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Resilience is an important characteristic to have as an adult. Being able to cope with mistakes and failures, bounce back and continue to do our best is a necessary life skill that every parent and teacher I know wants to instill in children. This, of course, takes time – no one I know particularly enjoys making a mistake, or failing at something. That being said, there are things we can do to nurture children’s resilience and improve their ability to “bounce back”.

In Karen Salmansohn’s article What to Tell Kids After Failures and Mistakes, she describes two different theories of learning: the “Entity Theory Way of Learning”, and the “Incremental Theory Way of Learning”.

In a nutshell, entity theorists praise children’s innate talents (“You’re so gifted! You’re so smart!”), whereas incremental theorists praise children’s hard work, dedication and perseverance (“I’m proud of the effort and concentration you put into that project!”). Can you guess which of these methods of praise leads to greater resilience? Read on!

“Dr. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of developmental psychology, has written a lot about teaching kids to grow up with an ‘Incremental Theory Way Of Learning’ – versus an ‘Entity Theory Way Of Learning’…

Dr. Dweck has performed many studies which show that students who are ‘Entity Theorists’ — and think of success as something innate and unalterable – actually succeed less and fail more — because they are more likely to feel helpless after they fail – and then give up.

In contrast, students who are ‘Incremental Theorists’ think of success as requiring long-term discipline, effort, patience and courage – succeed more over time — because they attribute failure to not working hard enough — or not seeking help and new insights. As a result, instead of giving up after failure, these students simply work harder, seek insights, and accept support.”

As someone who grew up with an Entity Theory mindset and consciously moved toward the Incremental Theory mindset as I began to teach, I can attest to the power and importance of the latter. As often as possible, praise effort over outcome; praise perseverance over perfection. The results are remarkable, and believe me, over time you will see the difference in your child.

Kids want to please the adults they care about. When we emphasize effort and hard work instead of just “being smart”, our children will come to value these traits as well. This is the way to nurture resilience.

What do you think? Share your stories & opinions below!

To read Karen Salmansohn’s article in full, click here.

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