3 Ways Dweck's Mindset Changed My Parenting Vocabulary

I am honored today to have Lindsay Call here with a guest post.

I asked Lindsay if she would write about one of her favorite books, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. I know Mindset is one of her favorites because she has mentioned it on her excellent blog time and time again. I wanted to hear more about it.
After reading the ways that Lindsay's parenting vocabulary has changed (and the reasons why) I'm itching to get my hands on it. You'll find affiliate links scattered throughout the post. This book sounds like just what I need to help Levi right now.

Here's Lindsay to discuss three ways Dr. Carol Dweck's Mindset has changed the way she talks with her daughter:

  • Long before I read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I was intrigued by an article I came across online. The basic punchline: It’s a really bad idea to tell your kids they’re smart. (What’s worse? Telling them they’re dumb, obviously.) It sounds counterintuitive in a world saturated by self-esteem talk, but we now have years of compelling research pointing to the fact that telling youth they’re smart is counterproductive for some simple reasons. First, it tells them that intelligence is a fixed trait, and second, that you’re judging theirs. In several experimental studies, Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues found that kids who were praised as “smart” were less likely to take on challenges and were more risk-averse; they quit trying sooner when obstacles arose; and they were even more likely to lie about their actual performance in an effort to look “smart.”

  • So if “smart” creates a “fixed mindset,” what language will instead foster a belief that intelligence and talent can be developed through effort, a “growth mindset”? Dr. Dweck has no shortage of ideas after 30+ years of study. Here are just three that have profoundly shifted my vocabulary, as a parent and an educator:

  • 1. "You worked really hard at that!"

  • This is among the most oft-repeated phrases around our house, followed closely by “Please stop whining,” of course. If “person praise” like telling a child they’re smart or cute reinforces the fixed mindset, replacing it with “process praise” -- praise for effort, choices, and strategies -- is key to strengthening the growth mindset. A good question to ask ourselves in various settings is Am I praising something that is directly within this person’s control? (One study found that only 10% of the praise young girls received was process praise, compared to 24% for boys, so this may be an even more critical focus when dealing with young girls.)

  • Now that I can see through the growth-mindset lens, I am astounded by just how saturated our society is with fixed-mindset messages. My five-year-old is regularly praised for her appearance, artistic talent, and intelligence, which may undercut the effort she’s put into mastering the skills she’s acquired. Many of the princess stories and fairytales my daughter loves so dearly emphasize fixed traits and virtually effortless “happy endings,” which is why I geekily scatter little written affirmations around the house like “Happy endings take hard work!” and I actively seek out growth-mindset media (The Princess and the Frog with its emphasis on hard work is a personal favorite).

  • 2. "There’s no such thing as perfect."

  • We probably all remember getting a grade-school assignment back with a big star and “Perfect!” scrawled across the top. It seemed harmless at the time, but the more I’ve studied the more clearly I see the way it feeds a fixed-mindset obsession with perfection. Students given that type of praise were less likely to take on more difficult tasks for fear of not performing perfectly and thus no longer appearing “smart.” It’s been hard to completely expunge “perfect” from my vocabulary, but I always try to follow it up with a reminder that there’s really no such thing as perfect. Mistakes and even failure are integral to progress (a message that is wonderfully expressed in the very growth-mindset children’s book Rosie Revere, Engineer), and trying to correct them is the path to becoming a “problem solver,” a label that my daughter has gleefully taken on as a core part of her identity.

  • Of course, there are downsides to raising a "problem solver," like the sheer number of repairs you stumble upon unexpectedly. "Oh yeah, I broke that but don't worry, because I did good problem solving and fixed it!" (Usually with mounds and mounds of scotch tape.) Hopefully, her personal empowerment is worth all the property damage in the long run.

  • 3. "You’re literally growing your brain!"

    Underlying the growth mindset is a basic physiological reality: Neuroplasticity. The brain is not a static organ, as was once believed, but a malleable one, constantly changing in response to environment, circumstance, and behavior. While process praise and growth-mindset messages implicitly send the message that effort and persistence lead to mastery, studies show that people of all ages (toddlers to college students) respond to explicit teaching about the brain’s capacity for growth. In one significant study, just 50 minutes of teaching about neuroplasticity dramatically improved low-performing students’ beliefs about their capabilities, not to mention their test scores.

  • With my five-year-old, the children’s book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain has been a fun and entertaining way to teach her about her brain’s inherent capacity, coupled with frequent reminders when she’s getting frustrated with a task she has yet to master. Trying to sound out a word? You’re literally growing your brain! Trying to tie your shoes? You’re literally growing your brain! Trying furiously to remove the marker from the wall before your parents notice? You’re literally growing your brain! (But we prefer the other methods . . . )

  • Are you a parent, a spouse, a teacher, a manager, a worker, an athlete, a perfectionist? Read Mindset. It’s a game changer.

Thanks, Linsday. Questions and comments are welcomed, below. 

Yay! Three reasons to celebrate at Stewart Central.

Super exciting news!

