Which sounds better to say to yourself: “I’m no good at this” or “I’m on the right track?” How about “That seems good enough” or “I can keep working to improve?” Let’s explore how to foster a growth mindset in your kids.
What do you say to your child when they bring home an A or a C? If you’re like me, thinking ahead about responding to that isn’t something I’ve paid much attention to. I don’t feel that I’ve been intentional about fostering a growth mindset in my kids or my students. But that’s something I’m working to change.
I teach at the community college level plus teach dual enrollment at a private high school. So, my students range in age from 16-67. If you were one of my students and I said, “That’s probably the best grade you’ll get,” what would you think?
Instead, you and I can both foster a growth mindset that would say things that encourage growth and change through effort and practice.
What is growth mindset
Many of us grew up thinking with a “fixed mindset,” that is, assuming that our abilities cannot change – that they are traits we were born with. I’m horrible at math, and I always say that I can’t do it.
According to research, about 40% of students in the U.S. have a fixed mindset. These people think they are helpless to change.
But a growth mindset says that with effort and practice I can learn whatever I want to learn.
What that means in education is that our kids/students can work and learn to increase their knowledge. We aren’t born with knowledge already; so why do we expect ourselves, or our kids, to be so limited?
I teach public speaking, and the anxiety rate is sky high for my students. About 75% of the population has public speaking anxiety; isn’t that crazy? But does that mean my students can’t learn to be more confident when giving a speech or presentation? Are some people destined to be speakers and public figures and others are wallflowers who cannot speak up for their beliefs?
One thing I teach my students about is cognitive restructuring. Simply put, this is taking negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts.
Sounds a lot like the growth mindset practice to me.
We can, and should, retrain our brain to say positive and encouraging things to ourselves and our kids. The goal of cognitive restructuring is less anxiety. Guess what – one of the benefits of a growth mindset is less anxiety!
Why we should foster a growth mindset
When is the last time you tried to learn something new? Did you learn a new recipe? Try to teach yourself to crochet, or learn to change a tire?
Why did you want to do that?
Our kids may say they hate school, or even that they can’t learn, but I promise you, most people like to learn something new. And that feeling of challenging yourself and meeting that challenge? There’s nothing like it!
Thinking that we are successful simply because we are smart is stinking thinking! We succeed because we work hard, we study, we practice and review, and we don’t give up. That’s why we are successful.
I want to foster this growth mindset in my students, don’t you?
What it looks like
Essentially, in a fixed mindset, intelligence is static – no growth. Students avoid things that challenge them, they give up easily, and they don’t use feedback to learn and grow.
When we foster a growth mindset in our kids, we allow them to welcome challenges, persevere, and learn from criticism and feedback.
Which kind of child/student do you want your kiddo to be?
I need to see what this looks like, how about you? Concrete examples help me make changes and learning about growth mindset and how to foster it in my kids and students is something I want to do.
- Praise for hard work – “You worked so hard to learn that!”
- Commend for effort – “I love how you tried different things to figure this out.”
- Applaud for perseverance – “You never gave up; I’m so happy for you!”
- Think of the power of “yet” – “You don’t know it yet, but you are learning.”
Or, “Keep practicing and you’ll figure it out.”
- Learning from mistakes – “No, that didn’t work. What can you learn from that?”
The power of “yet”
A little more about the power of “yet” – Carol Dweck, who teaches a lot about growth mindset, uses the words “not yet” with her students. She says this shows that the students are learning, and there is a process. The process is essential – students aren’t learning just for a grade; they’re being encouraged to dream big. Dweck feels that a growth mindset is an equalizer in the educational system.
Dweck’s emphasis is on praise, but the right kind. She says we should praise the process, not the abilities. In a study she did, she wrote: “When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.”
We need to praise wisely.
Talent vs. hard work
Tim Notke, a high school basketball coach, said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Tim Tebow, who is dyslexic, adopted this saying which means that if you work hard it will beat anyone else’s talent because talent doesn’t work hard.
Remember the old saying practice makes perfect? This is a growth mindset! If I have zero talent for something I can still work hard and learn. If I rely on my talent it won’t get me anywhere (because I have none in that area).
In her article on being a sports parent, Adriana Rodrigues encourages us to focus on our kid’s enjoyment and development, and she is absolutely right. Our kids can learn and grow and it’s up to us as parents to foster that growth in them
So, to foster a growth mindset, we need to focus on our kids’ efforts, hard work, and perseverance and not on talent or supposed intelligence. We can train ourselves to make comments that praise effort and hard work and avoid saying things like, “You’re so smart.”
And the reason we need to do this is simple, isn’t it? We want our kids to be hard-working people who face challenges head-on, learn from mistakes, and keep striving not to be the best, but to do their best. That is a growth mindset.
I’d love to hear how you foster a growth mindset in your kids or students in the comments!
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