When you teach your kids to have a growth mindset, they’ll be more likely to believe that their skills can improve with effort and perseverance—and that academic achievement doesn’t come from innate ability, but instead from hard work and perseverance.
In this article, we’ll look at how to teach growth mindset to kids.
The Importance of Teaching Growth Mindset to Kids
Children with a growth mindset are more likely to take on challenges, build resilience and confidence and see that hard work does pay off. In today’s academic environment, teachers must ensure that children understand that intelligence is not fixed but can grow with effort. This will provide them with tools for future success in school and in life.
According to Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006), people have either a fixed or growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe intelligence is inherited; it cannot be changed by hard work, learning new skills, or strategies.
People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work; they are always eager to learn new things and strive for continuous improvement.
Examples of Fixed Mindsets in Schools
Fixed mindsets aren’t always easy to spot, but you can see them in schools everywhere. In fact, you might recognize some of these examples from your own experience in school. In each case, students with fixed mindsets feel like they’re being judged and compared, but don’t see any opportunity for growth.
When teachers use grades as feedback, especially without explaining their thought process or how it fits into helping students improve. Grades can be confusing for all students—not just those with fixed mindsets—but that doesn’t mean we should stop using them entirely.
Instead, try thinking of grades as one source of feedback among many, and make sure to explain your rationale when giving out grades and assigning new tasks.
When there’s no space for failure. It may sound counterintuitive, but failure is actually an important part of growth; after all, if you never make mistakes, you don’t have anything to learn from!
Examples of Growth Mindsets in Schools
Increasingly, schools are embracing a growth mindset with kids. It helps them in their academic careers and in their personal lives.
In Los Angeles, for example, every fifth grader in one school district has already taken a course on growth mindset—and now many of those same students have started leading similar workshops at their own schools.
That’s because students who understand that intelligence and skills can be developed tend to work harder, achieve more, and handle failure better than students who believe they are simply born with certain innate abilities.
A growth mindset is particularly useful for kids whose social circumstances may have previously led them to doubt their own abilities—students from minority groups, in lower-income areas, or whose parents didn’t attend college are all especially likely to see growth mindset as relevant (and its benefits as accessible).
But even those who grew up in very privileged situations should learn about growth mindset. For one thing, it teaches patience—in school and in life—which will make your child far less prone to outbursts when things don’t go their way.
And by acknowledging that challenges exist as part of any worthwhile endeavor (whether you’re studying calculus or playing piano), it helps build grit—the ability to keep going even when challenges arise.
The Right Way to Introduce the Concept
Much of your child’s education will involve learning how to think critically and creatively, so it’s important that they understand how their thoughts (and actions) shape their lives.
Learning about fixed and growth mindsets—that is, believing some traits are inborn versus nurturing others—is an effective way to start teaching kids about mindset.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck describes two types of mindsets: fixed and growth.
What is a growth mindset for kids?
A growth mindset is one that believes ability can be developed over time and with effort. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is one that believes ability cannot be changed and can only be measured by an external standard.
People with growth mindsets see challenges as opportunities for improvement; those with fixed mindsets see challenges as things to avoid or overcome.
Having a growth mindset does not mean you are satisfied with your current performance or do not want to improve; it just means you believe you can get better over time if you work hard at it.
Characteristics of a Fixed Mindset in Kids
A fixed mindset child is discouraged by failure and doesn’t take on challenges when they seem too difficult. They may also think that they’re bad at math or not athletic. A fixed mindset kid is more comfortable when praised for innate characteristics rather than accomplishments or effort.
They love praise like you’re so smart! You work so hard! You are such an artist! I knew you could do it! Most kids fall somewhere in between fixed and growth mindsets, with most kids moving into a growth mindset as they get older, however many kids are much closer to one end of the scale than another.
Knowing which kind of mind you have can be helpful in assessing your potential areas of growth in your life.
Tips for Practicing and Encouraging Positive Thinking
This one is for all of us, regardless of age. You don’t have to wait until your kids are in school; there are lots of things you can do now to create an encouraging environment for positive thinking.
For example, tell yourself that you can learn anything you set your mind to or remind yourself that practice makes perfect rather than resigning yourself to being bad at Science or not artistic enough.
Share stories about how people overcame obstacles—or how they tried and failed but never gave up trying again—with your children (and friends and family).
Model optimistic behavior by not taking obstacles personally or letting minor failures get you down.
How do you teach growth mindset to students in 5 steps?
Educators have several tricks for helping kids change their mindsets and develop better learning habits. The key is helping them identify their natural traits and turning them into strengths.
One of these strategies is the growth mindset, which focuses on personal development through constructive criticism and making mistakes.
A growth mindset is more than just keeping an open mind, it’s seeing intelligence as something that can change over time and develop through hard work and learning from mistakes.
