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Psychologist in Sussex, England » Raising High Achieving Children
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Main menu:

Further information:

Raising High Achieving Children


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The comments below are drawn from the following article:

Dweck, C. S. (2007-2008) The Secret to Raising Smart Kids, Scientific American Mind (Vol 18 No.6 pp 37-43)

How to Raise High Achieving Children

Carol S. Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University (USA) has also held professorships at Columbia University, The University of Illinois and Harvard. She has pioneered research into the effect upon children of learning to think of themselves as very intelligent versus thinking of themselves as a person who can achieve by persistent effort. Her results are as follows:

  • An over-emphasis on intellect, or talent, and the belief that such traits are innate and fixed, leaves children vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
  • Teaching children to have ‘growth mind-set’ which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.
  • Parents and teachers can encourage a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than their intelligence) by telling success stories that emphasise hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.

Professor Dweck quotes research in which two groups of students, with equal Maths achievement scores in Grade 6, were divided into those who had a fixed mind-set (intelligence is static) and those who had a growth mind-set (intelligence is malleable). In Grade 7 the children with a growth mind-set were earning higher grades than those who had a fixed mind-set. Two year later, the children with a growth mind-set continued to show an increase in grades, whereas the fixed mind-set children showed a decrease in grades.

She also reports research showing that: ‘Children praised for their intelligence solved significantly fewer problems after a failure than they had before encountering the difficulty. In contrast, children praised for their effort solve more problems after their brush with adversity than they had before it’.

She offers examples of how to encourage a growth mind-set:

  • “You really studied hard for that test, You read the material over several times, outlined it and tested yourself on it. It really worked.
  • I like the way you tried a lot of different strategies on that Maths problem until you finally got it right.
  • That was a hard English assignment, but you stuck with it until you got it done. You stayed at your desk and kept your concentration. That’s great!
  • I like that you chose a challenging project for your science class. It will take a lot of work - doing the research, designing the apparatus, making the parts and building it. You’re going to learn a lot of great things.”

Professor Dweck also notes that ‘parents and teachers can also encourage children to enjoy the process of learning by expressing positive views of challenges, efforts and mistakes’. She gives the following examples of such communications:

  • “This is really hard - this is fun.
  • Sorry, this is too easy - no fun. Let’s do something more challenging that you can learn from.
  • Let’s all talk about what we struggled with today and learned from. I’ll go first.
  • Mistakes are so interesting. Here’s a wonderful mistake. Let’s see what we can learn from it.”

Long Term Advantages of a Growth Mind-Set

Adults with a growth mind-set are:

  • more likely to be open to personal and professional development
  • able to cope with challenge and changes in the work place
  • ready to look for solutions to problems in their relationships
  • better at nurturing the development of others

Prof. Dweck’s most recent book:

Mindset - The New Psychology of Success, Random House, 2006


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