We want our kids to do their best. We want them to succeed. One of the best ways we can set them up for success is helping them develop a growth mindset.
In this article, we will talk about two of the main mindset types: Growth and Fixed. We will also discuss a few ways you can help your kids develop a growth mindset.
Our mindset, how we view ourselves and the world, has a great impact on our lives and relationships. Our mindset fuels our actions and how we view our actions.
A person with a growth mindset will see failure or mistakes as a catalyst for growth or a learning opportunity. They know they can learn anything if they try hard enough, put in the effort, and stretch their brain. They also see failure, not as a reflection of themselves and their abilities, but as a means to grow. People with this mindset will often be willing to try new things or take on challenges.
Someone with a fixed mindset will believe nothing can be changed. They will see a failure or mistake as a reflection of their intelligence or ability and that they can’t learn anything from it. They’ll often avoid risks and new things. You will often hear them say things like, “I am not good at this.” Or “I can’t do this/anything.”
We can all have a little bit of both a fixed and growth mindset. In order to tell which one your child has in certain situations, pay attention to what they say when they make mistakes, how easily they give up, or how stuck they get when things get hard. If your child usually gives up when things get hard or you hear them saying negative things about themselves, they likely have a predominately fixed mindset. Kids with a fixed mindset often get frustrated easily too.
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Helping Our Kids Develop a Growth Mindset-
Researchers are finding that people with a growth mindset are often more successful than others. They don’t give up and are typically willing to try. This mindset is truly something that can help us succeed in life, and that’s something we want for our kids.
There are lots of ways we can foster this outlook. Here are a few ways to get your family started on developing a growth mindset:
Help kids understand practice and perseverance help them achieve.
- Talk with them through their struggles with your genuine empathy and understanding. Point out times they overcame something hard, or talk about when you did. When they don’t give up on something challenging, ask them what they did to succeed and how it feels when they accomplished the task.
Make mistakes something to grow from, not something worth punishment.
- There is value in mistakes and struggles, but many kids see a failure as final. Again, talk with them about how our brains can grow and circuits can expand when we preserve and learn new things. As parents, we often focus a lot on our kid’s mistakes and sometimes even punish or discipline harshly over them. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t be guided to make the best choices, but we can reframe mistakes as learning opportunities rather than something to be punished over.
Foster internal motivation:
- We learn because it’s good for us, not because we want good grades. This belief creates a more internal motivation to learn, not an external motivation (report card). We can’t force internal motivation, but we can foster it. We can allow our kids to feel their accomplishments, focus on the process more than the outcome, give them autonomy, encourage their self-discipline and self-direction, minimize external rewards or incentives, allow them to learn what and how they need, and point out what they do well and why they were successful.
Help kids develop a positive internal voice:
- When our kids have negative automatic thoughts, they often have a negative self-view. When we think certain thoughts over and over, they become automatic and difficult to control. We want them to counter those negative thoughts with something more motivating. So, if your child says, “I am so bad at reading.” You would want to help them counter that thought with neutral, “I am learning to read.” Which can eventually become something positive, “I am a good reader.”
Make them stretch:
- If kids are always doing things that come easy to them and things they are good at, they aren’t really stretching their brain. So, give them opportunities to do things they do well and do things they may struggle with, but that you know they can overcome. And, always be there to support them if they are struggling. Our brain needs to get uncomfortable in order to grow, and that growth is more likely to happen when there’s a loving, support adult walking along side them.
- We want to teach our kids to only compare themselves to themselves. Instead of looking at what someone else is doing, they can look at their own actions. Are they improving? Are they meeting their goals? As parents, it’s easy to compare our kids to one another, but it has been shown many times to not be the best practice. We want them to be the best version of themselves, not a better version of someone else.
Focus on the process:
- We rarely have much control over the outcome. But we can typically control what we put in, our effort. Results are important, but focusing on the learning process and the effort that went in, is much more beneficial in helping our kids learn to be their best self. How we praise their efforts is important too. Many of us are wired to say, “Good job!” But researchers continue to caution us to focus more on their effort than the end result. Instead, saying, “How did you accomplish that?” or “You look so proud.” Or “I bet that feels good/How does that feel?” (Read more on Focusing on the Learning Process here.)
Make it part of your daily life:
- The best way for your kids to learn how to have a growth mindset is by watching you have one. It doesn’t come naturally for all of us, but it is something we can work into our daily lives. We don’t want our kids to feel like something is wrong with them as guide them on their journey, so it’s great for them to see us live it out. We can model how we handle struggles, ask them for their help with our own small problems (kids should never have to solve our problems for us, but we can include them in the process and ask them for suggestions so they can practice and feel important), and let them watch us grow our own brain. Having mindset conversations can become part of your family language, just like being thankful, and we can talk about how our brains grow and we do what we can to be our best selves.
Here are some questions to get a Growth Mindset Conversation started-
- What can you learn from this?
- When was a time you didn’t give up?
- What can you do to solve this problem?
- How did you get to this point?
- What is something new you want to learn?
- What is something hard you did?
Read the full article on Conversation Starters to Build a Growth Mindset here.
Positive Sayings for Kids-
- I am strong.
- I can do hard things.
- Mistakes help me learn.
- Challenges make me stronger.
- I can challenge myself.
- I want to learn new things.
- I can always improve.
- I choose to have a positive attitude.
- Practice helps me get better.
- I can train and grow my brain.
- I can always do my best and that is good enough.
- I am wonderful.
Try incorporating these into your own vocabulary as well. Modeling this for your kids is one of the best ways for them to learn.
By: Emily Scott, PhD
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