Do Tiger Moms promote a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
I asked Carol Dweck this question in the Q & A following a talk she gave at the 2013 ASCD Conference in mid-March. Here’s what she said.
That’s a good question. You can see how a Tiger Mom could be promoting each mindset, which is confusing. So, at first the answer seems to be “both.”
Tiger Moms vigorously uphold that hard work matters. They make it clear to their children that, if you want to achieve a goal, effort counts. Good work doesn’t happen magically, they repeat ferociously. Hard work is the best path to high achievement. They understand intrinsically the 10,000 Hour Rule, and the value of “deliberate practice.” Children of Tiger Moms are not confused about the value of effort. This is certainly a growth mindset message.
On the other hand, Tiger Moms are utterly focused on results. If her children put in an excellent effort, but don’t achieve at the highest level, that’s a problem for Tiger Moms. Their emphasis on winning, on being at the top, is fixed mindset thinking. If you are a Tiger Mom’s child and have put in a great deal of effort, but didn’t win the prize, then it’s likely you will conclude that you must not be that smart, or that capable of mastering the skills. Indeed, you must not have what it takes. The emphasis on results is why Tiger Moms send a fixed mindset message, too.
Tiger Moms send the messages of both mindsets. But, they don't focus on the journey of learning, or the goal of giving their children a love of learning. Instead, they are all about results. For that reason Tiger Moms are champions of a fixed mindset, not a growth mindset.
If hard work doesn’t lead to externally validated success, then the children of Tiger Moms conclude they don’t have what it takes inherently. Tiger moms demand results, and that is the very condition that creates a fixed mindset in their kids.
Watch some of the experiments Carol Dweck uses in her research on fixed vs. growth mindsets.