While a few children may be “naturally gifted,” the majority need to develop their talents with effort and determination.
Individuals who believe that their talents, intelligence, and abilities can be developed through effort, hard work, strategy, and experience are said to have a growth mindset. In contrast, those who believe otherwise are said to have a fixed mindset (1).
If you want your children to achieve their dreams and reach their full potential, you must instill a growth mindset in them early on. A growth mindset enables a child to grow into an optimistic individual who approaches problems head-on (2).
Read this post as we tell you the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset and give you a few practical tips to instill a growth mindset in your children.
Fixed Mindset Vs. Growth Mindset
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck posited the concept of growth mindset in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success in the mid-2000s. It has gained much popularity over the years, and like most profound ideas, it has also been misunderstood by many. Let’s understand what it means in this section.
According to Carol Dweck, the way we view ourselves affects the way we lead our lives. When someone believes that their qualities, intelligence, and talents can be developed through hard work and perseverance, they have a growth mindset. People with this mindset are known to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset, that is, those who believe that talents and intelligence are innate gifts (3).
A child who grows up to adopt a fixed mindset may fail to groom or improve themselves, believing no amount of hard work can change their state (4).
Children who develop a fixed mindset tend to show the following characteristics (3) (5).
- Avoid challenges
- Give up easily
- Do not make efforts
- Avoid criticism and feedback and do not use them constructively
- Feel threatened by others’ success
- Fear failure
- Consider themselves “stupid,” “dumb,” “slow,” etc.
Children with a fixed mindset tend to plateau out early, even before their full potential is realized, and have a deterministic view of the world (3) (5).
On the other hand, children with a growth mindset display the following characteristics (3).
- Have a strong desire to learn
- Have the resilience to persist in challenging situations
- Do not shy away from challenges
- Take feedback and criticism constructively
- View others’ success as an inspiration
Due to the above characteristics, children with a growth mindset continue to strive and achieve more. They also develop a sense of free will as opposed to the deterministic view of the world seen in children with a fixed mindset (3).
20+ Ways To Develop A Growth Mindset In Children
Parents try their best to make their children strong, fearless, and confident. A great way to begin this endeavor is by helping them develop a growth mindset.
To do so, parents must focus on their children’s strengths but not entirely ignore their weaknesses. Here are some practical ways in which you can help your children develop a growth mindset (2) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10).
1. Explain how the brain works
Research has proven that learning creates new connections in the human brain. Teaching children how the brain works and forms new connections when they develop new skills or learn something new can be exciting for them. It can motivate them to develop a growth mindset.
2. Acquaint them with the concept of the two mindsets
It helps to teach a growing child about the two types of mindsets and how they differ. You could explain these concepts to them using videos, stories, and activities. Ingrain in them the fact that intelligence and talent can be developed.
3. Explain your struggles
Explain to your children how struggles, hardships, and challenges appear in everyone’s life, but the winner stays on and fights through them. To help your children develop a growth mindset, lead by example. Explain the struggles that you faced or mistakes that you made and how you overcame or corrected them.
4. Avoid negative words
Children must be taught how to avoid negative words such as “can’t,” “won’t,” “impossible,” “hard,” and “undoable.” These words can create a pessimistic mind frame in them. To instill a growth mindset in your child, replace these negative words with encouraging words and phrases such as “I can do this, and I am learning how to” and“This is challenging yet fun, and I have learned so much from it.”
5. Be a good role model
Children are observant and imbibe what they see around them. Therefore, model growth-mindset thinking and behavior in front of your children by using phrases such as “I know it is difficult, but I can do it,” instead of saying, “This is too difficult; I can’t do it.”
6. Appreciate the effort and not the result
It is essential to acknowledge the effort that your child puts in. For example, if your child got a few math problems wrong, appreciate the effort that went into solving the problem rather than dwelling on the wrong answer. Also, to inculcate a growth mindset in your child, praise the process rather than the result.
Children must be taught to enjoy the learning process. Teach them not to mind a slight delay or a roadblock in their work and instead see it as an exciting opportunity to learn.
7. Motivate them in case of failures
Failures and setbacks occur and are a part of life. For developing a growth mindset, teach your child that these failures are an opportunity for improvement and a way forward. Motivate them to do better and help them believe in themselves.
For instance, if your child did not perform well in a science exam, do not say, “It’s okay if science is not your subject. You can find your strong subject.” Instead, say, “We’ll work out something together and fix this.” This will encourage and motivate the child to improve the next time.
