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Allowed to Fail

Kids Count

Dweck found that adults around children can heavily affect how they handle success or failure. For example, Dweck warned that parents who frequently tell their kids how smart they are may foster a, “fixed mindset and it can backfire.”

Children become strongly invested in intelligence as part of their core identity and when they fail they can become very insecure about their abilities. “The self-esteem movement almost brained-washed everyone into believing that we can hand our children self-esteem on a platter by telling them they’re great, they’re smart, they’re talented and gifted. It just doesn’t work that way. Actually, those statements often make children more fragile.”

Rather parents should praise children for problem solving skills for the way they approach a difficulty in their lives. Children need praise for effort and the willingness to persist in the face of difficult challenges. Praise for these behaviors can result in a “growth mindset, not a fixed mindset.”

A child who persists with a tough task even if they are failing in the moment can build self-esteem on their own while they’re learning new ways of thinking. Dweck suggests that, “process praise” of children between the ages of 1 and three can predict their mindset and desire for challenge five years later. Dweck also encouraged parents that “this kind of mindset can be encouraged at any age.”

A fixed mindset undoubtedly limits intellectual growth because the fear of failure embedded in this mindset will discourage intellectual risk taking. Heaps of unearned probably won’t make you a resilient and confident person. For hovering parents, this might be especially good research to consult.

Encouraging children to begin to think about the processes associated with problem-solving seems like good, common sense. Talking to children about keeping their fears about failure in check by understanding that they are growing and developing every day and will experience many failures and successes along the way also seems like good common sense.

Remember, all kids count.

Reach the writer at hurlburt@wildblue.net

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