Grit and a Growth Mindset

November 19th, 2014

Two related and very similar qualities can lead to success for all of our students. They are relatively simple concepts and parents and school personnel have frequent opportunities to teach, develop and reinforce them.

The first of these qualities is what Stanford professor and psychologist, Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” Those with a growth mindset believe that success comes from effort. On the other hand, people who believe that success comes from being born with the gift of intelligence or talent have a “fixed mindset.”

The second, related quality, is “Grit,” which University of Pennsylvania professor and psychologist Angela Duckworth defines as, “persistence, determination & resilience.”

Having a growth mindset is a great start. It gives us hope that we can affect the outcome of any situation. It gives us a reason to try and a reason to take risks. When we follow up with grit, we are able to deal with the disappointments and setbacks that inevitably come. We are able to focus on the benefits of the journey and not get discouraged when obstacles arise.

As parents, one of the most difficult things is watching our children struggle. Our instinct tells us to protect them from any pain and hurt that comes from failure. In some cases, we do need to step in, but in more, we need to put our energy into encouraging them to persist and believe that their efforts will make a difference. We also need to continually focus on learning—whether it is in a classroom, in relationships, or in an athletic or fine arts activity.

If our real expectation is that our children do their best, learn as much as they can, and act with character and integrity, we will praise and focus on those things and remove the focus and emphasis on a specific grade or an expectation for a certain amount of playing time. A’s and playing time are nice, but they are secondary to developing grit and adhering to a growth mindset.