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The 3Ms: Mindset, Be mindful of how you praise your child


If you have been following my blog, you know that at Revolution we have developed three ideas that we believe are crucial and must be instilled in every child preparing for college and a career in the 21st century. We believe that in addition to a solid foundation in the Three R’s—reading, writing and arithmetic—students also need to develop what we call the Three M’s—mastery, management and mindset. In my last two posts I dug into mastery and management. Today I will address mindset, the single most important trait to unlocking potential in your student.

“Attitude is everything.” I think this was posted in the library at my first teaching gig.

The poster had a picture of a fisherman in the cold and rain with a smile on his face.

This phrase has definitely been clichéd, but as an educator over the past decade I can’t emphasize enough how true it is. Recent research from Stanford Professor Carol Dweck confirms it. They’ve shown that a student’s mindset (or their attitude) towards intelligence has a huge impact on how they learn.

The simple act of praising a student for how much effort they invested to achieve success causes the student’s perceptions to change.

Conversely, praising a student for their innate intelligence or how “smart” they are at something causes a student to choose future tasks that they know won’t challenge them. And that they know won’t challenge how others perceive their intelligence.

The parental impact

We may often think that attitude comes down to a given person. I feel like I’ve definitely said, “Change your attitude” before. As parents, we have the ability to impact our child’s attitude dramatically without even trying. Simply tweaking the way that we say things can have a big effect.

I don’t let my child think that they “hardly studied” for a test.

They were attentive in class, took excellent notes, and were able to diligently review their results before the test. That hardly qualifies as not studying. And it definitely does not indicate that they are simply “smart”. It is a combination of efforts that leads to success.

If you let your child think they’re smart it can have negative consequences. In the future when they are challenged and struggle, they’ll shut themselves off to challenges just like the students in the study. In order to succeed in the 21st century, our children need to take on challenges and triumph despite not knowing what to do.

The power of “…yet”

Just as true, it’s harmful to let your child think they’re “not good at something”. This is a fixed view of intelligence and will cause your child to shy away from challenges. There’s a simple fix to this: the word “yet”.

“I can’t do this” has a completely different meaning from “I can’t do this yet”.

With a team of full-time, professional tutors I have focused their attention on each student’s attitude towards learning. Tutors help institute growth mindsets with every student they work. You can start this now to by tweaking how you praise your child and incorporating the word “yet”.

Please share your reactions to this and how you are helping your child. I love hearing from parents.


Ramit Varma  

Helping parents navigate the politics and the jargon. Math. Test Prep. Learning. I co-founded Revolution Prep with the goal of profoundly improving students’ lives.