Student Experience Research Network Blog

How do parent practices affect children’s mindsets? Kyla Haimovitz and Mindset Scholar Carol Dweck designed multiple studies to explore how the way parents view failure influences their children’s views on intelligence.

Previous research has shown the benefits of viewing intelligence as malleable, such as increased motivation, persistence on challenging tasks, and academic achievement. Interestingly, no clear link between parents’ views on intelligence and their children’s mindsets has been found. If parents’ views of intelligence do not affect those of their children, what other signals do children receive from parents that foster their perceptions about the nature of ability?

The researchers designed multiple studies to look into these questions. They predicted parents’ views of failure, or their failure mindset, might be more easily perceived by children through recurring parenting practices than parents’ intelligence mindset, and could thus influence children’s own views on intelligence ability.

Haimovitz and Dweck defined two potential mindsets about failure: failure-is-enhancing or failure-is-debilitating. Parents with a failure-is-enhancing view believe that struggles are a helpful experience, one that is vital for facilitating learning and growth. Meanwhile, parents with a failure-is-debilitating perspective believe that failure inhibits learning and is a roadblock on the pathway to improved performance.

Main Findings:

  • Parents who perceived failures as debilitating worried about their children’s abilities, and focused on their children’s performance rather than what they learned from the failure
  • Parents’ beliefs about failure affected parenting practices and predicted their children’s mindset about intelligence
  • Parents’ behavioral responses to their children’s failures can be influenced

Implications of this research

These studies provide evidence on the importance of the way that parents view failure. Their perspectives on failure affect the ways they respond to difficulties their children face, and these behavioral differences influence their children’s beliefs about ability. Encouraging parents to adopt a failure-is-enhancing mindset could be beneficial, helping their children to adopt a growth mindset about intelligence. Further research can continue to explore the relationships found in these studies while also testing approaches that may influence parents’ mindsets about failure.

For further information on this study, check out our brief or the full paper.

To explore media coverage of this study, see the following articles:

  • Mind/Shift: Talking about failure: What parents can do to motivate students in school
  • NPR: How to teach children that failure is the secret to success
  • Science Daily: Seeing the benefits of failure shapes kids’ beliefs about intelligence

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