Growth mindset is all the rage!
We’re sure you’ve heard of it. We’re confident you already know the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset. Your kids have probably heard of it, too. Why, there’s a good chance that there’s a mindset poster hanging somewhere in their school.
Mistakes make your brain grow, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple.
See, we really are thrilled with the outpouring of love for growth mindset. There’s lots of fascinating research on the topic, and for kids and adults alike, learning that everyone is capable of… well, learning, can be life changing. The trouble is that with the abundance of information circulating, you’re likely to end up with some misunderstandings and, unfortunately, misinformation.
We thought we’d take this opportunity to share some common myths about growth mindset, and explain what the most recent research actually suggests.
Myth 1: It’s okay to make mistakes.
Yup, we’re going for the attention getter right away. Before you run off, let us be clear: we want kids comfortable making mistakes. However, adults know it’s not always okay to make mistakes. Some mistakes have some pretty serious consequences. I don’t know about you, but the idea of a world in which kids think all mistakes are awesome is a little scary to me.
The thing about mistakes is there are different kinds. Yes, some mistakes are productive and healthy. Some mistakes are simply due to carelessness or nervousness. Some are because we’re pushing ourselves way too hard, to the point of distress. Some mistakes are small and meaningless, while others have a huge impact on ourselves and on others.
When we’re talking about a growth mindset and how it’s okay, even healthy to make mistakes, it’s important to be specific and talk about the right kind, which we call “stretchers.” Stretcher mistakes are when you’re pushing the limits of your ability just slightly, so that the task is a healthy challenge, but not so hard that it’s unproductive.
Yes, it’s okay for kids to make mistakes. But not all mistakes are created equal, and that’s an important part of the message!
Myth 2: You either have a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset.
Again, it’s just not that simple. Most people are not either/or. Some people have a fixed mindset about one thing, and a growth mindset about other things. And the degrees of those mindsets vary, as well. Mindset is really a spectrum, and when talking to kids about their mindset, that spectrum is actually useful for instruction.
For example, when talking to a student about her mistake frustration in math, it may be useful for her to think about how she worked through similar frustrations with her tennis serve; she didn’t start out an expert, she had to try and try again until she grew the skills. When Danielle understands she has skills of persistence in other areas of her life, she may recognize that she can apply them universally.
Myth 3: Mistakes make your brain grow stronger.
Yeah, they really don’t. Growth and learning really don’t occur due to mistakes. It’s what we do after the mistake that matters. After mistakes occur, we have a few choices to make. The first is that we can quit and stop trying, or we can show some grit and try again. If we make a mistake and quit, no growth takes place, but if we persist, we at least have the opportunity for growth.
The next choice is how we adjust. If we make a mistake and then repeat the same process over and over again, we’re not really growing our brains. So how do we proceed? Are we willing to accept feedback? Are we willing to try a different approach to the problem? If we make a mistake, analyze the results, and then make the logical adjustments, that is where the magic happens!
We LOVE growth mindset, and we love thinking about a generation of young people who adapt it and aren’t afraid of pushing themselves, failing, trying again, and working to reach their full potential. If you’re looking for ways to teach the real science of growth mindset, check out our animated program GoMindset!, available now for all of our Family and Pro members. Interested in becoming a member? We’d LOVE to have you in the family. Get more information on our subscriptions right here!