In response to a previous post the suggestion was made that I compile a list of “yet” phrases that teachers and parents could use to encourage children to develop a growth, as opposed to fixed, mindset.
Only since I have been blogging have I come across the work of Carol Dweck, a psychologist, who promotes a “yet” mindset. I am very much in favour of the “yet” way of thinking and have shared some thoughts here and here. However I am not yet ready to embrace the whole package.
I have just listened to Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and it would be fair to say that I am struggling to accept all that she proposes with equal enthusiasm. In fact I find some of her suggestions rather challenging.
Previous posts, including the one mentioned above and others linked within it, have led to some very interesting and thought-provoking discussions about praise. Some involved in the discussion were ready to embrace the idea of praising a child for effort rather than talent. Others could see no harm in bestowing any form of praise on their children and had not felt themselves limited by being praised for their cleverness.
Dweck suggests ways of encouraging a growth mindset by thinking about what was learned or what could be learned. She says that children should not think they are special just by being, and suggests that if a child scores 100% on a paper the response should be something like, “That was too easy. Sorry for wasting your time. Let’s find something more challenging so you can learn.”
In the book Dweck shares the experience of replacing her own fixed mindset with a growth mindset. She concedes it is difficult and that regressions can occur. She shares her personal disappointment when, after they had both struggled with a problem for some time, her husband arrived at a solution and she praised him with “Excellent!” or “Brilliant!”. She was crestfallen at her lapse; until her husband explained that he knew she meant that he had worked hard, put in the effort, tried alternatives and finally solved the problem.
(Note: I am explaining these scenarios in my words not hers. Usually when I have listened to an audiobook and wish to discuss it, I buy the paper or ebook version so that I can quote accurately. I haven’t done that this time as I’m not sure which version is the same, if any, as the audiobook. Throughout this post you are receiving my interpretation or impression. You will need to go to the source for greater detail and accuracy.)
While I agree that it is important for continual learning to be the goal, I’m not sure that I am opposed to some form of congratulations being given for achievement, as well as effort. Also I think children need to be accepted for who they are, loved and nurtured, without the need to be anything else. I’ve written about that here and here and discussed the use of affirmation songs such as Special as I can Be by Anne Infante. I know it is important to not overdo the “special” bit, but it is also important for them to feel comfortable with who they are.
Yes, they (we) do need to be encouraged to improve. But surely there is danger in feeling that results are always wanting, that they are never good enough. In fact, in the book, Dweck describes a girl who developed ulcers while striving to fulfill the high expectations she perceived her parents to hold. I think getting the balance right is the tricky bit. Encourage. Inspire. Motivate. But don’t demand, require, stress or, perhaps, judge.
Somewhere in my recent reading I came across the following “motivational” video, a clip from a movie of which I wasn’t aware. While I don’t wish to misrepresent Carol Dweck and suggest that she would “praise” this method, I think it could be taken as an interpretation (I hope extreme and incorrect) of her philosophy. Have a look and let me know what you think.
I felt extremely uncomfortable watching this video. I am not a sportsperson so I may not understand the culture of sports training but:
I felt sorry for the player, Brock, who was pushed to and beyond his “limits”. Sometimes that may be necessary but surely not just to “please” a coach; and this seems to be more about the needs of the coach than the player, “revenge” perhaps for thinking the other team was better prepared (I know it’s just a movie). I was worried that the player was going to have a heart attack and die on the field. I was disappointed that none of his team members intervened to protect him from the bullying coach or to help him with his load. I would definitely find it difficult to work with a manager or coach like that.
While I do not wish to take away from Dweck’s philosophy, many of the examples in her book discuss the mindsets of winners, of champions. Surely not everyone can be a champion. And if you have to push yourself, as Brock did in the video, to do your best, then I’m not sure I want to do my best.
Some people have described me as a perfectionist. I have never accepted that label. I work hard to do the best job I can, but I also recognise when good enough is good enough. Working within the constraints of resources, including time, imposes limits. Is that a limiting fixed attitude? Maybe I need to work a little more on my growth mindset.
As for the suggestion of compiling a list of “yet” phrases, I don’t think I am quite ready to tackle that one yet. Besides, I think Dweck has done it herself!
Mindset explores Dweck’s philosophy more fully. There you can test your own mindset, read some suggestions for Parents, Teachers and Coaches (and other applications) and find out about Brainology, a program written by Dweck and Blackwell to “Motivate students to grow their minds”.
There is much to explore. I have given but a few snippets here. There is much more learning for me to do.
Thank you for reading I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.