All the cool kids have it, or at least the successful kids. This ability to keep battling in the face of challenges seems to be the talk of the education industry. Paul Tough is talking about it in his new book. Angela Lee Duckworth is talking about at TED. Brian Williams is even talking about it on Rock Center. Apparently it’s the secret sauce. But where do I get it? Because I’d like to soak my son in it.
I understand the concept of teaching kids perseverance, self-control, and the importance of struggle in the learning process, but that’s not easy stuff for a fourth-grader and I need him to learn from his mistakes now, before I make another trip to the emergency room.
According to Carol Dweck, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, my son’s lack of grit is mostly my wife’s fault. (Sorry honey, world-renowned psychologist said it, not me.) The boy just needs the right mindset, and unfortunately my wife spent the first nine years of his life telling him he was smart while I was telling him to get off the furniture. He developed a fixed mindset, with an understanding that you’re born with certain innate abilities and have little chance of improving them. He’s a great reader, but not great in math. I get it, I’m not a “math person” either.
Except Dweck’s research proves that’s hogwash. There’s no such thing as a “math person.” The brain is a muscle and like all muscles it gets stronger when you use it. According to her, if my son and I changed our mindsets to believe we could grow smarter through practice and hard work, then success was just around the corner. Seemed logical, so we decided to give it a shot.
My wife and I have since joined Dweck Nation and are in the process of fostering my son’s growth mindset through praising the hard work he’s done, rather than his God-given abilities. And it’s working. He’s now bragging about how much he studies instead of the grades he receives. Now if we could only get his sister to actually do some work, so we’d have something to talk to her about. Maybe Dweck has a secret sauce for fixing lazy?