In a recent research paper, Carol Dweck, Ph.D. and Kyla Haimovitz aimed to find out where a child’s belief in intelligence comes from. In other words, do they believe it is fixed (something they are born with), or malleable (something that can be gained through hard work)?
What they found is that while children realize that intelligence can be gained through proper education, their foundational understanding of intelligence is formed before they even start explicitly learning a curriculum.
The research paper, published in the June 2016 issue of Psychological Science, points to the conclusion that parents have a significant influence on their kid’s understanding and outlook on intelligence. Interestingly enough, this outlook and understanding do not come from the parents’ thoughts on intelligence; rather, they come from how parents view failure.
Some parents have the tendency to believe that failure is terrible, an irreparable situation from which they must shield their children. In other words, they’ll go to great lengths to protect their children from experiencing failure. Alternatively, some parents find failure to be an important tool for growth in their children. These are the types of parents who help kids realise that failure is okay, and can help them be better people in the long run.
According to a study reported by Psychology Today, “parents of fourth and fifth-grade children were asked about their mindset about intelligence (fixed vs. malleable) and their orientation toward failure (debilitating vs. valuable). Their children were asked about their mindset about intelligence. Their children’s mindset about intelligence was much better predicted by their parents’ beliefs about failure than their beliefs about intelligence.”
So why does a parent’s outlook on failure affect a child’s understanding of intelligence?
Research believes that parents who trust the value of failure in learning are more likely to encourage their children to work hard and overcome obstacles. Parents who shield their kids from failure are more likely to display fear of failure, which leads kids to think that intelligence is fixed, and not acquired.
In Dweck and Haimovitz’s research, “one group of parents was asked about the behaviours they would engage in when their children experienced a failure. Some responses were focused on worrying about their children and comforting them. Other responses were focused on enhancing learning, like encouraging the student to ask a teacher for help or to use the failure as motivation to learn the material better. Parents who saw failure as debilitating said they would engage in more worry and comfort than parents who saw failure as important for learning. Parents who saw failure as important for learning said they would engage in more activities to promote future learning than parents who saw failure as debilitating,” reports Psychology Today.
In another study, researchers note that children are much more attentive and aware of their parents’ attitudes towards failure than they are about their parents’ attitudes towards intelligence.
To further validate these claims, an additional study was conducted. This follow-up study indicated that a child’s outlook and understanding of intelligence is well predicted by their perception of their parents’ beliefs about failure. That is, children seem to be adopting their parents’ attitudes towards failure and using it to establish their own outlook on intelligence.
In summation, parents can clearly influence the way their children think about intelligence. Interestingly enough, this influence comes from the parents’ outlook on failure. Parents have two reactions to failure: comforting their children or encouraging learning and overcoming struggles. The parents who embrace failure and teach it as a life lesson go on to raise children who believe that intelligence can be acquired. In turn, their children are better equipped to learn in their academic endeavours.
[H/T] Psychology Today
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