I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success a couple years ago, after hearing it recommended by several other educators. It struck me not just because of the application to working with students, but because of how it related to parenting, to the way I talked with my own children.
The basic idea is that success is not primarily determined by talent or natural intelligence or other pre-determined factors, but instead, the most significant indicator of success is one’s mindset, whether the mindset is fixed – believing that a person’s abilities have a set limit, or whether the mindset is focused on growth – believing that there’s always room to improve.
Instead of telling kids, “You’re smart,” we should say, “You’re working hard on that!” And instead of “Did you win?” we should ask, “Did you try your best?”
By emphasizing their effort, we can help motivate kids to work harder, to be more likely to keep trying.
The idea resonated with me in part because it so closely reflected the ideas we heard from my kids’ Montessori preschool teachers, and also because my own daughter has the tendency to quit trying as soon as she runs into a stumbling block. She loved riding her bike until the one time she fell, now she won’t ride anymore. She loved swimming until the day she stopped about a foot shy of the edge and tried to stand up – in water over her head; now she’s afraid to swim.
In conversations with her, I’ve been trying to focus on those more growth-minded phrases, wanting to encourage her. I want her to think of mistakes and failures as lessons, ways to learn something that will lead to better results the next try.
My kids are in 1st and 2nd grade this year, and writing is something both need to practice, so we’re going to start doing some journaling at home. Journaling is a practice I’d love them to make a habit. It can be a great way to reflect and to clear one’s head at the end of the day.
Today is an inservice day for their teachers, so the kids are out of school. I specifically picked today to start with this journal prompt, “One thing I learned today…” because I want them to see learning as something that isn’t limited to school.
My plan is to give the kids a page at a time to respond to, maybe once a week or so. And then I’ll keep the completed pages and eventually bind them to make a book for each child.