mistakes, for fear that they will be "outed" as someone who isn't so smart after all.

So your kid needs to know that intelligence isn't intrinsic but is something that can be changed and improved, and she needs to know that being intelligent isn't much use without a good dose of hard work and courage. That's why I am not impressed when my kids are smart; of course they are smart. It's what they do with themselves that I am interested in.

This issue is close to home for me because I grew up with a very fixed mindset and it has taken me years to shake it. It also caused me to make some decisions I still regret now. Basically every time I wasn't instantly successful at something I would give it up, and I was absolutely petrified of making mistakes, so I never took any risks. I would like my children to be bolder, less fearful of failure and mistakes, and to work harder than I did as a child. (And as an adult, now that I mention it.)

Here's an interesting paragraph from the article for Kat — this ties into something we were talking about the other day:

Mind-set can affect the quality and longevity of personal relationships as well, through people’s willingness—or unwillingness—to deal with difficulties. Those with a fixed mind-set are less likely than those with a growth mind-set to broach problems in their relationships and to try to solve them, according to a 2006 study I conducted with psychologist Lara Kammrath of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. After all, if you think that human personality traits are more or less fixed, relationship repair seems largely futile. Individuals who believe people can change and grow, however, are more confident that confronting concerns in their relationships will lead to resolutions.

Oh, incidentally I got the link from Alyson Schafer's blog.

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