Neuroplasticity - How to help your child develop a growth mindset

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Education expert suggests that parents and teachers help young people in their care develop a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset
Education expert suggests that parents and teachers help young people in their care develop a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset
Maryna Terletska

It's something that every child should have - a growth mindset. The world is evolving daily and they have to evolve with it or risk being left behind. 

Instilling a growth mindset from an early age is crucial for their well-being, according to an expert.

Education expert Colin Northmore explains that during early childhood, the child's brain undergoes an explosion of development.

Each new experience and interaction creates new neural pathways that form the foundation for how a child can solve problems and interact with the world around them.

This neural pathway formation is a process known as neuroplasticity and it ultimately impacts a person’s ability to change how they think and realise their potential.

Read more | Your baby's brain explained | 'Built from the bottom up': foetus to newborn

“South African schools do not generally pay attention to the phenomenon of neuroplasticity and its influence on the development of children and adolescents,” he says.

“There is a growing body of evidence showing that children go through two phases of neuron growth and culling, so, apart from early childhood, plasticity also increases during adolescence. Therefore, one of the most critical themes in the literature relates to how external stimuli or daily experiences in adolescence play a crucial role in the future quality of a teenager’s life,” Colin says.

On the other hand, positive strategies such as meditation, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and exercise have a significant impact on brain development, he adds

“The best strategies teach children how to control their emotions and their flight/fight/freeze response. Teachers and parents have a duty to shift their understanding of and excessive focus on the value of marks, and instead start teaching the belief that a child can learn almost anything under the right circumstances,” he says.

Read more | Here's how to improve your mental fitness

He offers a few tips on how to get started teaching a growth mindset.

  • The word 'yet' should be used by parents whenever their child does not succeed at something. Every failure is a learning opportunity, and children should be encouraged to analyse what went wrong and try again
  • Use praise appropriately. Do not tell your child that you are pleased with their marks. It is better to praise the effort they put in. Be specific: “You struggled, but you kept working until you found the right answers. Well done!”
  • If they did not have to put in the effort, encourage them to extend themselves next time.
  • Allow children to fail. Remember that a lack of success is just an indication that they just have not succeeded 'yet'.

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