Growth or fixed: why your daughter's mindset matters

by Erin Weidemann, Truth Becomes Her, Christian Examiner Contributor, Branded Content |

If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is teach them to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.

Carol Dweck

The unknown can be frightening for anyone, no matter the stage or season. Anytime we step outside our comfort zone and try something new, we may hear that little voice of doubt inside that says, "Can I really do this?"

How loud and clear that voice is depends on one's mindset.

Your daughter's mindset begins developing at a young age. Early experiences, failures and successes, as well as what she learns about learning can influence the approach she takes to meeting challenges, solving problems or resolving conflict. Her mindset is an important determining factor for whether or not she can handle what comes her way or allows it to handle her.

Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, studies human motivation. Her theory is that there are two mindsets — fixed and growth — and the difference between them is incredibly powerful.

In her TED Talk, Dweck describes "two ways to think about a problem that's slightly too hard for you to solve." Operating in this space — just outside of your comfort zone — is the key to improving your performance. It's also the critical element to deliberate practice. People approach these problems with the two mindsets.... "Are you not smart enough to solve it or have you just not solved it yet."

Your daughter's mindset — the way she perceives her abilities — falls somewhere between two opposites:

  • Fixed Mindset — She believes her skills, talents and overall intelligence are unchangeable traits. She may resist learning and trying to improve, typically feeling embarrassed when not understanding something.
  • Growth Mindset — She knows she can develop her skills and talents through effort and persistence, as well as being receptive to lessons and feedback. She generally believes she can improve through hard work and trying new learning methods.

If you can shift your daughter towards the latter, Dweck writes that you can improve the level and frequency of her successes in learning because mindset plays an important role in self-motivation.

The question then becomes: "How can I instill a growth mindset in my daughter?"

Here are three simple ways to get started:

1. Start praising authentic effort, not intelligence.

"Wow! You're so smart."

When you praise intelligence, you run the risk of reinforcing the idea that "smarts" are natural-born and not something that a person can acquire. Instead, emphasize the importance of planning and trying new approaches that foster creative problem solving.

Instead, say, "Great job! The study schedule you created really paid off. That was a good strategy you could use for the next test."

"You'll get it eventually. Just keep trying."

Although effort is aligned with a growth mindset, praising it can backfire. The key is to employ a new strategy. The effort is there, but it will change slightly. If your daughter is working hard to "get" something but it's not paying off (yet!), she may feel incompetent if you tell her to just keep trying in the same way.

Instead, say, "If you are having trouble with these types of questions, try using a different approach. Is there a way to draw, write, or act them out?"

2. Talk to her about your mindset.

It's so easy sometimes to focus on telling our kids what to do versus telling them what we've already done. Were there specific struggles with learning that you experienced as a child? When you were younger, what did you believe about yourself and your own effort, skills, and abilities? Did you operate from more of a growth or a fixed mindset? What have you learned about learning? Share that wisdom with your daughter.

3. Encourage your daughter to step outside her comfort zone.

If your girl loves and naturally excels at dance, encourage her to try playing a team sport to learn new skills or vice versa. These skills may not come naturally to her at first, but in time, and with the right mindset, she can improve and learn many lessons from new friends and experiences she never would have learned otherwise.

Set an Example

Just as your daughter is learning to adopt a growth mindset, you can practice right alongside her. How can you break out of your comfort zone, take on a new challenge, trust the process, and rise to the occasion?

Your daughter will fearlessly follow in your footsteps.

If you're looking for ways to encourage your daughter to develop a growth mindset and learn more about how God wants her to lead, be sure to check out this free video series, 3 Keys To Unlocking Her True Potential.

— Erin Weidemann is on a mission to shift feminine value from beauty to inherent worth. A certified teacher, coach, and nationally recognized speaker, Erin is the founder of Truth Becomes Her, a global community that equips women to let go of fear and step into the unique leadership roles for which they were designed. She is the author of eight books, including Bible Belles' The Adventures of Rooney Cruz series.

A five-time cancer survivor, Erin lives in San Diego, CA with Brent and their daughter, Rooney. Funny and real, Erin is also the host of the Heroes For Her podcast, interviewing positive female role models who are living out their passions in line with their personal values.

Visit 3 Keys to Unlocking her True Potential now for more information about raising a Godly daughter.