When children are taught that the work put into something influences the results, they grow up encouraged to work hard to achieve their goals. They’re raised to believe that nothing is impossible if they put their mind to it. This mentality is called a growth mindset.
A growth mindset sees peoples’ intelligence as capable of growing and progressing. It is believing that your skills, talents, and intellectual abilities can be developed through proper training, practice, and hard work. In contrast, a fixed mindset is a way of thinking that your talents are gifts you were born with. It suggests that if you lack abilities in a particular area, there’s no chance for you to get better at it.
As any experienced parent or educator knows, the first of these perspectives is a much healthier and productive approach to learning. Cultivating a growth mindset in children is essential because it gives them the confidence to try and learn new things. It teaches them the value of hard work and helps them see failures and mistakes as stepping stones to success. This also makes learners more receptive to receiving support, such as hiring a tutor to help address academic problems.
Early learners naturally lean toward the growth mindset because they are curious about their environment and are excited to explore the world around them. That is why teachers and tutors can play a huge role in developing it further in children.
How to Develop a Growth Mindset in Children
This positive way of thinking is nurtured from a young age until it becomes an overall can-do attitude. Parents and teachers can support children in embracing the growth mindset through these practices:
Set a Strong Foundation
The best first step toward developing a growth mindset in children is to teach the concept. When defining growth and fixed mindsets, use terms that are familiar to them. Give examples that emphasize the importance of having a growth mindset in school and in life. This way, children can relate and engage in the discussion. They may even discover areas they would like to improve and set goals they want to achieve.
Teach and Prove Growth Statements
The way children react to a situation can tell whether they have a growth or fixed mindset. A child struggling to ride a bike would either say "I'm not good at biking" or "I can improve with practice." A hard math problem would make a child say "I'm not good at math" or "This is hard, but I know I can improve."
Children with a fixed mindset would often say "I can't." They don't try to improve or learn something new. They feel bad when they see other people’s successes. They give up when things get hard.
Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, would always say "I can." They seek help from their parents or tutors to improve. They practice and try to do better. They get inspired when they see successful people. They learn from failures and are not afraid to try new things.
Share Stories of Personal Growth
Sharing your personal experiences helps children relate better. It can be about failed job interviews, failed driving tests, or that time when you didn’t get the award you wanted. This can help children reflect on situations that they have experienced on their own.
Hearing these stories also helps them relate it to their experiences at school. This may include failed math tests, not doing well in club activities, or not getting into the honor’s circle. What’s important in telling these stories is how you reacted to those experiences. Show them how having a growth mindset helped you overcome those challenges. This will inspire them to be more confident when dealing with their problems.
Talk about movie characters they know, like Po from Kung Fu Panda. Watch the movie with your kids and talk about how Po looked at challenges. Ask them to explain how Po faced those challenges. This is a great way to let children recognize the characteristics of a growth mindset.
Set an Example of Growth Positivity
The best way to teach kids about growth positivity is by modeling it. Children respond better to what they see rather than what you tell them. When they see mom and dad doing or saying something, they will imitate it.
Children learn the most from their parents. Be careful when reacting to difficult situations because children are always watching. For example, keeping your cool when you’re having a bad day at home is a good way to show a positive attitude. But if they see you get frustrated when you don't finish household chores, they will copy your reaction.
Dealing with problems with your spouse or with the family also sets a very good example for children. Figure out a way to solve them together, and let them know that you will get through them as a family.
Talk About Mistakes and Setbacks
In cultivating a growth mindset in kids, it’s important to emphasize that making mistakes is okay. For example, your child had a hard time with their homework or failed an exam. Let them know it can be frustrating sometimes, but that this gives them a chance to be better at it.
Inspire them to say “I’ll do better” or “I’ll try again.” This teaches children how to deal with their negative emotions instead of hiding it. Make sure to encourage them to share their struggles with you. Normalize talking about their experiences — good or bad.
It’s also important to let your kids know it’s OK to ask for help. They should always feel comfortable talking to you about their struggles in school. For example, seeking help for tricky STEM subjects, such as with math or physics tutoring, can be excellent support.
Growth mindset is all about embracing challenges and learning from them. When faced with a difficult homework or task, talk about the ways they could solve it. Show them how they can learn from it. This develops their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Try the following steps:
- Offer tips when your kid is feeling overwhelmed.
- Encourage them to break down difficult tasks into smaller ones.
- Teach them how to be more organized so they can keep track of their accomplishments.
If they failed, tell them how they could learn from it so they can do better next time. Let them know their failures aren’t permanent. Remind them that there are no shortcuts to their goals and their hard work makes it worth it.
Having a growth mindset doesn’t only help your children do better at school; it also equips them with important life skills. They can achieve their goals if they work hard and keep a positive attitude. These are all important ingredients to their future happiness and success.
Developing a growth mindset in kids is a challenge in itself. But as a parent who wants to nurture this positive mentality in their children, tell yourself, “I can do this!”