Is Fear of Failure Your Child's Worst Enemy? Help to boost learning and curiosity by nurturing a growth mindset

It’s easy to see why kids might be having a hard time staying motivated right now. The usual fun and flurry of activities that come with a new school year are no longer a reality. As parents and educators, how can we keep kids excited about learning and eager to embrace new challenges?

How can we help them build intrinsic motivation and keep plugging away as this pandemic wears on?

And, how can they grow into people who aren’t afraid to take risks and are able to learn from their mistakes?

It’s about the process, not results.

By focusing on the process and effort involved, rather than results, we can help kids develop the set of beliefs known as a growth mindset. The concept was coined by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, who writes about the difference between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

A person with a “fixed mindset,” according to Dweck, views intelligence and creativity as static traits; this type of person feels a need to reaffirm these traits over and over by showing that they are successful and avoiding failure.

In contrast, someone with a “growth mindset” seeks out new challenges and opportunities, viewing failure as a path toward growth and learning.

By nurturing a growth mindset in our kids, we give them a tool for becoming more resilient and more willing to stretch themselves. We help them become eager learners undaunted by fear of failure. In a study of adolescent students, Dweck found that those who were praised for effort rather than test scores or being “smart” were more likely to embrace a harder challenge. Students praised for test results only were inclined to reject the offer of a challenging new task where they might no longer be able to succeed.

People of any age can change the way they approach success, failure, and new challenges. Here are some ideas for helping your children, students, or yourself develop a growth mindset and become more open to learning:

  1. Teach kids that the brain works like a muscle and that growth comes with repeated practice.
  2. Instead of telling students they are smart or praising test results, praise their effort and hard work.
  3. Accept and even reward failures and missteps as a necessary and useful part of the learning process.
  4. Encourage kids to understand and discuss subject matter in a deeper way, rather than just looking for the right answer.

With the start of school underway for most children, the concept of building a growth mindset is the perfect theme for September’s Make Social and Emotional Learning Stick Calendar. 

Simple daily activities such as making a family idea jar, modeling trying something new, and telling your child how you learned from a past mistake can support your child’s ability to embrace new challenges and keep on learning.

Purchase the full 12-month theme-based calendar here for only $11.99. It is packed with 365 ideas, tools and activities to be mindful and hold intention with your daily interactions with your child to help them listen, cope, care about others and engage socially so that they can develop critical social and emotional skills for friendship, school and life. Be sure to get your child involved, as they probably have some great ideas too. This can be a win-win because you will feel the benefits too.

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