Those with fixed mindsets believe their abilities are set in stone; those with growth mindsets see challenges as opportunities for personal development.
Here are five ways you can help your students learn about growth mindset in five steps.
1. Identify Traits, Skills, and Strengths:
To start, give each student a growth-mindset survey that includes questions on their natural traits, strengths, and skills as well as their character traits and accomplishments.
Afterward, discuss what they think of themselves or what they want others to see them as. This will help them identify personal core values like confidence or persistence that they can use to grow over time and achieve new goals.
2. Develop Self-Worth:
After identifying their traits, students should explore why it’s important to believe in their abilities to improve. Ask students about negative thoughts about learning (that is, I’m not smart) vs. growth-mindset beliefs (I need to work harder).
Many students will respond by saying things like intelligence comes from effort rather than being born with innate knowledge. It’s easy for children with fixed mindsets who don’t try hard enough to blame their failures on lack of talent, which eventually leads them to quit trying in school altogether because there is no perceived benefit in it.
3. Encourage Grit & Use Storytelling:
Encourage perseverance by asking questions like What if you didn’t give up? At first, your student might just look at you funny before they realize quitting isn’t always an option; instead, encourage positive thinking using common sayings and mantras.
Finally, find books with relatable stories of people who overcame difficult challenges.
4. Give Feedback:
When providing feedback during class activities, keep in mind where your student stands developmentally so you’re better able to gauge how much they are retaining; it’s also helpful if you know what frustrates them about class material so you can approach your guidance accordingly.
Growth mindset shifts are most successful when done through group discussions based on specific scenarios.
If your student can’t see themselves in class activities, they are more likely to blame failures on their lack of ability rather than failing to engage with lessons or activities because they’re not interesting or engaging enough.
5. Give Praise & Encourage Self-Talk:
When positive feedback isn’t available, students tend to focus their attention on negative comments that can be damaging over time, and it may lead them to doubt their abilities and natural traits, like intelligence and creativity; these same students often shy away from challenges so they don’t have an opportunity for growth in learning environments.
10 ways to teach children to have growth mindsets
Get them to change their vocabulary. Talk about abilities, not talent. Give them praise for making an effort and taking action, rather than just achievement.
Recognize that all successful people experience failure on their way up. Lead by example—share your own growth mindset stories with them at home and at work; help them see that you apply these same skills in your life too (how you fail forward).
Show how easy it is for anyone who works hard at something to do well; don’t fall into habits that are too hard for me or that are too advanced when discussing challenges or opportunities with them. Here are the 10 ways to teach your child to have a growth mindset.
1) TEACH YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE BRAIN AND HOW IT LEARNS
The first step in teaching your child about growth mindset is to explain brain science. Explain that brains are like muscles.
Like all muscles, brains must be exercised in order to grow stronger. But just as strong muscles don’t make someone good at every sport, strong brains don’t guarantee perfect performance on every task or subject.
2) Tell Your Kids About Different Mindsets
When teaching kids about a growth mindset, it’s important that you tell them about mindsets in general. Tell them how some people are just naturally good at math because they have math brains.
Tell them that other people think they can only do one thing well, and no matter how hard they try, they’ll never be able to do anything else. And then tell them that neither of these statements is true!
3) Model Positive Thinking in Kids
You can start teaching your kids a growth mindset early on. From an early age, talk to them about how they learn best. If they learn best by listening, explain that they should listen carefully so that they understand and remember what you’re saying.
If they are more visual learners, give them plenty of visuals (i.e., flashcards) with information from your lessons or from their homework assignments.
Tell them that everyone learns differently and that it’s important to find what works best for each person. Tell your kids that everyone is smart in his or her own way, but people learn in different ways because we all have different personalities and interests.
4) Model Growth Mindset
Show your kids an example of what it looks like in action. A growth mindset is demonstrated by taking on challenges, being interested in learning, and being persistent.
Encourage your children by reading them books about perseverance. Discuss with them what they can learn from these stories and how people need different things to be successful at different times.
5) DISCUSS NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE SELF-TALK
Most kids who experience bullying exhibit what psychologists call negative self-talk: They consistently say things like, I’m stupid. I can’t do anything right. No one likes me.
In these moments, we need to help our children understand that everyone feels bad about themselves sometimes and that there is an important difference between believing something is true and knowing it is true.
What does that mean? It means recognizing when your child might be expressing a fixed mindset belief (i.e., something they know) instead of just feeling bad about themselves for a minute or two.
6) POWER OF “YET
The most important thing you can teach your kids is that they have POWER OVER their attitudes and actions.
