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Does your son like a challenge or is he scared of failing? Does he see failure as being part of the learning process or does it discourage him from trying again? This blog will explain the differences between mindsets and give you some tips on how to help your son develop a growth mindset.

Fixed versus growth mindset

Dr Carol Dweck is a world renowned Stanford University psychologist that discovered the power of mindset through her research. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success was first published in 2006 and explores two mindsets – fixed mindset and growth mindset. It’s likely that you are well aware of the differences between the two mindsets but here are some traits:

Someone with a fixed mindset:

  • Avoids challenges
  • Gives up easily
  • Sees effort as fruitless
  • Ignores useful negative feedback
  • Feels threathened by the success of others.

Someone with a growth mindset:

  • Embraces challenges
  • Sees effort as the path to mastery
  • Persists in the face of failure
  • Learns from critism
  • Finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

Someone with a growth mindset sees failure as a natural part of learning and has a lifelong learner attitude. On the flip side, someone with a fixed mindset will reject learning if it means avoiding failure. So how do you help your son to develop a growth mindset? Here are some ideas to get you started. 

Be a good role model

Children are influenced and learn from those they are closest to, so it makes sense for parents to model a growth mindset attitude. When you are facing your own challenges, make sure that you show your son how you embrace them and persevere. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others in a negative way – when commenting on the success of others, mention what inspires you about their success and what you have learnt from them. Your son will pick this up and learn to do the same.

Praise the right way

Praise effort, not ability or intelligence. In a 2013 presentation, Dr Dweck states, “Many of the things we do to motivate our kids are sapping their desire to learn”. By focusing on intelligence or instant ability, children can get discouraged quickly and it puts them in a fixed mindset. Furthermore, your praise for a great result only lasts for short time, leaving your child craving more of the same. In other words, they will crave success again and again as the last thing they will want is failure because that won’t result in your praise. Instead praise the process – in other words, praise your son’s efforts and perseverance to encourage them to keep going.

Regularly use the word “yet”

The word “yet” is a powerful tool to teach your son in developing a growth mindset. It implies that they just need some more effort to achieve success:

“I can’t tie my shoes.”

“I can’t ride my bike.”

“I can’t read.”

These are familiar statements to parents and can be heartbreaking to hear. By adding the wording “yet” on the end, it sounds more hopeful, optimistic and encouraging. Teach your son to add “yet” to the end of these sentences and he will start to believe that he will get there in the end with perseverance and effort.

Embrace mistakes and failure

Be consistent in celebrating the opportunity to learn from failure. Embrace challenges with your son and highlight the benefits of learning from mistakes. Over time, this will help him to develop a growth mindset. 

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