“This sport is not for the biggest, strongest, or most talented; it is for the most committed, hardest working, little guy who at times is the only one believing that what shouldn’t happen will happen.” This quote by the legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks should serve as a reminder to educators and parents that the message our children need to hear is that there is a direct correlation between effort and achievement.
Too often we adhere to what Dr. Carol Dweck refers to as a fixed mindset, which essentially means our ability is predetermined. Can you recall hearing somebody ever saying, “I’m just not good at math.”? Perhaps, even you have been guilty of assuming a fixed mindset at times. According to cognitive scientist, Daniel T. Willingham, Westerners, see intelligence as an inherited trait, like eye color. You are either born smart or not smart and those in Eastern countries view intelligence as a trait that can change. Doing poorly on a test is not because one is dumb, but rather the result of not studying enough.
It makes a difference on how children view intelligence. Viewing it from a fixed mindset allows them to justify not putting forth effort whereas viewing it as being malleable allows them to take responsibility and control their learning. It does need to be understood that not all students have the same ability and some are more talented at different subjects and activities such as music, art, and sports. However, by exerting effort and demonstrating persistence, the level of success will increase.
So as a parent, what can you do to help your child make the connection between effort and achievement? In his book, Why Don’t Students Like School? Willingham suggests how classroom teachers can help make the connection but the following strategies can also be used effectively by parents.
Let your child know that learning is under his/her control. When appropriate, praise your child’s effort (process) instead of telling them they are smart (ability). The praise must be sincere or else it has the risk of doing more harm than good. Telling your child they worked hard when they didn’t makes you less credible.
Consistently reinforce the message that hard work pays off and provide examples of people that have worked hard to achieve success. Despite being arguably the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan attributed his accomplishments to countless hours of practice.
Risks need to be taken in life and everybody at times fail. Maintain a positive attitude and use failure as an opportunity to learn.
Help your child establish strong study routines by setting aside time and space without disruptions and distractions.