Is there an easy way to increase your child’s perseverance, potential for success, or even intelligence level? According to decades of research by Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol S. Dweck, the answer is yes! How? By helping your kids adopt the right type of mindset.
Why is this important? For one, it helps kids learn that with practice, something that is hard or seemingly impossible to do today can become a skill tomorrow.
This is exactly what we teach in Good Pictures Bad Pictures—that though pornography may at first feel like the pull of a giant magnet, with practice and determination, its power can be overcome. A child who has failed at closing his eyes to porn can still become successful at looking away. A child who is pestered by pornographic memories can use a growth mindset (and the CAN DO Plan™!) to work at controlling her thoughts.
Many of us grow up with what Dweck would call a “fixed mindset,” the idea that a person’s intelligence is an unchangeable part of who they are. People with a fixed mindset might see themselves as good at math, but not creative. Or, they may think of themselves as a writer, but not mechanical. People with this type of mindset see their strengths and weaknesses as a fixed part of their character.
In addition, those with a fixed mindset tend to focus on tasks they are good at, consistently proving their view of themselves to others. People with this mindset become easily discouraged when their performance does not line up with their self-beliefs. Or in other words, when they “fail.”
In contrast, people with a “growth mindset” believe that through perseverance they can improve their abilities in any area. (This is also a key tenant of porn-proofing! Kids can improve at keeping their thinking brain in charge!) Rather than seeing themselves as inept at drawing, they might see art as hobby that they have not chosen to spend much time learning.
Growth mindset people have confidence that if they practice a new skill, in time, they will become better at it. (This doesn’t mean they think they will become the next Rembrandt; they just acknowledge that they have no idea what type of artist they may become if they try.)
Less likely to perceive mistakes as failure, those with a “growth mindset” are
- more resilient,
- work harder, and
- find more joy in learning.
Ultimately, those with this type of mindset are able to achieve more than those who maintain a fixed mindset.
3 Secrets to a Growth Mindset
So what can parents do to help their kids take on a growth mindset?
1. Praise effort rather than intelligence or results. When we praise children for “strategies, focus, effort, persistence, and improvement,” we help them recognize their own growth. On the other hand, when we tell kids they’re smart, we create an environment where they’re afraid of stretching because any type of “failure” would contradict their self-beliefs. To encourage a growth mindset, try statements like this:
- “I was impressed with your determination during the basketball game today. Even though your team was behind, you never lost focus.”
- “I admire your willingness to redo that math problem when you didn’t get the right answer the first time. It’s hard to start over, but I’m sure your perseverance will pay off.”
- “The second draft of your essay includes so much more evidence than your first draft. I can tell you understand that writing is a process which takes time and practice.”
2. Model the growth mindset by sharing stories of your own growth experiences. Here’s one I’ve shared with my kids:
When I didn’t pass the driving test for my driver’s license because I backed into a telephone pole during parallel parking, I was painfully disappointed. I also felt guilty (I damaged my parent’s car) and embarrassed (I was worried about what my friends would think).
There was a part of me that wanted to give up trying to learn to drive altogether. I didn’t know if I could find the confidence to ever take the test again. I had to learn to shut off the voices in my head that said I should give up.
Then I realized I had learned some important lessons from my first attempt at the test and when I tried again, I succeeded. Years ago, I met someone who failed the test at least five times before passing. That person is my hero for not giving up!
Besides sharing your own stories, you can also teach your children about famous people who endured major setbacks before finding their niche at success.
3. Teach your children to reflect on their experiences in ways that encourage growth. How? Help your kids to ask questions like these:
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I do this better the next time?
- How can I improve?
With these strategies, we essentially redefine the concept of failure for our kids. We help them see that all people, including themselves, are a work in progress.
Each of us has the potential to learn, to improve, and to become someone different tomorrow than we are today.
When it comes to pornography, most of our kids will at some point wrestle with the decision to view it. To help them become porn-immune, It’s important that they learn that past mistakes or slips do not define their future.
When parents encourage a growth mindset, kids know they can become increasingly in control of their thoughts and behavior—not just in relation to porn, but in all areas of their lives.
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