And I think that simplistic definition is what sets alarm bells going in the Christian parent’s mind. Is this just the power of positive thinking? Is it drawing from a power within that is not God?
The Christian Response to Growth Mindset
At first glance it does appear to be a humanistic idea – that man has the ability, the power within, to change. And as a Christian I can react to that. Obviously I want to give God the credit for the power to change. But we can over-spiritualise life too. God has given humans that amazing ability to grow and change – science calls it neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change throughout life.
The Bible tells us that what is in our heart – what we believe – will shape everything that we do.
I know that when we start to believe things – we start to act certain ways. This is the whole message of heart focus parenting. We teach our children beliefs and values that shape their choices and actions.
I do want my children to know that they can grow and change – in all areas of their life:
- in our relationship with God as we fill our hearts with his love and Word
- in our ability to do the right thing as we understand what is right and wrong
- in our ability to express emotions as we accept ourselves
- in our ability to give to other people as we accept others as loved by God
- in our ability to learn as we see God’s purposes in knowledge
- in our ability to care for our body, as we see that we are given a body for a purpose
The thing that I see missing in the growth mindset charts I read online and the conversations I have is that God created us with the ability to change and God has a plan and purpose for our growth. God is the source of our ability to grow and change – not ourselves.
So is it humanistic (man-centric) or is it Biblical (God-centric)? I think it depends on what you believe! As a Christian parent I am going to teach my children from a God-centric position.
What does this mean to a Christian Family?
“Changing” in and of itself is not a Christian thought. All humans have the ability to grow and change. As a Christian parent though I see our lives deeper than just our presence here on earth. I see our tasks as deeper than just being kind to my neighbour. I see my passions as deeper than just the things I’m interested in or good at. God is at the very core of who I am because I have invited him to be Lord of my life. This means as I reflect on the things that I do and how I do them – God is my motivation.
One of the activities that I often do in a workshop is give parents 6 blocks – spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual, physical – and ask them to arrange these blocks in order of importance. How you do this will depend on your belief and value system. For me, the spiritual block is the foundation – then there is the moral, and then on an equal plane are the rest (emotional, social, intellectual, physical).
To teach a growth mindset from a biblical position we have to teach our children the following lessons:
- God made them – and He loves them
- The Fall impacts us today – But God has a plan
- God has a purpose for them
- God is there to help them in their purpose
- Are you going to believe what God says, or what your feelings say?
As always – when we know our why – we are able to move further ahead. To simply say “I can” is self driven – but to know why you can, or why you should – that gives a motivation deeper than selfish desire.
We can persist, overcome, learn, grow, change – because God has given us the ability to – and because we have a purpose to – to glorify God and to do what I am created for. Without knowing what you are created for – we strive to be better because we want to please ourselves.
Seeing God as the reason and empowerment for change is addressing the ‘growth mindset’ issue from a God/spiritual perspective first. Secondly we can address it from a moral perspective.
(Note: Before we move onto the moral – let me just say – that the issues of growth and change that we are talking about are in the physical realm, not do with our holiness and salvation. Though our belief in God changes our why which then changes our choices even in the physical realm of life.)
It’s Really the same as Character Training
We all have beliefs that we act upon – and the foundational belief that shapes how we face life is that God created all people and we are to love them, and secondly, God created us to care for the world and be productive in it. This is the premise for our moral beliefs and therefore moral growth.
When you look at the statements that create a growth mindset – what is really being taught is character.
I can improve by working hard: diligence
I am determined to do my best: determination
I can overcome challenges with effort: courage
I can train my brain: discipline
I will never give up: resilience
I can learn from my mistakes: forgiveness
I can problem solve: resourcefulness
I can learn: wisdom, humility
I can find a different way: flexibility
I can do my best: thoroughness
A growth mindset is about how we face life, how we deal with circumstances. My definition of character is: the quality of our response to people or circumstances. Are we going to give up, or are we going to push forward – this is the question for character growth, and this is the question for a growth mindset. Same-same.
So are you Creating a Growth Mindset in Your Children?
In education circles the idea has been grabbed in both hands – we see it everywhere. But in reality it is nothing new – it is creating a culture or atmosphere where children (or adults) believe that they don’t have to stay the same, that they can take responsibility for their own growth in any given sphere. The only reason this has created a buzz is because of the science and understanding of what happens in the brain, and in the ensuing actions, when we believe that we can compared to when we believe that we can’t. It is something that parents have been teaching their children for generations.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to have a quick review of the self-talk that happens in your family. Some kids are more prone to it than others. Do your kids say:
- I’ll never get this, or I’m not good at this
- I’m hopeless
- This is too hard
- Don’t worry, I’ve changed my mind
- This is good enough
- I always muck it up, I made too many mistakes
These words are triggers to help you understand what your child is believing about themselves. You can help them change this. Not by giving them a good pep talk declaring “Yes, you can do it, I believe in you!” but by going back to the foundation of what the Bible says: God made you and He has a purpose for you, and He has given you the ability to make choices.
A growth mindset is really about believing what God says about you.
A growth mindset is about aligning our self-talk with what God says.
As Christian parents this is definitely something we should be teaching our children.
Over to you:
What does the idea of ‘growth mindset’ mean to you? How have you dealt with this in your family?
(I’d love to hear your comments below).
Does your Child lack Initiative? Initiative takes a child beyond obedience and helps them be truly responsible – but it often depends on how a parent encourages responsibility.