8. Focus on growth instead of speed
We all tend to compare ourselves with others, and children are no different. It is common to hear children say, “I came first,” “I got to the answer way before you,” etc. Discourage them from using such statements, and highlight the importance of growth rather than how fast one is growing. Let your children accept that everyone learns at their own pace and that there is ample room for mistakes when growing.
9. Do not label them
No matter how talented your child is, never label them. Avoid saying things such as “You are a natural at playing the keyboard,” “You are so talented,” “You are a genius,” or “You are just lazy.” Tagging children encourages a fixed mindset. Applaud and appreciate children but without labeling them if you wish to promote a growth mindset in them.
10. Encourage reading
Reading opens up different possibilities and new worlds to children. Inculcate the habit of reading in children early on. You could do this by engaging them in fun reading games and activities.
Stories are great tools to teach children many things, including good habits, etiquette, or a growth mindset. In fact, using stories, children can see the growth mindset in action. You could consider introducing them to classic short moral stories.
11. Encourage them to ask for help
It is essential to normalize asking for help or speaking up when something is not right. A child should know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness and that it only helps them improve at something or learn something new.
12. Teach them the powerful word “yet”
An excellent way to develop a growth mindset in your children is by teaching them the powerful word “yet.” When your child tells you that they are not good at something, teach them to add the word “yet” to their sentence. For instance, if they say, “I am not good at math,” ask them to say, “I am not good at Math yet.” This teaches them to work harder and put in more effort to get better at something they are currently not good at.
13. Make them enjoy a challenge, not fear it
Teach your children to face a challenge and sign up for it rather than shy away from it. Facing a challenge head-on is a trait of people with a growth mindset. Create situations, such as playing a competitive sport, solving a complex puzzle, trying some brain games, or even playing a challenging video game, where you can teach your child to face the challenge rather than opt for an easier way out.
14. Train them to see the big picture
Train your child to see the big picture in every situation. They may be bad at science, but tell them how it helps us in our daily lives. Also, show them how seeing the big picture helps them find a purpose and focus their attention on the important things, no matter how difficult those may be.
15. Inculcate determination and grit
An essential aspect of a growth mindset is having the determination and grit to succeed. Teach your child to be determined and pursue their goals without bothering about failures. You may read inspirational stories to them or share stories about real people with these qualities.
16. Teach them to be goal-oriented
Children must be taught to be goal-oriented. Children with this trait will be motivated to improve their performance, remain resilient in times of failure, and eventually develop mastery of skills.
17. Let them take risks
It is okay to goof up sometimes because we all do. Children must be taught to take risks and not fear failure. Every risk taken is a learning opportunity.
18. Debunk the talent myth
We often see people crediting someone’s success to their inborn talent. However, if you wish your child to develop a growth mindset, debunk the talent myth and teach them the importance of motivation, effort, and hard work. Your child must understand that they can develop talent with practice and hard work.
19. Teach them that practice makes perfect
Children learn by example and experience. Help them understand how repeatedly doing tasks, such as playing the same chord again, solving the same math problems, or trying the same ballet move, makes it easy for their brain to remember and helps them perfect it.
20. Teach them not to seek too many approvals
Children often seek approval and support from their parents and caregivers. However, to inculcate a growth mindset in your child, teach them to trust their instinct and judgment. Seeking too many approvals can impede their potential for growth. Children who are taught to be confident and seek less approval from those around them develop into self-reliant individuals as they grow up.
21. Learn from peoples’ mistakes
It is never advisable for children to compare themselves to others. However, they could always look around and learn not just from their mistakes but also from those of people around them. They should understand that everyone has weaknesses and makes mistakes, but these do not make someone a failure.
22. Teach them that learning is a never-ending process
People with a growth mindset continue to learn and enjoy doing so all their lives. Teach your child that learning is a lifelong process. As they increasingly engage themselves with others and explore the world around them, their knowledge increases, and their behavior changes for the better. Also, encourage them to set new goals. People with a growth mindset find setting new goals mentally stimulating and exciting.
Instilling a growth mindset in a child is the responsibility of the parents, caregivers, and teachers. There are many ways by which children can be taught about the importance of effort and hard work over inborn talent.
Parents who wish their children to have this mindset must model it in front of their children. Children who trust in their potential grow up to be hardworking and successful.