Updated: Oct 3, 2021
What is a growth mindset?
Our brains are wired to one of two basic mindsets –fixed or growth. These terms were coined over 30 years ago to describe the underlying beliefs people have about their learning and intelligence.
For parents, understanding a growth mindset means they can influence stronger learning and growth for their kids in school.
A fixed mindset assumes that our skills, intelligence, and creative ability are static and can't be changed. People with a fixed mindset assume success is the product of natural gifts. With a fixed mindset, striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
Dr. Carol Dweck is a leading expert on the topic of growth mindset and describes growth mindset as "...people's belief that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work and that any natural ability is just the starting point."
Dr. Dweck points out that a growth mindset creates a love of learning, builds resilience, and is a key factor to achieving great accomplishments because they occur out of a can-do, never-give-up process of learning, rather than a one-off event.
Examples of Fixed vs. Growth mindset in kids
Fixed Mindset: Feels they are good at something or not.
Growth Mindset: Knows they can learn to do things that don't come easily right away.
Fixed Mindset: Gives up quickly.
Growth Mindset: Keeps trying until they figure it out.
Fixed Mindset: Sticks to things they know and are good at.
Growth Mindset: Likes to try new things.
Fixed Mindset: Fears failure.
Growth Mindset: Knows failure is part of learning and growing.
How growth mindset helps kids in school
Whether a student has a fixed or growth mindset significantly impacts their learning experience throughout their entire school career.
Students that hold a fixed mindset give up when they can't solve a problem and assume they just don't 'get it. Obviously, this results in limited student growth and a resounding plunge in the level of effort.
With a growth mindset, students understand that to continually work to improve their skills, leads them to greater growth and better success in school. The key is to get students to learn about and understand a growth mindset.
The good news is research shows mindsets can be changed from fixed to growth simply by being taught how. Learning about the brain's ability to grow through learning, leads to increased motivation and achievement for students which results in more success in school.
For example, a group of 7th graders was taught that their brains can grow with effort. Their behavior then changed enough to show a clear increase in math grades. Compared to the control group in the study, three times as many students in the growth mindset group showed an increase in the effort which proved that teaching growth mindset concepts improve motivation.
There's no doubt that developing a growth mindset increases overall confidence, belief in self, motivation, and happiness and should be a primary focus of a student's development.
A growth mindset isn't just about praise.
A lot of people assume that encouraging a growth mindset is all about praise and rewards. But what is important to remember is that unproductive effort is never a good thing.
"It's critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress and to emphasize the processes that yield these things, such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively. In all of our research, the outcome — the bottom line — follows from deeply engaging in these processes." - Carol Dweck, Harvard Business Review
Ways for parents to encourage a growth mindset in their child.
How we interact and encourage students affects their attitudes toward learning. A growth mindset is a difference between giving up on math entirely versus having a productive struggle that yields improvements and increased understanding.
That is to say, you want your child to value what they are doing and see what they HAVE accomplished, regardless of whether they get an A. Here are some ways to foster a growth mindset.
Model Growth Mindset Behavior
What you do in your day-to-day life, and how you respond to challenges will have the biggest impact on how your child learns to respond to their own challenges. Modeling growth mindset behaviors will give your child a reference point for how to react to stress and persevere through challenges. Behaviors you can model could include:
· posting or repeating affirmations,
· stop negative self-talk,
· continue to persevere through challenges with a can-do attitude,
· celebrate accomplishments that took some effort,
· participate in life-long learning.
Praise Growth Mindset Behaviors
When your kids are behaving in ways that cultivate a growth mindset, celebrate their effort. Any time you see them pushing through hard work, practicing their times' tables, showing kindness, acting bravely, committing to their goal, and not giving up let them know you are in their corner and they are supported.
Give Kids Responsibility
Provide tasks that encourage learning and independence. It doesn't matter how big or small. Chores such as doing their own laundry, raking leaves, making a sandwich, or frying an egg are simple but great confidence boosters.
Allow for Failure
It's tough to see your kids fail and not rush in to fix it for them but failing is an important part of cultivating a growth mindset. Learning to take failure as a common part of the learning journey will encourage kids to persevere and keep trying until they find a breakthrough.