“You’re so smart!”

This praise was what I longed for as a child. All through my elementary and high school years, I just wanted to be smart. My focus was on getting straight A’s and it should come easy. I only realize now, in my 30s, that it was holding me back, that I had a fixed mindset.

Ever since being introduced to Carol Dweck and her idea of fixed versus growth mindset, I’ve been reading and reflecting on it a lot. Embarrassingly enough, I didn’t realize I had her book, Mindset, on our bookshelf until recently!

An area of particular interest to my husband and I is how we can cultivate a growth mindset in our daughters. I feel like with parenting, unless you’re aware of it, you default to how you were raised and I wasn’t raised on a growth mindset. I mean I don’t blame my parents at all because you don’t know what you don’t know and they had the best intentions. It’s also so much easier to praise the result (Great job on a high score!) than effort (I saw you work so hard and it paid off!).

Curiously enough, this wasn’t the first time we read praising the process over the result. It was also mentioned in our Danish Way of Parenting book and it was nice to see it presented in a different light, with more scientific evidence.

I’ve got to say, it definitely takes more effort to find the right language but I know it will benefit my daughters. I’ve seen how my oldest tends to have a fixed mindset and will often get frustrated when she can’t succeed immediately. We’re trying to coach her into embracing challenges and that things shouldn’t come easy. It’s still early but I think she’s getting. We model it as much as we can because it’s monkey see monkey do in our household!

Here are some phrases we’ve been using:

  • Great job! I saw you practice and it’s paying off!” instead of “Wow you’re so good at that!”
  • Oh this one was kinda easy, let’s try something a little harder!” instead of “You’re so smart!”
  • Tell me about your drawing and the colours you chose!” instead of “Wow my little artist!”

Bottom line is we want to emphasize that effort is important and smart doesn’t mean it comes easy and you don’t have to work hard for it. Hopefully as our girls get older, they’ll embrace the challenges and not be deterred by failures.

Have you tried making this switch with your children? What have your experiences been like?


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