The way we think about ourselves is important–your brain can be an extremely
powerful ally and, likewise, it can be an equally powerful foe. This is true, too, for
children. As children work to develop their sense of self and build confidence in their
abilities, it is essential for them to utilize a “growth mindset”–a set of beliefs that our
basic abilities can be developed through practice.
A child with a growth mindset embraces new experiences and enjoys challenges because they value growing more so
than they fear failing. They develop new skills more easily and view themselves overall
in a more positive way than a child who utilizes a “fixed mindset”. A fixed mindset–as it
sounds–is a set of beliefs that labels a child’s abilities as “fixed” traits that are innate.
A child with a fixed mindset may shy away from challenges and feel embarrassed by
feedback. They might describe themselves as feeling “stuck” and view themselves more
harshly than their growth mindset counterparts.
The good news is, with some practice, you can help your child develop more of a
growth mindset. Everyone, from time to time, utilizes a fixed mindset. It’s okay. It
happens. The more you work with your child to increase their mindfulness skills and
nurture their growth mindset the easier it will be for them to catch themselves and correct
You might even learn a thing or two for yourself–after all, everyone can
benefit from developing their growth mindset. Below are five ways in which you, and
your child, can work to foster a growth mindset and, perhaps, perceive the world a little
differently than before:
1) Acknowledge and Celebrate Differences–Everyone is different. Simply put,
right? Differences, though, make us uncomfortable sometimes. Children, as
well as adults, often compare themselves to others and wonder why certain
things come more easily to their peers. You can help your child acknowledge
these differences from a growth mindset perspective by reminding them that
everyone has things they need to practice in order to be good at. Johnny might
be good at hitting the baseball, but he might have to practice running the bases
in order to get faster. Your child might be fast, but they might need to practice
developing their hand-to-eye coordination skills.
2) Reframe Challenges as Opportunities–This is sometimes easier said than
done, I’ll admit. When your child is presented with a challenge (i.e., a hard
homework assignment, a difficult line in the school play, etc.) being mindful
of your language, and modeling that language for them, can be helpful. Use
the words “opportunity”, “learning”, and “yet”. It might look something like
your child saying, “Mom, this homework is too hard! I don’t understand ANY
of it!” Here, you could respond something like, “You feel stuck right now
because you don’t understand your homework yet. That’s okay; this is an
opportunity for us to practice learning. Let’s maybe talk about what you do
know about _________ and go from there.”
3) Value Process Over Approval–We want to praise kids for their
accomplishments, however, the way you praise is important. In therapy, for
example, I try to avoid telling children “that looks good” or “I like that”
because, so often, they then want my approval over their own and begin to
emphasize gaining that approval over the process of creating. It becomes
about me, and I want it to be about them. Therefore, I try to encourage my
parents to praise their child’s efforts by saying affirming statements such as:
“Wow! You’re working really hard on that”, “You’re really giving that your
all”, or “I like that you always try your best!” This helps your child value the
process over your approval.
4) Own Your Attitude–When your child is using their growth mindset,
encourage them to own that! Being someone who values bettering themselves
and learning knew things is indeed something to celebrate! As I said,
everyone utilizes a fixed mindset at times–it isn’t something to be ashamed
of. It happens, and it’s okay to acknowledge that with your child.
5) Reflect–This can look very different depending on your child. Some children
like to reflect on situations by talking it out while others prefer to journal.
Some children might even prefer to draw! Whatever method they choose, it is
important to encourage your child to reflect on tasks and the process they
chose to complete those tasks because reflection helps to develop their growth
mindset. This is where you can point out and help them identify times they
utilized more of a fixed mindset and brainstorm ways to focus more on their
growth mindset next time!
If you’d like to learn more about growth mindset and how to help nurture your child’s
feel free to reach out to us!