Growing Your Child’s Mind for Success

Our children’s success depends on more than talent and ability. In fact, some children have amazing talent but still avoid challenges, shun effort, and shrink from difficulties. They often believe ability is static, fixed or unchanging. This “fixed mindset” (as Carol Dweck calls it in her book Mindset) interferes with progress and growth, hindering children from Fun on the ropesaccepting challenges. It encourages them to give up too soon. On the other hand, children with a “growth mindset” have learned that ability and intelligence can be nurtured and developed. As a result, they embrace challenges, persist when faced with obstacles, and believe effort leads toward mastery. As you can imagine, a growth mindset will contribute to success. In addition, children with growth mindsets don’t just get upset when they experience failure. They persist. They figure out how to improve. As a result, their abilities grow. Here are four ways you can help your children develop a growth mindset.

  • First, set your children up for success by setting achievable goals. Break larger goals into smaller objectives (goals) that are more easily and quickly attainable. Each time they achieve a goal, they experience the benefit of effort. They can see how smaller goals lead to greater goals. They learn to persist. As an example, break down the goal of “cleaning your room” into smaller goals like “make your bed,” “put your clothes away,” “pick up your toys and put them away,” etc.
  • When your children complete a goal or achieve some success, acknowledge their effort and the strategies they used rather than praising their intelligence or ability. Praising traits actually undermines motivation and performance by contributing to a fixed mindset. Consider some of these statements in praising and encouraging your children. Each of these statements will encourage a growth mindset.
    • I really love watching you play.
    • That looks like it took a lot of work.
    • Your hard work is definitely paying off.
    • I can tell you worked hard at learning that.
    • Wow, that took a lot of time and effort, didn’t it?
    • You never gave up.
    • You’re getting better every time.
    • I like that. How did you come up with that idea? Or, how did you learn to do that?
  • Ask your children questions that will promote a growth mindset. You might try some of these ideas.
    • What did you struggle with today?
    • What did you learn today?
    • What was the most interesting thing you did/learned today?
    • What was your biggest challenge this semester? How did you deal with it?
    • How did you figure that out?
    • How many ways did you try before it turned out the way you wanted?
    • That was a challenging situation. What did you learn from it?
    • Tell me more about how you did this?
    • I really like (name a specific aspect of what they have done). What do you like best?
    • What was the most difficult part of doing this? Learning this?
    • Some things take a lot of time to learn. Do you think this is one of them?
  • Use stories of successes that resulted from effort, persistence, and time. Use stories of well-known people (athletes, leaders, scientists, etc.) who overcame obstacles, persisted, and put in great effort to become well known in their field of expertise. Telling stories about family members who overcame obstacles in their life can prove even more effective. Tell about the time and effort family members invested in creating a positive legacy for your family. Stories that reveal the time, effort, and persistence invested in overcoming obstacles are a powerful tool in building growth mindsets.

These four steps will help you build a growth mindset in your children…a growth mindset that will help them embrace the challenges of life, persist in the face of life’s obstacles, and experience growth!

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