Julie Nemeth, Ph.D., is a mother and therapist who lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two sons. As a licensed psychologist, she maintains a private practice in Center City, specializing in fertility issues, pregnancy, and parenting, as well as healing from eating concerns and childhood trauma.
A few days ago I overheard my two boys playing with a balloon in the next room. My younger son’s voice began to quiver from tears as he explained that he couldn’t hit the balloon high in the air. My older son quickly responded, “not yet.” As I heard this, my heart filled with joy! My older son understood that a little word like “yet” gave his brother hope that someday, with practice and persistence, he would hit the balloon higher.
I spoke about the power of yet in my last entry (https://thoughtfulparenting.org/2018/10/15/reflections-of-starting-school-again/)
In that blog post, I noted that by simply adding the word “yet” we could tell our kids we believe in them. The Power of Yet was introduced and developed by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. in her groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
To bring the Power of Yet into our lives as parents it is essential to develop a nuanced understanding of a Growth Mindset.
The Power of Yet & The Growth Mindset
Curious about children’s responses to challenges (obstacles, criticism, setbacks), Dr. Dweck noticed that some children welcome challenges while others avoid them. She wanted to understand this difference. Through years of research, she identified one of the crucial factors: children’s beliefs about their talents and abilities determine how they react to challenges.
When kids believe that they can improve and develop their abilities they are more likely to see challenges as a natural part of learning. In fact, they understand that challenges help us grow– obstacles may require a new strategy, criticism could include important feedback, and setbacks can be valuable times to reassess. This is a “Growth Mindset”.
With a Growth Mindset, these kids develop resilience and enjoy taking calculated risks. Failure is an opportunity to become better than before.
In contrast, when children believe that their abilities and talents are “set in stone” and cannot improve, they tend to shut down when faced with obstacles. This is a “Fixed Mindset”.
From this Fixed Mindset, children tend to engage only in activities at which they know they will be successful. For these children, failure is not an opportunity to learn but rather evidence of their inadequacy. To avoid feeling exposed and ashamed, these children turn away from the natural struggle of learning. It is just too risky to fail. Ultimately, they miss out on chance to build their sense of self as resilient and capable.
Dr. Dweck and her colleagues reassure us that it is normal to oscillate between a Growth and a Fixed Mindset – no one can hold a Growth Mindset all the time!
And, here is where the Power of Yet comes in. Simply adding “yet” to our vocabulary can be an extremely efficient way to evoke a Growth Mindset and to reassure others (or ourselves) that we believe that hard work can lead to success.
Let’s go back to my sons. My older son’s “not yet,” invited his younger brother to keep trying, practicing, and putting effort into hitting the balloon. With such a little word, he encouraged big curiosity. Now, my younger son could wonder about each time he hit the balloon. Does an open-handed hit make the balloon go higher? What happens when I wait to hit the balloon? Can I make it go higher if I jump up to reach it? Gradually, the process of figuring out how to make the balloon go higher becomes the real fun!
The power of yet is that “yet” is a catchy and quick reminder that growth is possible! To hear Dr. Dweck, in her own words, see her wonderful 10-minute TED Talk: (https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve#t-608459).