Imagine being able to improve the chances of your kids excelling by just teaching them to repeat six words a couple of times a day.
It all has to do with positive thinking to a certain extent, but more specifically, untold benefits come from repeating one particular phrase (or any phrases with the same meaning).
The study showed that six simple words surprisingly boosted performance in kids. All they needed was to repeat the words quietly – “I will do my very best.”
NOT “I am perfect at this.”
NOT “I will not fail.”
Just “I WILL DO MY VERY BEST.”
The findings of the study are available in the journal Child Development from the Society for Research in Child Development.
Researchers formed three groups from a total of 212 students selected from middle schools in the Netherlands. Each student was asked how confident they were about doing math before being told to take a math test.
The notable difference among the students in the three groups was what they were asked to do halfway through the test.
Researchers asked the first group to recite quietly an effort-focused self-affirmation phrase: “I will do my best”. The second group was to focus their self-affirmation on competence reciting the phrase – “I am very good at this”.
Researchers asked the third group not to take any action at all.
The results showed students in group one whose affirmations focused on effort performed better than their group two counterparts who focused their affirmations on competence and group three who engaged in no affirmations at all.
The students in the first group who had indicated before the test that they felt they lacked the confidence to do well on the exam and who engaged in effort-based affirmations midway through the test showed remarkable improvement.
Self-talk on effort is vital, according to the study co-author who is also a child assistant development professor at the University of Amsterdam.
Static Mindsets vs. Growth Mindsets
The researchers did, however, mention that the study had a number of limitations.
Only students in Holland took part in this study and therefore the findings might not apply to students from other countries. Also, only middle school students took part in the study and therefore it might not be applicable to students in other age groups.
The study concurs with the work of Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University. She has focused her work on fixed mindsets and growth mindsets in children as well as the differences between the two.
A fixed mindset is a mindset where one believes that they were born with positive attributes such as intelligence, while a growth mindset is one where one believes that achievement depends on your efforts and that over time you can develop your ability to solve problems.
A second-year study
In an effort to study these mindsets more, Dweck’s team studied a total of 373 students from different middle schools several years ago.
The team tried to find out which students exhibited either of the two mindsets on their own, instead of just asking the students which mindset they thought they subscribed to.
After these students were identified, researchers found the students acted predictably due to these mindsets:
• Students whose mindsets are fixed had their mind focused on one goal. They had a mindset aimed to excel all the time no matter what happens and therefore avoided tasks that portrayed them as failures.
• Growth mindset students cared less about making mistakes. They saw mistakes as part of learning and showed the desire to improve no matter what.
• To students with fixed mindsets, the risk of failure was higher when one worked hard and therefore they avoided this idea. Failure to them was an indication that one was not born with the ability to succeed.
One the other hand, students with growth mindsets believed that one needs to work had to excel.
• The likelihood of students with a fixed mindset complaining of being bored in school was higher.
• For growth-mindset students, school work was viewed as an opportunity to deal with challenges so they were less likely to blame others for their failures.
Dweck wants parents to know that it all depends on how you appreciate the efforts of your kids. This is the important link between his work and the European study.
If kids are praised merely on their natural abilities, it may affect their ability to enjoy learning and do well in life as they grow.
Kids should be praised for developing strategies and procedures that help them solve problems. It will teach them to continue to work hard, pushing through failures, until they succeed.
According to Dweck, children subconsciously differentiate these praises. This was the case even with children three years old and younger.
Many of us have received such praises from our parents in our childhood and may be able to validate this by observing our own lives.
Once you realize how much of a difference this can make, you may find it impossible to overlook it from now on because it is something that can truly add meaning to life.