A fellow parent loaned me the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, when I mentioned that I was struggling with my twin almost-tweens “I can’t” moments. It seemed that whenever things got hard, which was often, our attitude was getting in our way before we’d even begun to try. “I can’t” has lately been banished from our house just like swearing and spitting.
I found that a lot of other parents were also reading it. In the break room at my job as a para educator for the Bellingham School District, I discovered that most of the teachers had read it, and others throughout the district were incorporating this book’s ideals into their classroom learning environment. The main ideal of the book—to develop a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset” –was inspiring teachers to change the way they approached their students learning.
Written by Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychology Professor, the book uses a familiar self-help non-fiction format of real client and celebrity examples to illustrate how unproductive a fixed mindset—the personal belief that when we try and fail, we are just not good (or smart or….) enough—can be compared to a growth mindset, one that sees and feels failure as an exciting personal challenge that can be overcome with more effort. Dweck breaks the book conveniently into separate sections on sports, business, relationships (love and friendship), parenting, and of course, the final section on how the heck to change one’s mindset.
Common in this type of book, there were times when Dweck’s descriptions felt too black and white; we all are living in the grey space. But I found her view insightful and helpful. Simply by creating the awareness, by noticing our own moments stuck in the fixed mindset—about a tried and true argument with my husband, my boy’s struggle with the homework they hate, my friendship with a gal pal that just isn’t working for me anymore—I feel like I have a new tool in the box to tackle these frustrating moments rather than giving up and getting out the ice cream. I realized, to help my kids morph their mindset, I probably need to check in with my own.
Dweck covers the idea introduced in a bevy of other parenting books, that the devil is in the details of how we, as parents, approach praise and failure with our words and actions. She offers suggestions for common hurdles, like denial, entitlement, and precociousness. The author also developed a computer-based animated training called “Brainology™” that teachers and parents can use to increase kids self-mindset-awareness.
Mindset is definitely worth a skim to see where you and your family’s mindsets fall when dealing with challenge and failure, both big and small.