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Even in young children between three and four years old, their mentality has not fully formed, but we do see fixed mindset or growth traits. Many of these children are already beginning to develop a growth mentality at that age, but others, when they are scolding or criticized or they have a bit failure, think: "I am not a good person." And this is somewhat of a fixed mindset; they don't want to carry on with what they were doing. A parent can see if their child is scared of difficulty, if they give up easily and get frustrated quickly, if they say: "I cannot do this" without really trying to do it. In that case, we need to focus on finding out what is going on. That's the big theme for parents and teachers — let's figure this out. We observe, try different things and see how they turn out. The biggest gift you can give a child is to teach them that it doesn't matter if they can't do something straight away, but that with time, effort, instruction and collaboration, they can figure it out.
First off, we talked a lot about effort. Then we realized that people took it too far. They thought that growth mentality was just about making an effort, that the important thing was that the child should try as hard as they could, whether successful or not, and that they could not tell their child that they had done well. Once, a parent came and told me: "I would love to be able to praise my daughter's accomplishments." I said: "What are you talking about? Of course you can praise her accomplishments, but then talk about how she got there." It is the process that matters, not just the effort. If you tell a child: "Wow, you've worked very hard," but they really haven't made any progress, why do you say it? You can tell them: "I appreciate the effort you have made, but let's figure out how we can learn this better." You don't have to just focus in effort, but on the child's process when it comes to making progress; at the end of that process, the child needs to commit to improving even more.
It's never too late to learn. For many people it is not easy to learn to change. If you have always lived in fear of challenges or believing that mistakes make you less smart, it can be very difficult to learn to change, but it is never too late. A former student of mine has a research program with the elderly; he has discovered that memory can improve when you teach people the growth mentality, as well as their ability to learn. So it's never too late; many people have little islands of fixed mindset in their head. "I can't do art, I can't do math, I can't play an instrument, I will never learn another language." They can work on that... Or perhaps they only have one experience. Not long ago, I met several elementary school teachers who said that they hated math as a child, learned the growth mentality, took math courses and discovered that they loved it and could do really well in it. It is never too late to discover something new. And perhaps when you were young you had a bad experience, or you didn't know how to draw well and you didn't understand why. You hadn't learned, but that doesn't mean you can't learn now.