How do parents influence children’s mindset?

Children with a fixed mindset believe that they have a fixed amount of intelligence that they cannot change. As a result, when work becomes difficult they may question their ability, stop trying, and achieve less. In contrast, children with a growth mindset see their intelligence as malleable and something that can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and teaching. As a result, when work becomes difficult they are more likely to increase their efforts and achieve more.

To date, no clear link has been found between parents’ mindsets and their children’s. A series of experiments, published in Psychological Science, has found that parental response to failure is influential. Parents who believed that failure is a debilitating experience that inhibits learning and productivity had children who tended to have a fixed mindset. This occurred because these parents reacted to their children’s failures by focusing more on their children’s ability or performance than on their learning.

It may not be sufficient, therefore, to teach parents a growth mindset and expect that they will pass this on to their children. Instead, an intervention could target teaching parents that failure can be beneficial, and help them to react appropriately to their children’s setbacks in order to support their children’s future motivation and learning.

Source: What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents’ Views of Intelligence but Their Parents’ Views of Failure (2016), Psychological Science.

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