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Parents’ guide to growth mindset

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Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, shares how parents can instill a growth mindset into their kids at The Reshape Effect forum.

Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, shares how parents can instill a growth mindset into their kids at The Reshape Effect forum.

By Kristelle Bechayda

In raising children, parents only want what is best for them. There are many challenges surrounding not only in rearing kids, but also with how they look at the world. At The Reshape Effect Forum recently held by Nestle Nankid, licensed clinical social worker and parenting consultant Melissa Benaroya was invited to share how parents can effectively reshape their children’s future through their mindsets.

As defined by psychologist Carol Dweck, having a growth mindset is understanding that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Benaroya explained the difference of a child with a growth mindset from those with a fixed one.

“When children with a growth mindset experience a challenge or a failure, they tend to work even harder. So when they work harder, they increase their effort and they achieve more. On the other hand, the fixed mindset child gets frustrated. They kind of give up and reduce their effort, which results to lower achievement.”

Here are some pointers shared by Benaroya:

1. Embrace mistakes.

In disrupting the cycle of a fixed minded child, Benaroya said that parents should model making mistakes in front of their children, explaining that they should be taken as opportunities for learning. “Our children do not need a perfect parent. What they need for us to do is to model how we manage and react to mistakes and how we learn. So it’s really helpful to acknowledge when we’ve made mistakes.”

Benaroya added that by embracing our mistakes, children are more likely to take risks and challenges because they don’t view them as a bad thing. In the moment that they do something wrong, they won’t tend to sweep their mistakes under the rug because they understand these are part of the learning process.

2. Acknowledge and encourage, not praise.

Based on numerous studies, including Carol Dweck’s seminal growth mindset study, praise can be harmful. When kids are praised, they are being set up not to be resilient in managing negative feedback. Some of the other observations Benaroya noted were:

• Children start to become praise junkies. They are constantly looking for validation and getting positive feedback. When praise doesn’t exist, they interpret it as bad job. There is judgment when we praise kids.

• They also tend to lose interest. This applies to talents and other types of abilities. When we praise a child, they are no longer interested in doing it for themselves. It becomes getting the praise from the teachers or parents. They tend to lose interest in things they may have once enjoyed.

• These kids are less likely to take risks. They would rather take the easy way because they want to maintain that look of being smart or talented.

“This is not to say that we should never praise our child, it’s just being mindful of the feedback that we’re giving them. I think it’s like candy. It’s nice every once in a while but it
shouldn’t be a staple in the diet.” Benaroya explained.

Instead of the word praise, she would rather use the terms acknowledge or encourage in the effort they are exerting, especially because it wouldn’t be appropriate to praise a child when he is already failing.

“We can acknowledge what they are learning and how they are improving without putting the value or judgment we see. This is just a little tweak to what you already are doing. I’m sure you’re giving feedback to your kids and this is just removing the value so they can determine their own value.”

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