Thursday, October 28, 2010

"What's so alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars, simply by telling them they were smart."
This line has haunted me for days. The author, Carol Dweck in her fascinating book Mindset, discusses two distinct paradigms for handling learning, life, and even relationships. One being that a fixed mindset where all feedback either proves or disproves how smart, pretty, likable, (the list goes on) we are.

In a fixed mindset there are only so many smart or talented people. The rest of us live in fear trying to prove we're part of the smart group. According to Dweck's staggering amounts of research, when a scarcity paradigm is implied to personal ability there are nasty and negative results. Children praised for their ability shy away from situations where they will not be shine. They believe if they're not naturally good at it the first time, it implies negatively on their being, therefore why try? Dweck exposes the mindsets in adults in multiple examples as well,

The contrary, the growth mindset is most easily explained in children who are praised not for their ability, but for their effort. These children receive commendation because of the time and attention they placed in overcoming a problem. They learn they're not defined by their failures or successes. They have multiple resources to draw from and failure is simply a natural part of learning. Dweck spends chapters elaborating on the quantifiable consequences of the mindset played out in every aspect of life. It's a fascinating look at much of life.

Personally, this book came just when I needed it most. As a mother of a dynamic, beautiful and intelligent four-year old. It's easy to act like your child hung-the-moon. But when the same little girl stops wanting to write her own name (something we've been doing for months) because other kids do it better??? Or as she puts it, "mommy it's not perfect." Admittedly, I was stunned and saddened.

Thankfully, I got a quiet afternoon to absorb much of Dwecks research and immediately changed my conversations with Sassy. Granted it's only been a few days but now we have an understanding of what her little brain is processing and how to change her (and my) focus from ability towards effort. I could go on and on about this book, but I also enjoyed the fact that it fit with much of my worldview and faith. We are called to work hard in all things, as if working unto the Lord. Effort is acknowledged, but we're constantly reminded that the results are in God's hands.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Oh, don't even get me started on this! I can't tell you how many young adults I have worked with who don't get excited by failure, like they should. Where would we be if Einstein had not embraced his repeated failed attempts to invent the lightbulb? This sounds like a great book and I will add it to my reading queue.

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