What Is Growth Mindset? How Do You Teach It?
We all have beliefs about our own abilities and potential. These beliefs are part of our mindset which shapes our everyday lives, it fuels our behaviour, predicts our success, and helps us interpret our experiences to determine which actions we take, or don’t take. It is the way our brain perceives ourselves and the world. It is so powerful! There are two types of mindsets – growth mindset and fixed mindset.
What Is Fixed Mindset?
A fixed mindset is the belief that our intelligence and abilities are more or less stable and cannot get much better, even with practise. Mistakes are often seen as failures rather than opportunities to grow and learn. We may fear new experiences, avoid risks, want to quit or give up, and feel the need to repeatedly prove ourselves to others.
What Is Growth Mindset?
A growth mindset is the belief that our intelligence and abilities can be improved with effort and the right strategies. A willingness to face challenges, a passion for learning, and viewing mistakes as a springboard for growth are all characteristics associated with a growth mindset. No surprise, growth mindset leads to greater happiness and achievement in life.
Teaching a growth mindset to children is not an easy task but it could become one of the greatest contributions you make towards their future success and happiness.
How to Teach Growth Mindset
Growth mindset is a lifelong journey but just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.
The Brain is Like a Muscle
Using simple sentences tell children about the brain and how it works. Growth means to develop, change, mature, evolve. Living things grow - plants, animals, and people. Even our brains can grow! As soon as they understand that the brain literally grows new connections as they practice and learn how to do something, they become excited about the learning process.
A growth mindset is believing in the power of yourself and your brain! We know our intellect and abilities develop when we try hard things, use the right strategies, and don’t give up. So, a growth mindset is when we know, with practice, we will get better at something.
Model a Growth Mindset for Them
The best way to teach a growth mindset is to work on developing your own. After all, children learn much of their behaviour and attitudes from observing the adults in their lives. A great way to do this is to let your children overhear you “thinking out loud” when you are faced with challenges.
Instead of saying “This is too hard.” Say… “This is really hard for me. I guess I better practice and practice.”
Instead of saying “I can’t do this.” Go with… “I haven’t learned how to do this yet, but I’m going to.”
Those are just two of plenty examples of how you can model a growth mindset. Remember, you won't be 100% growth mindset all the time. Don't beat yourself up if you find yourself saying something to your child that doesn't encourage a never give up and always work hard viewpoint. No one is perfect all of the time!
Use The Power of YET
It’s heart-breaking to hear a child say things like “I can’t do this.”, “I can’t ride a bike.”, “I can’t read.” With one simple word, any fixed mindset phrase can be drastically changed into a statement of hope. Teach your child to rather say “I can’t do this YET.”, “I can’t ride a bike YET.”, “I can’t read YET.” It’s all about the outlook moving forward, and not giving up until we get there!
Sometimes YET does not work, but in a similar way you can reframe fixed mindset phrases into powerful future outcome statements, for example teach children:
Instead of saying “I’m not good at this.” - say “What am I missing?”
Instead of saying “This is too hard.” - say “This may take more time and effort.”
Instead of saying “I can’t do Math” - say “I am going to train my brain to do Math.”
Instead of saying “I suck at soccer.” - say “I am not as good at soccer yet as I want to be.”
Instead of saying “I’m awesome at this.” - say “I have learned how to do this.”
Praise for a Growth Mindset
When you notice hard work it is important to praise for perseverance and effort rather than for being smart or talented. The key to promote a growth mindset is teaching children that their brains are like muscles that can be strengthened through hard work and determination.
For example, instead of praising your child for a seemingly permanent characteristic… “You are so smart”, praise the effort they put into it… “You worked really hard to solve that problem.” The first is known as people praise; the second is process praise. Process praise promotes an internal sense of self-competence because it reinforces that success is due to effort, which the child can control, rather than some fixed level of talent or skill.
You know how hard it can be to try something new when you are afraid of failing. Create an environment where it's okay to be wrong. Teaching your child that it is okay to make mistakes will take away some of the fear of possibly being wrong and free your child up to try new challenges.
Get excited when opportunities for growth occur! In a challenging moment, say things like, “This is an opportunity to grow our brains!”, or “Mistakes make our brain grow!” In the process of making that effort, they will learn what works, and what doesn't.
Do not swoop in to fix things for your children. Even though you may be tempted to solve the problem for them, don't, rather ask “How can you fix this?” Give them the time to try, make mistakes, and to fix their own challenges. If your child is really stuck with an issue, help them brainstorm what else they can try to solve their problem or complete the task. Ask them what other resources they have that they can check for more info, such as different places in their textbook, online websites, or even asking their friends how they solved the problem.
Showing your struggles can be a lifelong gift to your children. Talk about your mistakes, and what you’ve learned from them. One characteristic of a growth mindset is viewing failure as a springboard for growth. When children see our failures and hear us working through them, they will be better equipped to do the same.
Why is Growth Mindset so Important?
How we think determines everything about our lives. Absolutely everything! Building a healthy growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that leads to accomplishment. It guides the way we talk to others, our actions, the results we achieve, or don’t achieve.
Armed with a positive mindset and the knowledge that growth and change are always possible, children will be ready to tackle their big, wonderful life ahead!