How Your Parents' Reactions To Failure Affect You Into Adulthood

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Parents might want to be mindful about how they view and process failure, suggests a recent study published in  Psychological Science . The study, conducted Stanford University psychology professors Kyla Haimovitz and Carol S. Dweck, offers new insight into how your parents' reaction to failure affects you and how you view intelligence. According to psychology, there are two kinds of intelligence mindsets — the incremental (or growth) theory and the entity theory. The growth theory believes that one's intelligence is malleable and can be expanded through hard work, while the other mindset believes intelligence to be an inherited trait that is essentially fixed at birth. Past studies have shown that those who hold a fixed view of intelligence avoid difficult problems or situations where they might fail, while those with a growth mindset challenge themselves more, even in the face of failure, to increase their abilities and are more willing to attempt to improve performance by practice.

The study hypothesized that the way a parent viewed failure might be more visible to the child and hence would shape the child's intelligence-mindset. Researchers tested the theory by asking 73 pairs of parents and their children (all currently in fourth and fifth grade) questions about four statements concerning intelligence and six on failure.

There was no correlation found between what the parent thought about intelligence and their children’s beliefs on intelligence. However, the hypothesis proved true when a link was found between what the parent thought about failure and how the child viewed intelligence. The parents in the study either viewed failure as “debilitating or enhancing.” These failure-mindsets are fairly visible to the children, as they affect the way that they are parented. The children can accurately decipher the parent’s views on failure, but their views on intelligence are more opaque. Researchers wrote in the study that those who “see failure as debilitating focus on their children’s performance and ability rather than on their children’s learning, and their children, in turn, tend to believe that intelligence is fixed rather than malleable.” Kyla Haimovitz, told Brit and Co, “Our findings show that parents can endorse a growth mindset, but they might not pass it on to their children unless they have a positive and constructive reaction to their children’s struggles.”

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All parents hope for their kids to be successful and smart, but coming down on them too hard for a bad grade or a poor performance may have lasting negative effects. If parents want to encourage their child to grow and not be afraid of failure, then they must attack these unpleasant circumstances as opportunities for learning. Confidence in one's abilities and strengths is important, but in order for a child to reach their full potential and overcome life's many obstacles, it's up to parents to ease the way.

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