Principal's Blog

Posted on February 05, 2018

How to cultivate a success mindset in your child

Dr Nancy Hillier

Do you want your child to succeed? Teach them resilience and that includes teaching them how to succeed at failure. In this post, we explore why mindset is a bigger predictor of success than talent and give you tips for building a positive mindset in your child.

This time of year, TV ads would have you believe all you need to set your child up for success at school is a pair of sturdy shoes and a trendy lunchbox.

Research, and our own experience here at Pittwater House, would suggest otherwise.

The best way to way to set your child up for success at school is to teach them resilience.

Failure + resilience = success

Failure is inevitable. Especially when developing new skills.

According to recent research, a 15 year old today may have up to 17 jobs across five industries throughout their life. That’s going to take a lot of learning, risk, challenge - and failure.

How your child reacts to inevitable failure will determine their success throughout life.

Positive psychologist and Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman, has conducted numerous studies which show that mindset is a greater predictor of success than IQ or economic background. With colleague Angela Duckworth, Seligman found that the common denominator for success was grit: a determination to overcome failure to achieve a long-term objective.

What you can do to build a success mindset at home

This is where your job as a parent becomes paramount. How you deal with success and failure at home will have an exponential impact on your child’s future.

Through daily activities and conversations at home, encourage your child to be open to failure.

This doesn’t mean accepting mediocrity.

Rather, it means showing them how to respond in an inquisitive and non-judgemental way when things go wrong. Help them consider why it didn’t work and what they could do differently next time.

Opportunities include:

  • trying a new recipe for dinner
  • building a Lego model, or marble run, or any other construction activity
  • making slime (the latest craze involving creative mixtures of glue, lotion, shampoo, salt, corn flour, borax and more)
  • odd jobs around the house (hanging pictures straight, fixing the sliding door)

Praise the effort, not the achievement

You can also encourage resilience by changing how you praise your child. Praise that focuses on natural ability, such as “Wow, you’re smart!” might seem like a positive comment, but research shows it can actually lead to lower performance.

Likewise praise such as “You’re such a natural” or “You have a great memory!”

When you praise an inbuilt talent beyond their control, your child can become afraid to try new things, in case it’s revealed that they aren’t actually that talented. Plus, they learn to believe their abilities are fixed.

By praising effort, your child will learn that they can do amazing things by trying.

They learn that even if they aim high and don’t quite make it, they’ll still get your attention and praise.

Our positive education approach

Pittwater House builds positive psychology into everything we do. On top of our positive education approach to everyday learning, we also offer programs designed to build emotional resilience. Find out more here