Trying new things is a major part of learning, but children won't be successful every time they try something new. Helping children develop a growth mindset will equip them with the resiliency skills they need to put in the effort and dedication required to overcome any challenges they face in school or in life. In his book When Nothing Else Works, Dr. William DeMeo shares the following six tips on how educators can help children develop a growth mindset and ultimately help reduce challenging behavior in the classroom:
- Focus on the Struggle and Why It's ImportantLearning something new can be frustrating for children, but that doesn't mean you need to take the activity away or complete it for them. If an activity is appropriate for a child's developmental stage, it's best to focus on the struggle and why it's important. Let children know you understand it's difficult but that it's important for them to keep trying by using statements such as, "I know you're struggling with this activity, but you're learning how to do it." Finding other ways you can encourage children to embrace learning challenges will also help.
- Set Realistic, Achievable GoalsChildren learn at their own pace, so be sure you don't expect too much of them. If children aren't developmentally ready for tasks, then they may become unwilling to learn and behave simply because they can't yet succeed at the tasks you expect of them. Make sure the goals you set for children are developmentally appropriate, realistic, and achievable. Remember to also celebrate small learning successes.
- Offer Specific Feedback That Identifies Children's EffortsSpecific feedback from the caring adults in their lives can help children work through learning challenges. Try not to focus on ability in your feedback. Make it clear that you value hard work, effort, and perseverance instead. Focusing on children's efforts will help you give children useful feedback that will help them in their learning experiences. When giving children feedback, it's also important that you don't micromanage or give them too much feedback. Don't interrupt children's play to offer feedback, and try to ask open-ended questions that will help children solve the problem themselves. Remember, acknowledging children's efforts can encourage children to keep up those efforts in the future.
- Encourage Risk TakingOne way you can encourage risk taking is by offering children small but achievable challenges. Watching and listening to the children in your care will give you cues about what children are ready to learn. Encouraging children to use what knowledge they have to try something that is just out of their reach but is developmentally appropriate will help children become confident and persistent.
- Model PersistenceBeing persistent and narrating your thoughts as you try something new can help show children that everyone has to work hard to solve problems and that learning new things doesn't stop when people become adults. Another good idea is to see if children have any helpful tips to offer you about learning something new.
- Don't Sweat the Small StuffEven if children don't accomplish what they set out to, they can still learn something. They may learn that they need to ask for help from someone else or that they need to break the task down into smaller tasks next time. When a child has an unsuccessful attempt at something, make sure you are specific about what worked, identify the emotions involved, and offer encouragement for the next try.