Is my child in a growth or a fixed mindset?
- February 10, 2019
- Posted by: SumLogix Team
- Category: Psychology
This is a follow-up blog to our previous blog on growth and fixed mindset. You can read that blog here. As a recap, according to Dr. Carol Dweck’s research, children with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence grows when they challenge themselves. They believe that extrinsic factors that they control, such as, hard work and persistence, lead to success. On the other hand, children with a fixed mindset believe that they are born with certain attributes and talents, such as, intelligence. They believe that they can do nothing to change those attributes. As such, they tend to give up when faced with challenges. These children rarely live up to their potential in adult life.
Since a fixed mindset can really hurt a child in the long run and hold them back from success in their life, it is important to check early whether your child is in the growth or the fixed mindset and take steps to get him or her to a growth mindset as soon as possible.
A quick way to find out if your child is in the growth or the fixed mindset is to offer your child a challenging task and see how they react. The task can be physical or mental, but has to be just slightly beyond their current capability.
In the context of math, ask your child to solve a problem that is challenging for him or her. Next, observe his or her reaction closely.
A child with a growth mindset will display one or more of the following behaviors:
1. Their interest will suddenly go up and it will show in their body language.
2. They will be more engaged and eager to solve the problem.
3. They will enthusiastically start trying to find the solution.
On the other hand, a child with a fixed mindset will display one or more of the following behaviors:
1. Their interest will suddenly decline and it will show in their body language.
2. They will put down their pen or pencil and refuse to work any further.
3. They might even start crying or verbally protesting that you deliberately made the problem too hard.
4. They might even call the problem itself stupid or unfair.
As an example, let me talk about one of our students. Let’s call him Trevor, who was in fifth grade. He came to our math class looking for some extension work. The first time I met Trevor and his mother, the mother very proudly recounted his performance in the end of term exams. He had scored a 100%, and she was looking for some extension work. Before we took him on as a student, we decided to check his core understanding of concepts and his ability to apply them. We started by giving him a brief test on number theory and asked simple questions like “Is X divisible by Y?”, “ Find the LCM/HCF/factors.”, etc. He nailed all questions and pumped his fists at his achievement. We then started asking him slightly harder questions. I wasn’t surprised when I saw him get stumped by a question on prime factorization. For the non-math people, let me give an example of a problem we posed to him on prime factorization.
Prime factorization of a number is finding the prime numbers whose product gives us our number. For example, the prime factorization of the number 12 is 2 × 2 × 3. So, 12 = 2 × 2 × 3.
The question we asked him was, “A number has a prime factorization of 2 × 2 × 3. What is the number?” The answer is 12. We simply asked the reverse of what he already knew how to do. All he had to do was find the product, and he would have his answer.
We knew that Trevor knew how to find the prime factorization of a number. We had already tested him for that. The fact that the question stumped Trevor was surprising. However, what was even more surprising was his reaction. All of a sudden, he gave up and stared at the paper for the longest time. Then, with a sullen expression on his face, he started doodling and showed a general disinterest in continuing any further. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Trevor clearly displayed the fixed mindset.
A fixed mindset, like the kind displayed by Trevor, can prevent a child from truly realizing their potential. Unfortunately, it happens the most with intelligent and talented children. These children have likely been praised extensively in their childhood for being smart. The praise has been reinforced with good grades in school. They very soon start believing that they were born that way. However, when they encounter a challenge, their self belief gets shaken. They go on the defensive and react in a very negative manner.
If you found out that your child has a growth mindset, then congratulations. You just need to continue to challenge them and help them grow. If, however, you found out that your child is in a fixed mindset, then you need to take action fast. In our next blog we will talk about what actions you can take to bring a child from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.