5 ways to encourage a growth mindset in your children

At the start of this academic year my children’s school started talking about how they were working on promoting a growth mindset in the children, in line with the school’s ethos of helping every child to achieve success.

I hadn’t really heard the term ‘growth mindset’ before, so went off and did some reading into it.  I found the whole idea really interesting, but then didn’t really think much more about it because, honestly, it didn’t seem all that relevant to my children at the time.

Recently though, I’ve noticed that Rhys is struggling at times with feelings of frustration when he can’t do something.

He seems to have a bit of a fixed mindset, that tells him that he simply can’t do something.  So we’re working on changing that mindset to a growth one.  Working on teaching him that with work and practice and effort he may well be able to do the things he can’t do on his first try.

If you’re finding that your child seems to have a fixed mindset about some things, here are five ways you can help to encourage a growth mindset instead.

5 ways to encourage a growth mindset in children

 

1. Talk to them about how our brains work, and explain the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset

Explain to your child that our brains form new pathways every time we try or learn something new.  And it takes time and repeated tries at something for those pathways to get more established and for us to then get better at the thing we’re trying to do.

Once they understand this, they should also then start to understand that we can’t expect to be good at everything we try, the first time we try it.

From there you can then explain to them that a fixed mindset will stop us ever being great at things that don’t come naturally to us.  If we try something once, find it hard and think ‘I’m no good at this’, then we never give the new pathways in our brains a chance to take root.

On the other hand, if we have a growth mindset and think about ways we can practice and work on the thing we find hard, then the pathways will strengthen and we will improve.

 

2. Don’t just focus on results

When our children do well on a test, or get all of their homework questions right then the temptation is to congratulate them on those results.  We so often want to tell them, “you’re so clever”, or “you’re so good at maths”, but this might not be the best approach to take.

This type of praise can actually promote a fixed mindset, because it tells them that ‘being clever’ is a trait that they have, and so isn’t something they can actually control.

Instead we should be looking to praise the effort that they put in to achieve the results they got, and the way they approached the challenge.

Talking about the things they did to get the results puts the focus on things that they can control, like how hard they work, how many times they practice the skill and how they go about getting help if they’re struggling.

 

3. Take away the fear of failure

One of the big reasons we all have for not trying new or hard things is because we’re so worried about making mistakes and failing.

If we can take away that fear of failure for our children they’ll be much more willing to give things a go, and keep trying when they do get it wrong.

What we need to teach our children is that mistakes and failures are really important parts of learning.  And that it’s not a bad thing to get something wrong, it just helps us learn from a situation and improve for next time.

 

4. Model the behaviour you want to teach them

Our children are constantly watching us and learning from the way we behave.  I think the behaviour we model in front of our children can be much more powerful than the words we say directly to them when we’re trying to teach them how to act.

So let them see you struggle with new challenges.

Let them know that some things are hard for you at first.

And talk to them about the strategies you use to figure it out.  The hours of practice you put in to get good at something.

Model an attitude of effort and persistence for them to learn from.

 

5. Teach them the magic word

When it comes to developing a growth mindset, there is one magic word that can make a huge difference.

Yet.

Added on to the end of a sentence it can change everything.

You go from “I can’t do it” to “I can’t do it … yet” and that is incredibly powerful.

It’s telling yourself that maybe you can’t do it at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you never will be able to do it.

promoting growth mindset in children

 

A few weeks ago Rhys had a bit of a hard time at his swimming lesson. 

He is struggling to come up for a breath and then carry on smoothly with his breast stroke.  After his lesson I asked him what had made him upset during his lesson and he told me “I can’t do it”.

And we talked about how he really means, “I can’t do it yet”.

I reminded him of how far he’s come with his swimming since he started his lessons.  How in the beginning he couldn’t swim at all, and he had to have armbands to keep him afloat.  And now, with time and practice and perseverance he can swim so well.

I think he understood, and seemed to feel a bit better by the end of our chat.  It did make me a lot more aware of this whole growth mindset thing though, and it’s something I’ll be much more active in promoting in him (and Nerys) from now on.

It’s been a pretty good reminder for me too, to keep a watchful eye on my own mindset when things are hard.

Are you aware of this idea of having a growth mindset?  Is it something you actively promote in your children?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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16 Comments

  1. Mammy 25/05/2018 / 5:23 pm

    Brilliant post, Madeline. Well done to the school for introducing this too.

    • This glorious life
      Author
      07/06/2018 / 11:43 am

      Thank you, the school has such a lovely ethos and focus on helping all the children thrive. x

  2. Fiona Cambouropoulos 09/06/2018 / 11:30 pm

    Mindset is so important, that “can do” attitude counts for a lot #KCACOLS

  3. Ali Duke 11/06/2018 / 11:32 am

    This is something I hadn’t heard of. I definitely think this would help my daughter, she gets so bogged down with school work and tests, it would really help her I think.
    #KCACOLS

  4. Mummy and the Mexicans (Ruth) 12/06/2018 / 4:54 pm

    This is something I became aware of a little while ago and I do try with my daughter to focus on the importance of practising something in order to get good at it. It’s not always easy to modify the things we say. A great post to remind me of this, thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS

  5. Cassie Parish 13/06/2018 / 8:51 pm

    I needed this right now. I’m having a total crisis of confidence and trying to adjust the way I address things with my 3 and a half year old. This is just what I needed to read.

    #KCACOLS

  6. Beth Owen 14/06/2018 / 11:21 am

    This is a brilliant post. I do some of these now to my 6 and 8 year olds.
    This post will definitley help a lot of parents #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life
      Author
      21/06/2018 / 12:06 am

      Thank you so much, I really do hope it helps people! x

  7. Sarah - Arthurwears 16/06/2018 / 6:17 pm

    This was a huge part of my practise when teaching reception class. The ‘characteristics of learning’ in the early years foundation stage lend themselves really well to the idea of growth mindset as they talk about perseverance etc … it’s one of those things that we need to get right and put in place at an early age so that children don’t make their way through school believing they are just bad/good at something and that’s how it is #kcacols

    • This glorious life
      Author
      20/06/2018 / 11:49 pm

      It’s so important to put it in place as early as possible isn’t it, to give our children the best chance to try as many things as possible and not limit themselves to things they’ve been told they’re naturally good at. x

  8. Carol Cameleon 18/06/2018 / 5:21 pm

    Oh Madeline, I’m a firm believer in using positive, empowering language with children. It’s so easy to get conditioned by society, lose patience and give up isn’t it? I love the use of the word ‘yet’. #kcacols

    • This glorious life
      Author
      20/06/2018 / 11:55 pm

      That one simple word is so powerful isn’t it, it just changes everything. x

  9. Sarah | Mummykind 19/06/2018 / 12:19 pm

    Never heard of this before but it makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life
      Author
      20/06/2018 / 11:52 pm

      I hadn’t heard it before our school started talking about it at the start of the year, but I really like the thinking behind it. x

  10. Crummy Mummy 23/06/2018 / 2:08 pm

    Totally agree with the not focusing on results – it’s the trying & taking part that counts #KCACOLS

  11. Veronica Lee 23/06/2018 / 3:34 pm

    You raised very important points here especially point #3. I quote Albert Einstein – “Failure is success in progress”.

    #kcacols

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