Key Difference Between Teens Who Succeed in School and Teens Who Don’t

You desperately want your teens to succeed in school, but cajoling and hovering and pushing them is just so exhausting.

Here’s fantastic help that will take you under two minutes to implement.

The difference, according to world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck (who’s done decades of high-level research on achievement and success) is whether the child has a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset.

The difference between these two mindsets is found here:

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

This is fantastic in and of itself, but here’s even better news.

As Richard Nisbett explains in his book Intelligence and How to Get Itsomething else quite remarkable happened when Dweck and her colleagues set out to convince students to have a growth mindset:

“Dweck and her colleagues . . . tried to convince a group of poor minority junior high school students that intelligence is highly malleable and can be developed by hard work…that learning changes the brain by forming new…connections and that students are in charge of this change process. The results? Convincing students that they could make themselves smarter by hard work led them to work harder and get higher grades. But –”

Now read this carefully –

Improving grades was not the most dramatic effect. Dweck reported that some of her tough junior high school boys were reduced to tears by the news that their intelligence was substantially under their control. “It is no picnic going through life believing you were born dumb—and are doomed to stay that way. For almost everyone, believing that you were born dumb—and are doomed to stay that way—is believing a lie. IQ itself can improve with hard work.”

I challenge you to do this with your child tonight.

Tonight, before bed or at the dinner table, talk excitedly with your child or teen about this idea that intelligence and talent can improve through focus and hard work. Tell your child that decades of brain research is backing this up. Tell your child that you, yourself, are excited to tackle some new things and work hard to get good at them. Repeat this conversation a couple of times during the next month.

If an underperforming child or teen is causing you extraordinary worry at this time, see the additional very helpful post I wrote on this subject here.

There’s no part of parenting more important than setting your kids up for successful college and career life.

For clear, step-by-step help getting your kids through college debt-free and into careers they love afterward, get a copy of my book:

It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.

You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:

bit.ly/burlowski

(Tell your friends.)

You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCHhere.

You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCHhere.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.

Subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter here.

Do you have specific questions for me about debt-free college and career for your kids?

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Do you have friends who are parenting kids ages 12–22?

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What about you?

What strategies have you found for helping teens to succeed in school? Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazineand US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.

This article was originally published on this blog on February 1st, 2016. It was most recently updated on September 16th, 2020. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Hi, I'm Jeannie Burlowski

I'm a full-time academic strategist, speaker, and podcast host, and I’m the author of the book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.

My writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love.

My work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington PostUSA TodayNerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

I also help students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school from my website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow me on Twitter @JBurlowski.

My team and I are leading a debt-free college revolution. We hope you’ll join us.

Hi, I'm Jeannie Burlowski.

I'm a full-time academic strategist, speaker, and podcast host, and I’m the author of the book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.

My writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love.

My work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington PostUSA TodayNerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

I also help students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school from my website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow me on Twitter @JBurlowski.

My team and I are leading a debt-free college revolution. We hope you’ll join us.

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