The fun comes to you in three parts today:

1. Benjamin was recognized as a top reader at his school awards ceremony. He was the 1st grader who passed the most Accelerated Reader quizzes out of all four 1st grade classes. He took (and passed) 62 quizzes, and read more than 535,227 words - more words than are in Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings. I didn't know he'd be getting the award, and I was so pleased when he received it. That's my boy! Since then I've been on his AR account and noticed that I only recognize about half the books that he took quizzes on, which means he was doing a lot of reading at school that I didn't know about (no surprise there) and that he didn't take quizzes on a lot of books I know he read at home.
He's a reading machine.

2. I got my first check in the mail for affiliate marketing. So fun! I'm making just enough money from the advertisements and affiliate links on Everead to be able to pay for the hosting (roughly $15/year). Success! I think it would be fun to do a more in-depth post about the monetizing I've been doing. Comment to let me know what your questions are and I'll be sure to answer them.

we found a place to rent!

3. Jacob got his officially-official letter of appointment from Connecticut College! We move in three weeks.
signing the offer letter, back in January

Design Mom in Atlanta: Or, Why I Love Book Events.

"Did you really invent the blog giveaway?"

That was my burning question for Gabrielle Blair at her book event. Don't worry, I was very polite and did not ask it during the part where we were supposed to be talking about her book.

I attended the Atlanta stop of the Design Mom Book Tour at Lenox Square Mall a couple weeks ago, and it was so much fun, start to finish.

I showed up right on time (not too nerdy) and brought my tabbed copy of the book (pretty nerdy), and gave away a bunch of my blog business cards (definitely nerdy), and made so many germane comments about the book during the Q&A that Gabrielle's interviewer thought I was her publicist (off the charts nerdy-awesome!). I had so much fun! I met a bunch of cool new people like Faith and Stacey and Rachel and Bliss and Titania and of course Gabrielle.

I didn't take enough pictures though. This happens at every book event. I take out my camera, take some pictures, look at them and think, "that's good, that's enough" then get home and look at the photos and see that I only actually took two and they were both pretty horrible. Sigh.

Can't remember the name of this awesome gal from Lebanon. For shame!
At least I used my one picture on capturing happy faces? :D

My favorite part of the Q&A was when Gabrielle told the story of a trash can.  She had bought it because it looked so good. However, this trash can's lid was constantly getting stuck and making it difficult for her kids to properly dispose of their garbage. Just get rid of the trash can, she advised. "There's no object in your house that's worth you yelling at your kids."

One of the best things about good design, according to Design Mom, is that it scores you tiny wins. If you wake up in the morning and on your way to the kitchen you stub your toe on the dresser every time, that's a "friction point" and one of the small problems you can tackle from the perspective of design.

How do you even start? Gabrielle suggests taking it one room (or one part of a room) at a time. I have really enjoyed watching her live by this advice as she has posted tours of different rooms on her blog. She's a designer for a living, and yet it's so encouraging to me that when she moved to a new place it wasn't all done-up and blog-ready in 6 months. Just, phew! I've got time.

So. After the Q&A it was the book signing and crafting time. Since the event was held at a Pottery Barn, we got to personalize Pottery Barn plates:

We had a plate like this (but red) when I was growing up, and I've wanted one ever since one of my siblings broke it. I don't remember who did it or what the circumstances were, but it was so funny when Stacey, my partner in crafting, confessed that she had been the one to break the special plate when she was younger! :) No worries kids, now I know how to make us a replacement.

After the crafting and such, and with the encouragement of my new friend Bliss, I asked Gabrielle my question. "Did you really invent the blog giveaway?"

Yes, she said she had been credited with running the very first comment-to-win giveaway. Wow. So awesome. Her tracking software, Traxi (which pre-dates Google Analytics), had told her lots of people were reading but she knew not many were commenting. She wanted to get to know her readers, so she offered a prize for commenting. Within the week other bloggers were emailing to ask if they could copy her directions and companies were emailing to ask if they could give away their products through her. Pretty amazing.

I had one last question for Gabby: "Can we be best friends for life?" Affirmative. Hooray! Haha!

If you enjoy a recently released book, let me tell you that going to an event for that book is a fantastic idea. Not only will you get to meet the author, but you'll get to meet lots of other cool people who like the same book you do. I'm such a fan of book events.


more book signings I've been to: one, two, three, four, five, six.
my review of Design Mom: Living with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide.



Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

This is the second book in Brandon Sanderson's Reckoners Series. The first one was Steelheart. This one was also so good! I won't say much about plot summary because this is definitely a series where you should read the first book first.

I will talk writing, though. I found myself appreciating the writing when our narrator, David, was describing a new place. Instead of smelling like something in particular, it smelled some way compared to what his past experiences would have been. I appreciate things like that. It really adds believeability to the narrator, and therefore makes it easier to believe the whole book.

This book was really enjoyable, and that's saying something for a second book. As we all know, second books are horrible about ending in a satisfactory way. This one did a good job though -- some super interesting progress was made in the storyline, for sure.

I probably can't recommend it more strongly than this: This is the only YA series I'm reading right now. I'm finding myself drawn more to other genres right now -- so much so that I've left other YA books that I'm interested in on the shelf. Not this one. Do yourself a favor and read it. I like it better than The Hunger Games, better than Divergent (for sure), and better than a bunch of other books too.

Ok guys. I blogged. Been having some hangups with that -- I believe they call it perfectionism when you just want to do everything right but it prevents you from doing the thing? Babysteps.
Edited to add: Here is an affiliate link to the book. If you make a purchase through this link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy reading!

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