When things don’t go as planned, instead of saying I was dumb for thinking I could do it or I failed again—it’s just not my thing, kids with growth mindsets say: That didn’t work. I get another chance. What did I learn? Then they act on that learning and try something else.
If they fail again? They think about what they learned and try something new. And then something new after that…and then something new…and then one day, no matter how long it takes them or how much their fixed mindset friends laugh at them.
THEY GET IT RIGHT! And guess what? They feel powerful because they are in control of their attitude and actions!
7) RECOGNIZE EFFORT OVER SUCCESS
Praising kids for their intelligence can have its downsides, especially if they begin believing that talent and smarts are their tickets to success.
This kind of praise communicates that there’s something fixed about your intelligence, Reichelt says. Instead, focus on praise related to the effort: I’m so proud of you for working hard! You did so well because you didn’t give up.
Success is within reach for anyone who will work at it. So when you recognize kids for their efforts, they are more likely to pick themselves up and try again if things don’t go as planned.
8) Celebrate Mistakes
Not all mistakes are created equal. Some teach you what doesn’t work, and some propel you forward on your path. The trick is telling which is which, and encouraging your kids to keep doing what doesn’t work so they can learn from it.
Explain how we often feel bad when we make mistakes because our fixed mindset focuses on failure as negative; however, those with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity for growth and learning.
9) Help Kids Set Their Goals
Most kids have grown up with phrases like, You’re so smart! or You’re really good at that! What you probably don’t hear is, You did really well, but you could try working on your weaknesses next time.
That way you can get even better. This last type of praise can help kids learn how to set goals and work towards them in a growth mindset.
Take an interest in what your children enjoy and make sure they know when they’re doing well. Be specific about their strengths as well as areas that need improvement.
10) Don’t Label Your Child
One of my biggest takeaways from Carol Dweck’s book was that you shouldn’t label your child—and instead focus on giving them opportunities to grow.
It’s easy for parents (and teachers) to tell kids they are smart or not based on their performance in school.
Instead, remember that these mindsets play an important role in how kids think about themselves and their world—and try to move away from these kinds of labels when talking with your children and students.
Best way to develop a growth mindset in toddlers?
The idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset is something many parents and teachers are familiar with. It’s also something many people feel like they understand intuitively. But what if you could teach your toddler—or even preschooler—to adopt a growth mindset?
What would that look like? And how could you actually do it? Can kids really learn about growth mindset at such an early age, or is it too difficult for them to grasp? Is there one way that works better than others?
First, we should talk about what all of these terms mean: A fixed mindset means thinking that intelligence and ability are static.
People with a fixed mindset think in black-and-white terms like I’m smart or I’m not smart. They don’t tend to work hard because they feel it’s pointless—they already know who they are and where they stand.
For example, someone with a science phobia may believe he isn’t science smart and never will be. He doesn’t try to improve because he feels it’s not possible—he can either do something or he can’t; there is no middle ground.
A growth mindset means believing that brains (or any talent) can grow through effort.
Can Children have both fixed and growth mindset?
It’s not if you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up that matters. That famous quote from Vince Lombardi is not only memorable but also perfectly illustrates how a growth mindset can benefit people of all ages.
A fixed mindset means you believe in one set of traits and abilities; if you are smart, you are always going to be smart. If you are bad at something, there is no use trying to change that because you simply aren’t capable of becoming better at it.
Conversely, those with growth mindsets know that everyone has some sort of skill or ability that they can develop over time and with work.
You don’t have to be an expert at something from day one; in fact, it is more likely you will become great at it if you practice doing it again and again.
Teaching your kids about both mindsets may seem impossible at first, but after reading up on what each type looks like and talking about them together as a family, you can start implementing a growth mindset in any area of your child’s life.
While it may not happen overnight—and there will definitely be challenges along the way—in order for your child to reach their full potential and achieve great things in life, teaching them about how success is possible with hard work is vital no matter what age they are.
You can’t force your kids to have a growth mindset—but you can set an example by having one yourself. After all, what you see is what you get.
Instead of focusing on being smart or being good at sports, encourage your children to try new things and take risks, making sure that each time they do so, they learn something from it. And remember that learning doesn’t always come easily.
As Carol Dweck says, If people believe their basic qualities can be developed through hard work—the way we develop muscle through exercise—then in times of challenge, failure is not devastating.
In contrast, people who think their talents are just fixed have low expectations for challenging tasks and avoid them when possible. They also experience ‘bad stress’ when they fail because they fear they will lose their existing ability and become less than who they already are.
This can be harmful in sports or any other area where failure isn’t just an ordinary part of learning and growing—it is defining.
As Dweck says, Not only does (the fixed mindset) prevent people from developing skills, it makes them afraid of getting into situations in which they might fail—and it makes them view effort as dangerous. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, think they can get smarter if they work hard.