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3 Ways to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Our Kids

The words we speak into our children’s hearts and mind are powerful in forming a growth mindset.

Five years ago I had the privilege of participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Stanford University Online on teaching and learning math. My time as my children’s primary teacher had passed. Even though it was a completely new concept to me, I vividly remember crying as I watched some of the video segments on mindsets. These videos made me realize I had promoted a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset in my children.

3 Ways to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Our Kids

1) Identifying Your Mindset

As mentioned in the previous blog on mindsets, before you can become intentional about encouraging a growth mindset in your own children, you first need to identify your own mindset. Think about your answers to the following questions:

What happens when you are facing something challenging?
What happens when you experience criticism?
What happens when you witness success in others?

Do you recognize a pattern of either negative (fixed mindset) or positive (growth mindset) reactions to these situations? Did your answers vary? Perhaps you tend to have growth mindset in some areas but a fixed mindset in others. If you have discovered that you have a fixed mindset, there are still ways to change it.

2) Mindset Messages

Once you have identified your general mindset tendencies, you can begin to focus on specifics. The words we speak into our children’s hearts and mind are powerful in forming their mindset. As my children were growing up, I thought I was contributing to their self-confidence by telling them how smart they were or praising them for finishing their schoolwork so quickly. Try to avoid fixed mindset trigger words like “smart,” “quickly,” or “easy.”

Fixed mindset vocabulary often shows up when praise is focused mainly on results. Focusing on the effort instead will begin planting the seeds for a growth mindset. For example, you might tell your student, “I really liked the way you didn’t give up on that math problem you were struggling with and tried different approaches to figure it out.” Now I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to get a participation certificate for just showing up. Empty praise can potentially detract from a growth mindset by discouraging hard work and perseverance. The goal is to encourage effort and tenacity rather than just going through the motions.

In addition to providing growth mindset feedback to your children in your verbal communication with them, it is important to help them develop growth mindset vocabulary in their own self-talk. If you hear them say something like, “I’m so stupid!” after a mistake, help them take a step back, evaluate what went wrong, and formulate a plan to lessen the likelihood of it happening again. Then highlight the opportunity the mistake provided for learning. Keep in mind that you are also modeling mindset language for them constantly in your own self-talk.

Teach your child the power of “yet.” Consider the subtle but powerful difference between the following:

Can you play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano? “No.”
Can you play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano? “Not yet.”

While “no” suggests the inability of the respondent, “not yet” conveys the expectation of the potential. I may not be able to do it right now, but I will some day! The power of “not yet” is a concept that Demme Learning has incorporated into the placement process for the Math-U-See program and into our employee training as well.

Mindset messages are not limited to verbal communication. It has been said that it takes ten positive messages to offset just one negative. Since society tends to hammer us with fixed mindset messages, we need to use every opportunity to provide growth mindset messages to counter this. Place sticky-notes with growth mindset messages inside the cover of a book your child is reading. Put notes on a memo board or the front of the refrigerator. Write them on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. If you have trouble coming up with messages of your own, get inspired by our list of growth mindset quotes.

Teach kids to love learning! Help them to value learning for learning’s sake alone and not for the grade on the assignment or passing a test. Fostering this love of learning will not only help develop your child’s growth mindset, it will be your helping hand as a parent educator. A child who is passionate about learning needs little motivation to do so!
Challenge your children. Once they’ve completed a math problem, encourage them to see if they can find a different way to solve it. Provide challenging puzzles to complete. Ask them open-ended questions that require them to dig deeper into their thinking.

3) Beyond Your Home

While your role in fostering a growth mindset in your children may begin at home, it certainly doesn’t end there. As mentioned previously, fixed mindset messages occur throughout society. Actively work for change in the programs and extracurricular activities involving your children. Educate coaches, teachers, and family members about the impact of fixed mindset messages and ways to encourage a growth mindset.

What growth mindset inspired next step will you commit to today? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: 10 Growth Mindset Quotes

“So many times people end up fixated on doing things right that they end up doing nothing at all.” – The Wright Brothers

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard

“An obstacle is often a stepping stone.” – William Prescott

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’ – Audrey Hepburn

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. ” – Albert Einstein

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

About Lisa Shumate

Lisa serves as a Learning and Development Specialist with Demme Learning. While she holds a B.A. in Legal Studies from the University of Central Florida, she seems to find herself consistently pulled towards education in some capacity. Lisa and her husband Chris have been married for 30+ years and are the parents of three homeschool graduates.

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