When struggle is a good thing!

Now that the dust has settled on Professor Carol Dweck’s three day visit to Scotland, it presents a timely opportunity to reflect on how we implement mindset in our professional and personal lives. 

September 2014

Professor Dweck spoke at six seminars across Scotland, explaining how her research into fixed and growth mindsets can be fundamental in the development of a young person. As a parent of two girls, I was particularly interested in how I can encourage my daughters to develop growth mindsets – Professor Dweck’s research identifies how to do this, however just as importantly the research shows how easy it is for a parent's actions to lead to their child developing a fixed mindset.

Carol started all her presentations with a quote from the political theorist, Benjamin Barbour, stating that he does not divide the world into the weak or strong but into learners and non-learners, with Carol then asking, why would anybody want to become a non-learner?  This really struck a chord with me. As a parent I have such an important role in ensuring that my children want to learn and importantly, have a love of learning.     

This then led Carol to discuss the topic of struggle, and our fear of it!

Why is it we have a fear of struggling to do something? Research found that those willing to embrace challenge and overcome their struggles are likely to have a growth mindset, but how do we pass this mindset onto our children?

For example, when a child is struggling to complete a new skill or perhaps finding their homework difficult the temptation as a parent is to step in and help, however this only prevents the child from learning a valuable lesson – struggle is a good thing, the lesson for parents however is how we communicate this.

Carol’s research highlighted the need to deliver praise to young people in the correct manner, rather than praise the outcome we should praise the process and the effort it takes to learn a new skill or complete a difficult task. By praising their hard work we are telling children that effort leads to improvement, making mistakes just means that they have not achieved their goal... yet!     

In contrast, the parent that succumbs to temptation and steps in to help when a child is struggling is actually depriving their child of a valuable learning experience, ironically this can then have a negative impact and contribute to the child developing a fixed mindset.    

The presentations delivered by Professor Dweck really helped to clarify the powers and perils of praise, I for one look forward to supporting my daughters' struggles as they grow and develop.  



  • Posted by Simon on Sep 17, 2014 9:50 PM

    Thanks for this, makes a lot of sense.
    It's this sort of message that needs to be spread all over the country!

  • Posted by Angela smyth on Sep 18, 2014 7:23 AM

    Was at conference in Dundee last week, loved it!

    Really brings home the role I have as a teacher and a mum of 3. Are there any more plans for mindset work in dundee? In schools?

    Will share this page with colleagues.

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