Growth Mindset By Esther Pia Cordova
The importance of a growth mindset – a personal journey
I never was a easy child. I drove my parents nuts during my “I can’t do that” time. I refused to do any homework alone or to try anything new, since I wasn’t able to.
Even in school I didn’t had the courage to do anything by myself. This was a very frustrating time for everybody, for my parents, for my teachers and I believe especially for me. I was a very lucky child and my parent, teachers and friends helped me to overcome this phase and to build my self-esteem piece by piece.
I do not know where my insecurities came from, but I learned, now that I’m a parent myself, that it’s not that uncommon for perfectly curious and brave children to fall suddenly into a “I can’t do that” phase. As for most kids this phase will past, but parts of it stayed with me.
People would describe me as a confident person but I had a lot of self limiting beliefs and things I said in my head were not empowering. Maybe because I’m a woman, maybe because of my character, maybe because everybody feels that way secretly- I don’t know.
What's A growth Mindset?
Children with a growth mindset know that success is based on hard work and learning. Intelligence and talent are not innate abilities (fixed mindset). With a growth mindset children focus on learning over just looking smart, see effort as the key to success, and thrive in the face of a challenge. They know how to embrace the word ‘YET’.
So when I met my amazing husband, who has constantly cheerleaders in his head that tell him to go bigger and better, it was quite inspiring. It’s great to be surrounded by people like that. The problem starts when they love you so much that they want you to stop with negative self talk and to embrace your own little cheerleaders. It’s hard. Especially if your cheerleaders quit a long time ago and make vacation somewhere in the Bahamas without any cell phone signal.
I moved to the States for the love of my life, after getting an amazing masters degree, which unfortunately completely useless in Boston. After a year of being unemployed and my husband telling me that I should venture into programming, since it’s an extremely interesting field with a lot of job opportunities, I bite the bullet an signed up for a coding bootcamp.
All my self-limiting beliefs were not valid for my husband and I really had no other suggestions what else to do. I was scared and afraid that I won’t be able to finish. I’m not a quitter but deep inside me I knew I wasn’t able to do it. Let me tell you this was the hardest 3 months of my life. I didn’t enjoy myself at all and thought over and over what a failure I was if I would quit and ask myself over and over again- why this doesn’t come easy to me.
Here I got introduced to the concept of a growth mindset and maybe this is the reason why I actually were able to hold a certificate of completion at the end of the course. I think I got brainwashed. Instead of thinking about the million thinks that I can’t do- I had to start about thinking about the things I can’t so, YET. The little word YET makes all the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Nobody in class was ever allowed to say out loud that they can’t do something. The little word yet was from now on my companion. At first it feels fake to embrace the new language but after a while you start to believe your own words and then it becomes powerful.
I did not end up liking to be a full-time coder. I did work as a front-end developer for a year but my true passion is to bring this mindset that helped me when I was already an adults to little kids as early as possible. It’s so powerful to see what people can achieve with small switch of their mindset. I want to reach especially the little girls and boys that are stuck in the “I can’t do that” phase. My way of contributing to this goal is through picture books. Honestly I hope that you as a parent will take away something too.
I believe that the best thing we can do, to help our children’s to overcome their fears and to strive to learn as much as they can so that they can fulfill their potential, is to give themthe gift of a growth mindset.
Mindset changes behavior
The benefits are not just psychological. Research has shown that children with a growth mindset seek more effective learning strategies, work harder, persevere in the face of setbacks, and achieve higher competence (Eduardo Briceño, 2015). Who could not want that for their kids and fro themselves?
How we can nurture a growth mindset at home?
Kids learn the most through copying what we do. So if you have self-limiting beliefs, they going to have them too. If you talk on the phone with your colleague and laugh about how you just don’t have a math brain, they will listen. Our little ones listen all the time. Most of the things we say and thing we don’t are not even aware that they are derived from a fixed mindset. It’s not that easy to control our self-talk but the language we use to communicate with our kids can be in our full control. Let make use of that.
It might take some time to get used to the new framework but soon it will get second nature. I recommend to print out some example sentences to remind oneself how to change a fixed mindset sentence into a growth mindset sentence.
It’s all about the idea that skills are not innate abilities and can be improved. Language is key:
Try so say instead of this: this:
I’m so stupid → What am I missing?
This is too hard → This may take some time
I’m not good at math → I’m not good at math, YET
It’s good enough → Is this really my best work?
I will never be that smart → I will learn how to do this
I’m either good at it, or I’m not → I can learn and improve anything I want
The more often your kids are surrounded by the concept of a growth mindset the better and the higher the chances they will adopt a growth mindset themselves. If you notice your kid is engaging in negative, fixed mindset thought offer the alternatives. Talk about the concept and be a good role model. With my picture books I’m trying to support you on this journey. But books are not enough. They can be used as great conversation starters and to spark the idea but you as a parent will need to do the hard daily work in encouraging a growth mindset. Your kids will thank you.
To find more information about a growth mindset and my picture books “I Can’t Do That,Yet”, “Boys Can Be Strong And Emotional” and “A World Without Failures” check out the following:
Eduardo Briceño, 2015, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/growth-mindset-parenting_b_6951252
Nieggel Homes, 2019 http://www.nigelholmes.com/
Esther Pia Cordova currently lives with her husband and son in Germany, where she grew up. Before that she lived in Boston. Esther has a Masters degree as well as completed a 3-month coding boot camp where she was introduced to the concept of a growth mindset. This a familiar concept and message that Esther has continually added to her stories and has even applied to her own life.
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