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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Larson

3 Ways to Embrace a Growth Mindset at Home

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

This week we’re closing out our review of the skills kids need to be prepared for the workplace of the future. As outlined in the Brookings Institution report, the sixth and final skill is Confidence.

Kids that are confident are persistent, although admittedly there are days I’d prefer my kids were a little less persistent as we battle over trivial requests. Confident kids are also flexible and aren’t deterred when a door closes on an opportunity, they simply look for another way in.

Persistence is closely related to grit which is often defined as a combination of perseverance and passion in pursuit of a goal. If you haven’t yet read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, it’s definitely worth checking out.

But most importantly, confident kids have a growth mindset. And this is what we’d like to dig into a bit more this week.

Education is full of buzzwords, and perhaps one of the newest is this focus on a “growth mindset.” Gaining momentum around 2015, many school leaders have made “growth mindset” a key focus of their learning strategies and professional development.

But what exactly does it mean to have a growth mindset, and why is it so important for our kids?

Understanding Growth vs Fixed Mindset

The premise of a growth mindset is a focus around motivation, and I expect we could all use a bit more of that in our lives these days! Research shows that students with a growth mindset believe their intelligence (and other abilities) can be developed over time. They are highly motivated to learn, know how to think critically, and understand the importance of seeking feedback from others.

On the contrary, students with a fixed mindset believe the skills they have today (especially around intelligence) are the result of some genetic wiring and there is no hope for improvement.

We see this all the time in our kids (and perhaps a bit in ourselves too) when they say, “I’m just not a good writer.” Or perhaps, “I’m not a math kid.” These statements emphasize the fixed mindset, whereas the child believes they were not born with those abilities and there is no hope to develop them over time.

Our future workforce needs individuals with a growth mindset. Many of the jobs that will exist in the future don’t yet exist today. Thus, we need our kids to enter the workforce with an attitude that they can acquire the skills necessary to do these jobs and take the initiative to do so.

How to Know if Your School Embraces a Growth Mindset

With the buzz around “growth mindset” over the last ten years, we’ve seen many school leaders and teachers adopt this language in their presentations and learning strategies. However talking about it and actually putting it into action are two different things.

“Teachers who understand the growth mindset do everything in their power to unlock student learning,” says Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and the lead researcher on motivation theory and growth mindset.

Dr. David S. Yeager, an Associate Professor of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin shares the following examples of how schools can embrace a growth mindset in their classrooms:

  • Teachers who embrace a growth mindset tend to use collaborative, troubleshooting language such as, “Let’s look at your process to find where it went wrong and see where we can fix it.”

  • Teachers with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, often direct students to come after class and do more worksheets – more rote practice in isolation, or “try harder alone.”

  • Teachers who embrace a growth mindset also allow students to revise and resubmit work because it gives them a chance to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. If a mistake is the final word, failure becomes a sign of a student’s fixed ability, not a step along the path to getting it right later.

What does this boil down to at school? In order to fully embrace a growth mindset, we want to see more opportunities for kids to do inquiry or project-based learning. We want our kids to recognize there is more than one way to solve a problem and that failures can be seen as learning opportunities.

Why We Need to Embrace a Growth Mindset at Home

Another way to think about a growth mindset is to envision the brain as a muscle, and the more we push it to learn, the stronger and smarter it grows. And learning doesn’t stop when our kids walk out their classroom doors.

We shouldn’t be surprised there’s a parenting strategy tied to the Growth Mindset (because sometimes I feel there is a parenting strategy for everything!). And it does embrace a lot of the same teaching strategies we seek out in our kids’ classrooms.

So here’s a few tips to ensure you are embracing a growth mindset with your children at home:

1- Consider your response when your child struggles or fails

Most importantly, you want to respond in a way that is positive and helpful so your child can see failure (or a struggle) as a learning opportunity. You do not want them to perceive their failure as a closed door with no hope for improvement in the future.

2- Think about the words you use to praise your child

Parents with a growth mindset praise effort, recognizing the time and practice that has ultimately resulted in success. They avoid phrases like “you’re so smart” or “you’re a natural” as this implies it was a skill they were born with and not one that can be further developed.

3- Embrace a growth mindset with your own abilities

Easier said than done! But the reality is kids learn a lot by modeling the behavior of the adults in their lives (primarily their parents). Saying the right thing is one step, but finding ways to be more persistent in your own abilities is just as important. Take a class, try something new, show your child that you too believe you can put in the hard work to get better at something of interest to you.

Additional Resources

Teaching Your Child to Have a Growth Mindset - Very Well Family - May 2, 2021

Parenting with a Growth Mindset Approach - Growth Mindset Institute - 2016

7 Tips to Give Effective Feedback to Your Child (free worksheets) - Big Life Journal

Growth Mindset for Kids: How to Help Kids Develop It - kidskonnect

Includes a great list of books for kids and parents towards the bottom of the article.

Join the Discussion

The last two years have really tested us, all of us. And I expect most of us don’t really want to try any new strategies at home right now. Anything “new” likely requires a bit of effort, it requires learning, failing, and trying again. But this is what our kids need right now. They need us to give them hope, to help them understand with the right mindset, they can learn and grow and reach their goals.

Have a new skill you’re working on? We’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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