“I was never good at math so it doesn’t surprise me that my kid is struggling with it.” Does this sound familiar? Have you ever thought this? Or, worse, have you ever said this out loud to a teacher, another parent, or your child? This is one of the most disheartening things a child can hear their parent say. It sets up unnecessary and crippling boundaries around a child’s mindset and confidence.
The Math Brain
There is the unfortunate misconception that certain brains are “hardwired” for certain skills: i.e. “math brain” or “art brain.” However, research conducted over the past couple of decades has something different to say: It is known, now more than ever, that there is placidity to the brain that we often underestimate. This means the only thing standing in the way of someone learning math, science, art, literature, or anything they would like to learn, is themselves. Those who have what is called a growth-mindset believe they can learn anything they put their mind to. Those who have a fixed-mindset count themselves out of learning something new or challenging; believing they will never be able to because of their genetics, gender, race, or socioeconomic background.
A Growth Mindset
The truly unsettling part is that everyone is born with a growth-mindset. Yet something, or someone, has convinced them otherwise and they are left with a fixed-mindset, which can be nearly impossible to unlearn. This “something” can be a parent complaining about not understanding their child’s math homework, an over-gendered school system that encourages boys to take woodshop and girls to take art class, or even a passing comment from a family member, friend, or teacher. Whatever the thing is that breaks the growth-mindset of a child will still cripple their intellectual and personal growth.
Are You Holding Your Child Back
So how can you make sure your child has a growth mindset? Always, always, always encourage your child’s interests. As long as it is a safe and healthy desire, make sure you never give off the impression that they cannot or should not do it. There will, of course, be outside influences that you cannot control, but you will be your child’s main source of guidance and confidence as they build their idea of themselves. If they see that you do not believe they can continue with math, sciences, writing, music, sports, or any other interest they might have, they will believe themselves physically or mentally incapable. If your child has a passion for something, learn about it with them and never let them give up on what they want to learn. It may be difficult at times but as long as you foster the growth-mindset within them, your child will be able to achieve anything.