Having a positive mindset has a bigger impact on performance than what researchers have expected. A recent study by Stanford University found something surprising. Researchers observed the brains of students to understand how attitude influence achievement, and it turns out that having a positive outlook on learning, plays an equally important role as IQ.
When children do well in tests, they would naturally enjoy the subject more and feel more confident about it. However, the study has shown that the other way around — starting off with an expectation that they will like the subject and are capable in it, can help their brains to problem-solve better and improve their achievement too.
How do we as parents, help children foster more positive mindsets towards a subject or their potential then? Here are some suggestions:
To help children establish a positive mindset, we have to develop one ourselves. When parents or teachers respond to children’s struggles and mistakes with “anxiety or over-concern”, they unknowingly teach children to fear failure and prevent them from learning from trial and error.
First of all, make an effort to recognise your own unhelpful or self-defeating thinking, e.g., an overemphasis on getting things right, trying to please everyone, or fear of losing out (to name a few). Secondly, be conscious about making a choice in shifting your negative thinking by reminding yourself to strive for progress rather than perfection. Model a positive mindset in your lifestyle and interactions with your child and he will learn its true value.
Don’t praise your children for being smart. Research by psychologist Carol Dweck has shown that by doing so, it can cause children to be fearful of taking risks or pursuing tough goals that might make them feel vulnerable and less intelligent. Praise them for making effort by saying, “I’m proud that you tried really hard!” or “You really practiced that, and look how you’ve improved!”
Build your child’s resilience by instilling in them a belief that our mental capabilities are not fixed and can be improved with effort. When your child makes mistakes, tell them that they are giving their brains opportunity for growth. So if your child comes back to you with a D on his math test, respond with something like, “What did you do?”, “what can we do next?” Don’t just tell your child to try harder, offer strategies or skills to overcome a challenging task.
Instead of saying “I can’t play basketball or I can’t do multiplication,” adding a “yet” to the end of the sentences changes their meaning and promotes growth and opportunity. The word “yet” gives children more confidence and lead them on a path that encourages persistence. By saying “yet”, it leaves possibilities open instead of just saying “I can’t”.This simple linguistic trick implies that children will master these skills eventually with time and practice.
Find meaning in things that happen
Help your child bounce back from disappointments by encouraging them to talk about their emotions and make meaning of the events that happened to them. Life is unpredictable and filled with ups and downs, and by nurturing spirituality, we can find direction and hope during difficult times. Connecting with nature, meditating, sharing stories, creating something or helping others in need are some ways to develop spirituality, which can give a greater purpose to life.
There are so many benefits to having an attitude of gratitude and one of them is helping us to develop a positive outlook. Teach your child to see the positives in everyday life, no matter how big or small. At dinner or bedtime, share stories with each other about the simple pleasures of your day. Create a “gratitude journal” together as a family by gluing pictures from magazines, drawing or writing down things everyone is grateful for. These activities do not only build close relationships, they also can create a positive environment at home.
Having a positive mindset is one of the most important strengths for building resilience, which can eventually bring greater success and happiness in life. When children learn to perceive a difficulty as a manageable one, it makes them feel more confident and gives them hope. Besides, it also acts as a shield from anxiety, depression and poor health. Teaching your child how to respond to problems positively can make all the difference. Try to find the cup half full and be on the lookout for the bright side — your kids will also do the same.