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Teaching Students How to Handle Failure

During this weekend I was reading the print edition of ReaderDigest, May edition, and I found an interesting article about how parents are growing kids "defenseless against failure."

The article supports the investigation realized by Carol Dweck a PhD psychologist from Stanford University. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. This book is the result of a research that found two kinds of mind sets, the 'fixed mind-set' and the 'growth mind-set'. We all are born withe second one, otherwise we weren't able to survive this world.

Unfortunately, parents, coaches, as well as teachers, often push us into fixed mind-sets by rewarding certain behaviors and misdirecting praise. Following are Deweck's recommendations for parents and teachers dealing with failing children:

School -Never compliment a child by saying 'You're so smart' or 'You picked that up so quickly.' Instead, praise effort or strategy by saying That was clever of you to take that approach or I'm proud of your persistence. Please, listen for similar remarks from teachers and correct them.

Sports -Instead of 'You're a natural,' say Practice is really making you better. Instead of inquiring 'Did you win?' ask Did you give your best effort? Dweck, explains: 'Talent isn't passed down in the genes; it's passed down in the mind-set.'

Dinner table -Instead of the standard 'How was your day?,' ask What did you learn today? or What mistakes did you make that taught you something? Describe with zeal something you're struggling with. 'Instill a passion for learning, stresses Dweck.

Planning the future -Don't just ask about goals; ask about the plan for reaching those goals.

Frustration -Don't permit children to refer to themselves as losers, failures, stupid, or clumsy. 'Never let failure progress from an action to an identity,' recommends Dweck. Likewise, don't label your kids. Don't say this one is the artist, and this one is the computer geek. Anyone can be anything.

In doubt -If you encounter skepticism, ask the child to think of areas in which he once had low ability and now excels, or to recall a time when he saw someone learn something or improve in ways not thought possible.

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