What is a growth mindset for kids and how do we teach it?
Every parent wants to teach their child the life skills they’ll need for lasting success and happiness. Very often, we focus on the basics: good manners, respect, kindness, and empathy. But while these skills and lessons are essential, how often do we stop ourselves before mixing in with a fight between siblings? Or take a step back and let our 4-year-old struggle with their shoelaces for a few minutes before rescuing them?
If you’re like most parents, you’ll probably answer with “not often.” Of course, we want to help our kids — it’s our job as parents. But what if I told you that letting your child struggle with new things is far better for them in the long run than always rushing to their aid? It’s true. When you encourage your children to solve their own problems, make mistakes, and work through struggles on their own, you’re giving them one of the most important skills they’ll need as they go through life: A growth mindset.
Ahead we’ll take a look at the concept of a growth mindset for kids. We’ll examine what a growth mindset is, why it’s important, and how it differs from a fixed mindset. We’ll also take a look at a few best practices for teaching your kids to have a growth mindset.
What is a growth mindset?
Mindsets are the beliefs we hold about intelligence, effort, and challenges. The concept of growth and fixed mindsets are nothing new. In fact, both terms were first coined over 30 years ago by Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology and researcher at Stanford University.
At its core, a growth mindset is the belief that their intelligence and abilities can be improved upon with hard work, determination, and practice. The term itself describes how your child faces challenges and setbacks. Kids with a growth mindset believe that their ability to do anything can and will improve with practice and effort over time. They thrive on challenges and use failure as a springboard for betterment.
According to Moshi’s own Dr. Azizi, “A growth mindset is the idea that intelligence is not fixed and always in a constant state of evolution.”
Kids with a growth mindset understand that as they develop and refine their skills and abilities, they will make mistakes along the way.
Child development expert and founder of Seed and Sew, Alyssa Blask, shares, “At its simplest, a growth mindset is a constant practice of learning from mistakes and experiences to refine the skills being learned, practiced, and mastered.”
Characteristics of a growth mindset
When your child has a growth mindset, he/she will:
- Believe that their intelligence can be developed
- Have a desire to learn
- Confront challenges head-on
- Persist in the face of setbacks
- Believe that effort will lead to skill mastery
- Accept and learn from criticism
- See the success of others as a source of inspiration
What is a fixed mindset?
Kids with a fixed mindset, on the contrary, assume that intelligence and creativity are static, finite, and out of their hands. Kids who have a fixed mindset believe that their abilities and skills are limited to the hand they were dealt. In their minds, no amount of effort and practice can ever change that.
Characteristics of a fixed mindset
When your child has a fixed mindset, he/she will:
- Believe that their intelligence is static (it is what it is)
- Avoid challenges
- Give up easily
- Believe that effort and hard work don’t make a bit of a difference
- Fail to accept and learn from criticism
- See the success of others as a threat
Why is a growth mindset important?
We all know that life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. It’s filled with plenty of ups, downs, obstacles, and shortfalls.
For those reasons, a growth mindset for kids is an incredibly important life skill. It teaches kids how to adapt and overcome and persevere in the face of adversity. Moreover, a growth mindset can be a predictor of success. In fact, multiple studies have shown that kids who have a growth mindset perform better in sports; they do better academically, and are even more likely to take advanced placement classes.
While a growth mindset is often a predictor of success, Dr. Azizi notes that when kids realize that they can get through anything — even the biggest failures, that type of growth mindset helps them develop a strong sense of confidence and self-esteem.
The importance of teaching kids to have a growth mindset
Blask shares, “Teaching a growth mindset is important because it reframes ‘I can’t’ for kids. It teaches them that the process is far more valuable than the product. Realizing that there are many ways to get to an answer and it’s up to you to discover those for yourself can be very profound for a child.” She goes on to say that the process of trying and failing and trying and succeeding can be invaluable.
Teaching kids to have a growth mindset
In some ways, teaching your child to have a growth mindset can be counterintuitive parenting advice as we know it. It can be incredibly difficult to stand back and watch your child struggle, and actively encouraging mistakes goes against our nature as parents. But when it comes to helping your child develop a growth mindset, surprisingly, that’s what it takes. Ahead, we’ll take a look at some best practices for teaching kids how to have a growth mindset.
Mistakes present invaluable learning opportunities for kids, so be sure to support your child when he/she makes them. When mistakes inevitably pop up, help your child to understand that it’s completely ok as long as they take a moment to reflect on what went wrong and how to avoid or fix it the next time.
Praise effort, not just results
When your child succeeds at something new, it’s equally important to praise their achievements as well as the effort. When you praise the effort, you’re giving your child a variable that they can control. At the end of the day, your child will see that they are in complete control of their success.
Studies have even shown that for a final result (such as a good grade) actually undermines motivation and performance. So, if your child brings home a B on their report card and you know they’ve been working hard, be sure to praise the effort. That praise will likely ignite a spark and motivate them to keep on keeping on.
Encourage problem solving
When your child struggles, it’s only natural to want to jump in and help — every parent does it, and you’re not alone. But the truth is, when you do this consistently, you’re doing a disservice to your child and stifling the development of their growth mindset. Instead, when they are faced with a difficult problem, be it academically or socially, encourage your child to solve it on their own. Not only is it good practice for life, but it will likely give them a little boost in confidence when they see that they’re capable of handling whatever life throws their way.
Lead by example
Parents often attempt to put up a front with their kids. We want to appear strong, smart, and in control even when we’re not feeling that way. But the truth is your kids need to see that you’re human too. If you’re doing something incredibly hard, share that with your child. Not only will you be showing them that struggles don’t magically disappear for adults, but you’ll also show them that no matter how hard something is, you won’t give up.
Remind them of “the power of yet”
When your child is struggling as they learn something new, it’s important to remind them that time and patience are par for the course. One of the key components of a growth mindset is the “power of yet.” As your child wrestles with something particularly difficult, be sure to remind him/her that it’s not that they’re not good at something; it’s just that they haven’t mastered it yet.
Our job as parents is to show our kids how to slip the punches and keep moving forward when life has other plans. In a world where nothing is perfect, a growth mindset in kids is crucial for overcoming obstacles and thriving in the face of adversity. Developing a growth mindset takes time, but the first time you see your kid pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep going, you’ll know that they’re setting themselves up for success.