Are you a person that thinks in absolutes? Are you just not good at something, like math or singing, and you think you never will be? Then you might have a fixed mindset, which can cause you to become stagnant and unchanging. You may find it difficult to move through challenges and handle problems that arise.
On the other hand, if you are flexible, find mistakes as a way to learn, and are persistently trying to do better, then you may be on the track toward a growth mindset. You do not have to be strictly one or the other either.
Some areas of your life may be on the fixed or the growth side — “I will never figure out how to do this” versus “This seems challenging and I want to learn more.” Your approach and your language are everything; how others view our abilities and us will also affect us.
Now consider how children view themselves and what they think about their abilities. What are your conversations with your children like every day? How do you react if you hear a child say something negative about their abilities? After completing a mini-conference called Reimagining School Readiness, I have learned that what and how we say things to children, especially those under eight, makes all the difference in the world.
Giving children permission to fail gives them room to learn. Instead of telling a child they have gotten something wrong, try asking what they think happened or what might work instead. Open-ended questions invoke critical thinking skills that children need to develop in order to continue to learn and evolve.
The Youth Services librarians at the Montrose Regional Library strive to engage kids in a growth mindset and enable them to think outside the box.
On any given day, you may come across a librarian engaging children in critical thinking questions, such as in a preschool story time where we may hold up a page from a book and ask what they think is happening rather than telling them what we see. When kids want to tell us about their favorite book, we listen, and ask what makes that book so special to them.
My favorite conversations with kids have started with questions from them testing my knowledge about megalodons, rainbows, or shooting stars and end up with us hunting for answers in the books on the shelves.
When librarians have programs with hands-on activities, we tell participants (both kids and adults) that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. How do you know you got it right if you have never done it wrong? Instead of “no” statements, give kids positive direction to follow and give them specific praise when they have done something awesome.
Carol Dweck, a psychologist who has studied mindset, writes that, if a child believes they can succeed, they will do better. Now that you know a little more about mindset, what would you like yours to look like?
Tina Meiners is the head of Youth and Outreach Services at Montrose Regional Library.