As young mothers, most of us, unwittingly or consciously, are hoping our kids turn out to be bright and smart. We are thrilled if our children come back earning praise from school for doing a sum ahead of the class, or winning a race!
Yes, this is the way it is with the world. It values smartness and undervalues hard work and effort. So, you may be surprised to know that research done at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, tells us exactly the opposite.
Dweck’s book ‘Mindset’ explores the idea of fixed vs growth mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe that qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits. They therefore hold on to their intelligence rather than developing it. They also believe that talent alone creates success.
People who adopt a growth mindset however believe that ability can be developed and strengthened through sustained effort. To them inherent talent is just the starting point. This view creates both a love for learning and resilience.
Now why is understanding this so important for parents, especially those with young children? Because of what I said earlier- to get away from attaching such a premium to intelligence and smartness; to reconsider the widely held belief that talent is the biggest ticket to success.
As parents, if we adopt the fixed mindset, we would categorize our children quite quickly and, as a consequence, we would not do what it takes to motivate them continuously.
If we subscribed to the growth mindset, on the other hand, we would encourage our children to keep trying, praise effort rather than outcomes, motivate them when they are struggling, explain to them that so called genius is a product of at least 10,000 hours of hard work, and inculcate an attitude that effort counts as much, if not more, than innate intelligence.
According to research, the mindset shapes a child’s attitude towards learning and exploration. An experiment carried out by among school children showed that a “smart child” with a fixed mindset is afraid of failure and hence reluctant to take on risks. So, she is unwilling to try the hard problem whereas the child with a growth mindset, even if he is not as smart, is willing to try the same problem, and does not worry as much about not being able to get the right answer.
No prizes for guessing which of the above kinds of children will grow up to be a Rahul Dravid, often held as an example of someone whose performance has far outstripped his innate talent!