It’s all in your head: How a child’s mindset changes everything

The spring recital is often the time when music teachers give out rewards, honors and special prizes to make an example of their best students. While most parents and students see winning something as the positive outcome, I have a different perspective.

Do talented students who procrastinate, expect prizes or coast through lessons really benefit from a reward?

This brings me to the work of Carol Dweck, the Stanford Professor of Psychology who wrote an awesome book called Mindset. If we reward students for their intelligence or innate talent by giving praise or a prize, they develop a stronger fixed-mindset. This validates their perspective that each person has a set amount of skill or talent.

The fixed-mindset is a teacher’s worst enemy.

Any educator with experience knows that students with less talent often end up being better than students with loads of talent. It comes down to several factors: environment, attitude, love for music, teacher/instructor programming and most of all – hard work.┬áThis is the growth-mindset.

How can we give rewards that instill a growth-mindset in our students?

As a child developer, I believe the smallest things I say and do can shift a life in a radically different direction. Professor Carol Dweck’s studies confirm that certain statements said by instructors and coaches induce the growth-mindset. Praising students for trying hard, focusing and working hard are fuel for a growth-mindset. You can create this for your kids simply by saying:

“Wow, I love how you kept trying to improve towards your goal, even though it seemed so challenging at first!”

“Are you proud of all that hard work you did?”

“You focused on that so much. Do you see how you much better you are now after practicing correctly?

Once your students have the growth-mindset, keep fueling it in every lesson and at every opportunity. You’ll end up with most of your kids seeking continuous improvement and being self-motivated in every other part of their lives. How would that change their life as improvements compound over years and years?

How viral would your studio growth be if parents knew what you were really teaching? How’s that for a prize?


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