What to Say When Your Kids Are Having a Hard Time Learning Something

Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset,” which describe the beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

A simplified explanation of these terms is this: Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed. A person is smart or not smart. A person is good at math or bad at math.

Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter or better at math.

The latter belief—the growth mindset belief—encourages people to put in extra time and effort.

Those with a growth mindset understand that they can learn and achieve more.

Adopting a growth mindset is important for children because it allows them to move past their current challenges and grow. It shows them that they are not stuck in a box, but rather can put in time and effort to achieve something that is important to them.

We can help children believe in their ability to learn and grow by asking them to share stories about things they have already learned. By initiating this conversation, we remind them that they are capable of learning new things.

And we can also share our own stories ...

“One of the hardest things I have ever done was learn to read and write Chinese. It took me years, but now I have basic conversational skills.”

“One of the hardest things I learned how to do was play the piano. I found it difficult to read music at first, but now I really enjoy it.”

“One of the hardest things I have ever done was walk into a brand new school where I didn’t know anyone. The great thing is that I learned how to talk to strangers and make new friends.”

“One of the hardest things I learned how to do was run a business. I failed a good number of times before I got it right.”

When you ask your children for their stories, you can talk about how it felt at first, reminding them that they felt discouraged and frustrated  t first, but these emotions were later replaced by excitement, pride, and joy.

The next time they have to do something that is hard, they will be reminded that everything new is hard at first, but it becomes easier and easier the more time and effort that it is given.

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