The power of positive vocabulary: 13 golden phrases that we want children to ooze!

You may have heard the term growth mind-set but what is it and how can we use it to help children?

Dr. Carol Dweck, who is regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, states that simply, “it’s the key to success in school and life!”  

Sounds amazing, right! But does the talk of growth mind-set really work?

She explains that it’s all about focussing on effort rather than on intelligence or ability. Interestingly, she points out that those with a growth mind-set believe intelligence is a pliable quality and a potential that can be developed and improved, whereas  those with a fixed mind-set believe that intelligence is a pre-disposed or fixed trait. Furthermore, someone with a growth mind-set believes that the actual process of learning and the effort exerted is far more important than the outcome or just looking or being perceived to be “clever.”

So what about the vocabulary bit?

When we express ourselves to persuade, calm, enthuse or warn, our vocabulary and turn of phrase alters to achieve our desired outcome. According to the experts, ensuring that we praise effort and resilience rather than intelligence and outcome could really increase self-belief, positivity, success and our general outlook on life.

This made me reflect on the impact of the vocabulary and phrases I use when teaching and praising my pupils. Whether or not you believe in the theory and research, my view is that in today’s society, when there is an ever growing list of things for our children to worry about, we need to provide a helping hand to develop self-belief, feelings of success and a positive outlook.  

So, if you can make small changes to how you use everyday terms to equip children to tackle life’s challenges, then why wouldn’t you…and even better, encourage this growth mind-set in children and the vocabulary that they use.

Vocabulary gold!  

There are many phrases that can help to foster a growth mind-set, below are 13 golden phrases that experts suggest using.

Fixed Mind-set: Instead of saying………

Growth Mind-set: Try saying…….

It’s too hard / difficult

It’s challenging me to learn and adapt

I don’t know what to do

How can I help myself?

I’m never going to do it

This may take some time

I don’t know enough

What do I already know that will help me?

I’m rubbish at this

What can I do to improve?

This will do

Is this my best work?

I just can’t do it

I’m going to try another way

I’m not clever enough to do this

I will learn how to do this

They can do it but I can’t

I will learn from them

It’s all wrong, I made a mistake

Mistakes help me learn and do things differently

I can’t make it any better

I can always improve my work

I’ll never be as clever as….

I’m going to work out how they do it

This way didn’t work, I give up!

I’ll try this way instead

If a growth mind-set can help children build resilience, increase confidence, motivation, and performance rather than succumb to helplessness, then I’m in!

By Jennie Adams on 14th December 2017
Also published in Lindfield Life Magazine.  You can download the free magazine and read the article here. 


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