Also in Chapter 7:

  • Parents (And Teachers)
    Messages About Success
    Messages About Failure
    Children Learn The Messages
  • Teachers (And Parents)
    Great Teachers
    Students Who Don’t Care
    Growth-Minded Teachers
  • Coaches
    The Fixed-Mindset Coach in Action (Bobby Knight)The Holy Grail: No MistakesThe Growth-Mindset Coach In Action (John Wooden)The Holy Grail: Full Preperation and Full EffortWhich is the Enemy: Success or Failure?

How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well. When, What, and How to Criticize. Why Bright Children (and Talented Athletes) Stop Working and What To Do About It. How To Communicate The Values That Bring Success.

No parent thinks “I wonder what I can do today to undermine my children, subvert their effort, turn them off learning, and limit their achievement.” Of course not. They think “I would do anything, give anything, to make my children successful.” Yet many of the things they do boomerang. Their helpful judgments, their lessons, their motivating techniques often send the wrong message.

In fact, every word and action sends a message. It tells children – or students or athletes – how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed mindset message that says: “You have permanent traits and I’m judging them.” Or it can be a growth mindset message that says: “You are a developing person and I am interested in your development”...

Messages About Success

Listen for the messages in the following examples:

“You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!”
“Look at that drawing. Martha, is he the next Picasso or what?”
“You’re so brilliant, you got an A without even studying!”

If you’re like most parents, you hear these as supportive, esteem-boosting messages. But listen more closely. See if you can hear another message. It’s The ones that children hear:

“If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart.”
“I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.”
“I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.”

Messages About Failure

Nine-year-old Elizabeth was on her way to her first gymnastics meet. Lanky, flexible, and energetic, she was just right for gymnastics, and she loved it. Of course, she was a little nervous about competing, but she was good at gymnastics and felt confident of doing well. She had even thought about the perfect place in her room to hang the ribbon she would win.

In the first event, the floor exercises, Elizabeth went first. Although she did a nice job, the scoring changed after the first few girls and she lost. Elizabeth also did well in the other events, but not well enough to win. By the end of the evening, she had received no ribbons and was devastated.

What would you do if you were Elizabeth’s parents?

  1. Tell Elizabeth you thought she was the best.
  2. Tell her she was robbed of a ribbon that was rightfully hers.
  3. Reassure her that gymnastics is not that important
  4. Tell her she has the ability and will surely win next time.
  5. Tell her she didn’t deserve to win.

There is a strong message in our society about how to boost children’s self-esteem, and a main part of that message is: Protect them from failure ! While this may help with the immediate problem of a child’s disappointment, it can be harmful in the long run. Why?

Let’s look at the five possible reactions from a mindset point of view [and listen to the messages:]

The first (you thought she was the best) is basically insincere. She was not the best – you know it, and she does too. This offers her no recipe for how to recover or how to improve.

The second (she was robbed) places blame on others, when in fact the problem was mostly with her performance, not the judges. Do you want her to grow up blaming others for her deficiencies?

The third (reassure her that gymnastics doesn’t really matter) teaches her to devalue something if she doesn’t do well in it right away. Is this really the message you want to send?

The fourth (she has the ability) may be the most dangerous message of all. Does ability automatically take you where you want to go? If Elizabeth didn’t win this meet, why should she win the next one?

The last option (tell her she didn’t deserve to win) seems hardhearted under the circumstances. And of course you wouldn’t say it quite that way. But that’s pretty much what her growth-minded father told her. Chapter 7 tells you what he told her and what happened.

You can use messages to help your children cultivate a growth mindset.  You can also have them use the  Brainology® online program to develop a growth mindset through their learning about the malleability of the brain and how to gain control over their own brain development.