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Key Takeaways:

  • A growth mindset is especially important for children to learn resilience and achieve success.
  • Some benefits of a growth mindset include higher self-esteem and lifelong learning.
  • Nurturing the growth mindset can be done by example, praising the process, and introducing new experiences.

What is the secret to raising your kids to be successful and happy in life? There are so many ways to teach them that it may be difficult to know where to start. But if there’s one thing that can help one navigate the challenges of life, it’s having a growth mindset. A growth mindset for kids is especially important as they are still learning how to get better at things. With the right effort and strategies, they can feel more empowered and try harder. Here are some other ways that a growth mindset can nurture resilience and success in children.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Each person has a belief about their own abilities and potential. Such beliefs are part of our mindset, which can influence our behavior and even predict our success. The mindset with which we approach each day can shape our daily life as we interpret our experiences and act accordingly.

Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University identified two mindsets that shape the way we live. One is the growth mindset, which views attributes like intelligence, talents, and abilities as things that can be improved with effort and the right strategies.

People with a growth mindset display a willingness to confront challenges, have a passion for learning, and view failure as an opportunity for growth. Having a growth mindset encourages learning, motivation, performance, and resilience. It is also strongly linked to greater happiness and achievement in life.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset for Kids

Dr. Dweck also identified a second mindset, which is the fixed mindset. This mindset views intelligence, talents, and abilities as static or fixed attributes. When one has a fixed mindset, they believe that individuals are born with the intelligence or natural talents they’ll carry on into adulthood. When looking at the growth mindset and the fixed mindset, people who have the latter usually avoid challenges. They may also be threatened or intimidated by others’ successes. Those with a fixed mindset also usually give up more easily, often giving in to negative thinking.

The Importance of Developing a Growth Mindset in Kids

Developing a growth mindset is important for a child’s growth and success. Only with a growth mindset can your kids gain a passion for learning and face challenges more readily. In fact, children with a growth mindset often outperform those with a fixed mindset [*]. They are also more likely to rebound from failures, which are a natural part of life.

Benefits of Having a Growth Mindset for Kids

Here are some of the benefits you can expect to see when teaching children about the growth mindset:

Motivation for lifelong learning

When teaching growth mindset concepts, one thing that is always emphasized is lifelong learning. A growth mindset enables children to enjoy learning and exploring their potential, allowing them to mess up in the process and learn from the experience. This is because learning is all about the journey rather than having a perfect and precise destination.

Kids never stop learning, even when they grow into adulthood. Teaching your kids that learning is a process that involves mistakes and failures encourages them to keep on going. They will be able to see challenges as opportunities to gain new experiences rather than staying stuck in one place. You can further encourage lifelong learning by doing growth mindset activities for kids.

Higher self-esteem

People of all ages, including kids, tend to underestimate themselves. However, part of the growth mindset is believing that we are capable and powerful. It does not mean overestimating our greatness but has more to do with having a stronger sense of what can be accomplished despite the challenges. When teaching your kids about the growth mindset, it can be helpful to ask them growth mindset questions. This will encourage them to reflect on their learning and how they can be more flexible, agile, and resilient.

This can lead kids to a deeper appreciation of their successes, which can also improve their self-esteem. Having a high self-esteem also means having courage to face difficult situations head-on, even if they seem daunting. A growth mindset gives children an opportunity to understand both their strengths and their weaknesses, thus enabling them to navigate the path toward success with more confidence.

Honing the power of “yet”

One of the best growth mindset affirmations that your child can tell themselves is “I haven’t figured it out yet.” The magic word in this statement is “yet.” This is the one word that sums up the crucial connection between failure and learning with a growth mindset.

The word “yet” allows kids to focus on potential and possibility that the growth mindset emphasizes. By adding this word to things your kids cannot seem to do, it gives them the freedom to view these obstacles as temporary setbacks rather than insurmountable challenges. Rather than letting their errors define them, the power of the word “yet” can help children develop a better outlook on themselves and their personal experiences.

How to Nurture Growth Mindset in Kids

If you are a parent, guardian, or teacher, then knowing how to teach growth mindset concepts may be especially important to you. Here are different ways you can teach or nurture the growth mindset in your kids:

Praise the process

Instead of praising the end result of a certain project, task, or activity, praise the effort that your child puts into it. This may involve using phrases like “Fantastic job! You’ve worked so hard on this” or “That seemed really tough, but I’m proud of you for sticking with it!” This will give your child a sense of accomplishment about their perseverance.

Lead by example

Sharing mistakes you’ve made with your child can be very helpful in demonstrating how to develop a growth mindset. Just be sure to focus on how and what you’ve learned from your mistake.

You can lead by example and show your child that you are undertaking a challenging new endeavor, such as exercising or trying a new recipe. As you do the activity, maintain a positive attitude and focus on the learning process. Your child will be more likely to mimic your behaviors when confronted with a difficult task themselves.

Explain the science behind the growth

Kids love learning, so teaching them the science behind the growth mindset can help them see why it is a good thing to practice. You can explain neuroplasticity to your child in simple terms [*]. Try telling them that the brain is like a muscle, and in order for it to grow, it needs exercise in the form of problem solving or overcoming new challenges. Explain that these create new connections or strengthen existing connections in the brain.

Introduce new experiences

One of the best growth mindset quotes comes from Imaan Farooq, who said “When you go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, a new world of possibilities opens up.” Allowing your child to have new experiences helps widen their perspective and makes it possible to develop a growth mindset.

By teaching your child to embrace adventures such as going hiking at the nearest national park or setting up a big puzzle to tackle at home, you are teaching them that it’s fun to learn. Throughout the process, remind them that these activities help make new connections in their brain. You can ask your child if there’s anything new they’d like to try, then help them pursue it. Even if they struggle at first, encourage them to keep trying and watch their confidence and skills grow.

The Bottom Line

Between the two mindsets that Dr. Dweck discovered, it is clear to see which one can help children become more adaptive and successful throughout their lives. Growth mindset should be encouraged, but also do be careful not to cross the line into toxic positivity. It is not enough to say “You can do it!” as your child struggles. Model, explain, and live the growth mindset, and watch your child learn from your example.

It is also important to remember that this mindset develops over time — it is not an instantaneous occurrence. Do growth mindset activities and ask questions together. You can even hang up growth mindset posters in your child’s bedroom, around the house, or in the classroom. Using these resources can help nurture a growth mindset and help your child build the resilience they need to succeed.

References:

  1. Schroder H, Fisher M, Lin Y, et al. Neural evidence for enhanced attention to mistakes among school-aged children with a growth mindset. April 2017.
  2. Puderbaugh M & Emmady P. Neuroplasticity. 8 May 2022.