I was so excited to learn about how a growth mindset can dramatically improve a child’s academic performance and motivation to learn, that I set out to develop a way to teach this incredibly valuable information to my kids at home, to help them develop a growth mindset. This information is as important for homeschooled kids as it is for kids in a public or private school.
Learn more about what a growth mindset is by reading this post.
How to Teach Kids About a Growth Mindset
With a few simple strategies, we can teach our kids about the power of a growth mindset.
Teach About Their Brain
The first thing our kids need to know is that our intelligence isn’t fixed – that it can change. It can get stronger or weaker depending on how much effort we are willing to apply.
Download the article, You Can Grow Your Intelligence and read it out loud or have your older children read this by themselves and discuss the ideas about brain function. Lead them to understand that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use and that learning prompts neurons in the brain to grow new connections.
Teach your kids that they can improve their IQ and talents. Present the evidence and teach them that education is something that have control over.
Just as a baby isn’t born talking but learns over time, they don’t know everything but can learn over time with work.
Teach them that people with a growth mindset believe that they can learn, change, and develop needed skills. They are better equipped to handle inevitable setbacks, and know that hard work can help them accomplish their goals.
Here is an informative video you can watch with your kids.
Another way to teach about the growth mindset is by telling stories about achievements that resulted from hard work. For instance, talking about mathematical geniuses who were more or less born that way puts students in a fixed mind-set, but descriptions of great mathematicians who fell in love with math and developed amazing skills engenders a growth mind-set. Try reading a biography of Thomas Edison for starters.
Model a Growth Mindset
A lot of how our students (or kids) pick up on a growth mindset will be from observing and listening to you as their parent or teacher. Show kids how to recognize fixed mindset thoughts and how to replace them with growth mindset thoughts.
Praise the Process
Parents and teachers tend to think that praising kids’ intelligence builds confidence and motivation to learn. While this type of praise may give the student a brief boost in confidence, we learned in my last post on the research behind a growth mindset, this kind of praise leads to a fixed mindset – one that is more concerned with looking smart and keeping the parent or teacher’s admiration than on actually working hard to learn. Parents and teachers do better to focus on praising the ‘process’ or personal effort and any effective strategies used, which fosters motivation by placing value on what students have done and what they need to do to continue to be successful.
Dr. Dweck’s research demonstrated how the simple act of praising effort, or the process the student took to learn, rather than ability, can have a dramatic effect on cultivating a growth mindset.
Here are some ideas to phrase your feedback in a way that develops more of a growth mindset to get you started:
I see that you have been trying so hard at …
You are becoming more confident at ….
Good job taking on such a hard task …
You are taking on harder tasks and that must make you feel confident.
I like the way that you ….
You must have tried really hard at this.
I see that you are trying again, great thinking.
You remembered to use the procedure for ….
It must feel good to follow those steps you have taken.
What a brilliant way to approach the task.
I noticed you are thinking through the steps we discussed.
You were confident with the task and I know you will be with the next step.
I am watching the way you’re approaching this and I think your effort is outstanding.
The steps you took must have really helped you…
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. Albert Einstein
More Thoughts on Teaching Kids so They Develop a Growth Mindset
Do you have a student (or child) that thinks they aren’t smart or who think that they can’t learn? Try to figure out what they understand and what strategies they could use. Great teachers believe in the growth of talent and intelligence in their students and will take the time to learn how their students (or kids) learn.
If ‘Plan A’ didn’t work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet!
Many of you reading this today are here because you are teaching kids with dyslexia. Because of our kids’ struggles in the early years of school, it is fairly common for them to believe that they are not smart.
What to say when they struggle despite strong effort:
• OK, so you didn’t do as well as you wanted to. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to learn.
• What did you do to prepare for this? Is there anything you could do to prepare differently next time?
• You are not there/here yet.
• When you think you can’t do it, remind yourself that you can’t do it yet.
• I expect you to make some mistakes. It is the kinds of mistakes that you make along the way that tell me how to support you.
• You might be struggling, but you are making progress. I can see your growth (in these places).
• Look at how much progress you made on this. Do you remember how much more challenging this was (yesterday/last week/last year)?
• Of course it’s tough – school is here to makes our brains stronger!
• If it were easy, you wouldn’t be learning anything!
• You can do it – it’s tough, but you can; let’s break it down into steps.
• Let’s stop here and return tomorrow with a fresher brain.
• I admire your persistence and I appreciate your hard work. It will pay off.
“Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.” Dr. Carol Dweck
Developing a growth mindset will take consistency over time. You will know that your kids are implementing the growth mindset when you see them becoming more persistent, not ruminating about their own failure much at all but instead thinking of their mistakes as problems to be solved.
How can you see teaching this growth mindset changing your kids’ attitudes and motivation to learn?
Read more about Mindset by reading Dr. Dweck’s book, Mindset.