Your successesful kid and the unsuccessful kid

Before we go any further with the subject, I must say that the title I put over there is a click-bait – (if you know what a click-bait is, then skip this paragraph). What it means is, I think of something people like, something their eyes will catch, something they care emotionally and then put it there so that people would be interested and click it. This trick is done not only by me. (I put it there because I want to talk about it.) It is done by all major news papers, magazines, and everyone who uses a pen and put two words together. There is no harm in it, but if the title make you interested and doesn’t provide contents you want, then it will be a waste of time. What could be more costly than wasting one’s own time? ok, enough of this click-bait.

In an average family in Maldives, there are about 3 children. Each completely different from others. One very well educated, liberal and rich, another a closed minded, rule following and stuck in a 9-5 job. And then one who end up in jail for dealing drugs or robbery. Here I want to highlight that ‘difference’. After family, if we look into our society which is nothing but a collection of families, we can see people with many different personalities, different behaviours, and many different interests. Take any city and examine, you will notice this difference.

By the way, the old saying ‘a society is a collection of families living in a given land’ is an old rule that has been broken by high-speed transportation. Take a look at Male’, there are many units of families living in different houses, many individuals of expat workers, and many migrated individuals. Therefore, Male’ society consists of multiples of 1- family, 2- expats, and 3- migrated individuals.
Of course there are migrated families also, but they go to the first group.

Those differences I mentioned above are all mental differences, and it has caused many difficulties for those who cater these people – I mean businesses and goverments. Not only them, this also made it difficult for individuals to interact one another. Conversations like this happen all the time:

“do you like cheese?”
“I like cheese”

Every child is born with almost same physical features and completely same mental features. And it is hard to say that those few changes in physical features caused the child to become successful or unsuccessful. So what is the cause of this change?

Stanford professor Carole Dweck studied kids for a long time and she found something interesting. That is, When you praise their intelligence, meaning – telling them that they are smart, will make them loose their motivation. Here is what happens:

Let’s say a kid got A grade, she bring it home, then her mother and father praise her saying ‘you are very smart, you are a genius, she is the smartest kid in my family’ as she hear this she feel accepted by family and being liked by everyone. She also begin to feel ‘I get accepted when I bring A grades to home.’ Then she begins to feel afraid for others finding out her mistakes. So she begins to hide it. When teacher ask a question she will refuse to answer, by fearing that she might get it wrong. Along with this, her motivation begins to fall. After that, she always bring an E or Fs. Everyone will speak here and there ‘She is so smart, only if she study’

This mistake is not only done by parents. Teachers, managers, doctors, everyone put kids into this trap by thinking that it will encourage them to do more, while the opposite happens. So how we can avoid this trap? It’s simple. By praising their effort instead of their smartness. Like this:

‘Mom, I got As on my exam’
‘Wow, that’s amazing, you deserve that grade.. you haven’t closed the book last month. We are always proud of you’

Above conversation of the mother, she didn’t say how smart the child is, instead she focus on the hard work. Second thing is she didn’t attach acceptance with the grade. ‘we are always proud..’ imply that she is proud of her child no matter what grade she brings home. The child will be motivated to make more effort next time.

Ms Deweck calls the first one a fixed mindset. The mindset we want is called a growth mindset. Success in school, college, work, relationships, are all depends on what mindset one has.

A child with a growth mindset see their grades and hear criticism in a different way than a child with fixed mindset.  Growth minded child see their failure a result of less effort, and they feel that they have full control over to make it right. Just by thinking like this opens the door to so many opportunities. the child will listen to any kind of criticism no matter how severe the criticism is. He won’t get offended. because he know that he have full control over the situation and use that criticism to correct the course. Elon Musk attributes his success of running three companies to just two things. One is ‘First Princple thinking’, and second one is ‘listening to criticisms’. He not only listen to it, but gone one step ahead. He goes around and meet people and seek criticism. imagine meeting people just for them to criticize you. Criticism doesn’t affect such people because their motivation overtake any negativities in criticisms.

Main reason why growth mindset increase one’s motivation is that it makes him to perceive that he can do it. Thinking ‘I can do it’ has a huge impact on a kids performance. Even in adults, imagine a guy is doing something while thinking ‘I can’t do it’ see how he is performing.
‘Can do’ attitude push him further, help him compete others and win.

Next is performance and learning. If a person want to win over anything he must increase both performance and learning. It has to go together. Even if you increase one of them it wont help. It has to be 1. Performance and 2. Learning. I met a waiter, very hard working, very punctual guy, but never does any learning. Six years later I find him in the same position, zero improvement. if you know a guy who is excellent with their work but don’t learn, and if you time travel forward and see the guy in 20 yesrs ahead. You will see him in the same condition.

On the other hand there are people who read and study all the time but very bad at performance. They also end up same fate as those performers who dont learn. People of growth mindset understand performance alone is not enough nor does learning. They work on both at the same time. They learn a piece, and then make a piece of effort. This way they move ahead leaving everyone else behind.

Our goal as parents, teachers, coaches, and the general public should be to keep kids away from fixed mindset, and put them into growth mindset. This will not fix all the problems. But it will fix a great deal whose fate is directed to ruin.



  • A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. CS Dweck, EL Leggett – Psychological review
  • Goals: An approach to motivation and achievement: ES Elliott, CS Dweck – Journal of personality and social psychology
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  • The origin of society by MD Sahlins – Scientific American
  • A brief history of human society: The origin and role of emotion in social life, DS Massey – American Sociological Review, 2002
  • The Máldive Islands: An Account of the Physical Features, Climate, History, Inhabitants, Productions, and Trade by HCP Bell
  • The Development of Children’s Early Memory Skills | Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (pubmed database)