HuffPost Live host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin used to tell his niece -- as any doting uncle is inclined to do -- how smart she was. According to Carol Dweck, that's one of the worst things we can say to our children, and the consequences may extend far beyond the field of child raising. It could even be the key to solving some of society's most pressing issues.
Dweck's research shows that people break down into two basic psychological mindsets: fixed and growth. Those with fixed mindsets tend to think that basic abilities and talents are fixed traits. They are less curious, less interested in learning, and more reluctant to do anything where they might make a mistake.
Those with growth mindsets, on the other hand, are more willing to "stretch themselves to learn new things." "They take on challenges, they stick to them; and they bounce back from failures," Dweck said.
Telling kids how smart they are places undue emphasis on intelligence and inherent, fixed traits. By focusing on the process of acquiring knowledge and the ability to overcome challenges, however, parents can foster a growth mindset. "I tell parents, 'Sit around the dinner table and say, 'Who had a fabulous struggle today?'" Dweck said. "You're creating a new value system around struggle and persistence and resilience, not around being naturally smart."
Dweck and her colleagues are applying this concept to many other fields, including willpower, relationships, bullying, and even the Middle East. For one project, they conducted three separate studies with Israeli Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Palestinians in the West Bank. The results were impressive.
"We taught them that groups can change," said Dweck. "We didn't mention the groups in the Middle East -- we just taught them that groups have the potential to change. And we showed that this significantly improved their attitudes toward each other, and it made them willing to entertain major compromises."
Watch the video above to see the full interview.