Growth Mindset

Lake is telling jokes. Michael compliments him on being a funny guy.

I start chiming in about how hard Lake is working at being funny. The harder you work at it, the funnier you get. Michael interjects that it helps if you’re innately funny. Then you have a better chance at becoming really funny. And he continues that Lake is inherently funny. He’s got the bones of the joke and the timing… Yes, you really work hard at your job of entertaining, Lake, I counter.

I’m trying hard to get Michael’s attention to emphasize “growth mindset” without having to directly discuss it in front of Lake. My subtlety is not transmitting the distinction. I finally nudge Michael, “pssst, growth mindset, please!”

Lake is immediately interested.

“Lady Kitty sure has a growth mindset”, Michael says. He winks. “She tries really hard to get you to feed her so she can grow. Pure growth mindset, that one!”

Growth Mindset

Not having preconceptions about the phrase “growth mindset” Michael was able to come up with a witticism. The principle is worth sharing though. I first became familiar with the psychology concept of “growth mindset” reading The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confidant, Capable Kids by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. A very good read. Not too long. I highly recommend it. In Chapter 3: “A is for Authenticity” the authors introduce the Stanford researcher Carol S Dweck who coined the term. Her body of work shows the importance of praising effort over ability in building children’s resilience, perseverance, engagement, confidence, ability to stay calm under pressure, and ultimately how far they will excel. The type of praise children hear builds the framework for how they perceive themselves, their abilities and determines how far they will be willing to take on challenges where they may have to risk failure. It influences how far they go in their life’s work and successes. She calls this growth mindset and distinguishes it from fixed mindset. The distinguishing feature of growth mindset is “process praise.” Hence, my sensitivity to Lake thinking he’s a funny guy versus he works hard at being funny.

Lake is more likely to be insecure and stopped by fear of judgment if he’s been made to believe he’s a funny guy. Since it’s an immutable qualifier, he’ll be worried that he might not be funny after all and stop trying. Whereas he’ll be more interested in being creative and trying to reach new levels of hilarity if he’s got the (correct) idea that qualities are qualities are expanded by practicing. And my, we want Lake to be not only resilient, but also maximally funny!

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