Grit & Growth Mindset
By Rebecca Mitchell
Grit. Who doesn’t want their child to have “grit”? I certainly do! I want my kids to have resilience, perseverance, “stick-to-it-iveness”! I want them to see a challenge as an opportunity! Who’s with me?! I know you are. There’s no way you’re saying, “Nah, I’d rather my kids gives up as soon as something the least bit challenging comes along.” (By the way, if you are saying that, we need to have a serious chat.)
The real question is: how do we help our children to develop “grit”? It really starts with changing how we think. Science has proven that our brains are not set but are malleable and capable of growth. It used to be believed that you were either born with “smarts” or you weren’t. Not today. Science has shown that our brains are constantly growing and rewiring over our lifetime to accommodate amazing amounts of information and skills in response to new intellectual and physical stimuli.
There’s a buzz word for this in educational circles. It’s called “growth mindset.” Carol Dweck, psychologist and author of the book, Mindset, introduces the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset” to describe “the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement” (https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/).
How do we foster a growth mindset in our children? We have to challenge them! The great news is that nature is a perfect place to do this. “Spending time outdoors can be the perfect place to practice taking risks, to try and fail and try again, and to put forward effort in overcoming obstacles. Doing so many contribute to a growth mindset rather than a fixed one” (Getting Gifted Kids Outdoors, Dr. Leigh Ann Fish & Dr. Pattie Ensel Bailie, 2018).
When Laconia Christian Academy first looked into TimberNook, we made several visits to see what it was all about. At one location, we were told the story of a girl who wanted to accomplish the difficult task of getting a rope over an out-of-reach branch. She asked the teacher for help, but TimberNook activities are child-led in order for students to practice problem-solving skills. Teachers encourage but do not assist. The girl worked with other students, but each attempt failed. Finally, she alone figured out a way to accomplish her goal. What pride she felt over her accomplishment! And she had produced some grit! It takes grit to try and fail and then try again. What a necessary trait to foster if our children are to become healthy, productive, resourceful adults.