Nurturing a Growth Mindset in Children

How many times have you heard your child say something like this?

“I don’t know how to read.”

“I’m not good at math.”

“I can’t ride a bike.”

Comments like this aren’t uncommon. The mindset of children develops at an early age and plays a large role in determining whether children feel successful or unsuccessful when learning new concepts and skills.

When it comes to learning, regardless of the area, helping your child develop a growth mindset will have a tremendous impact on future learning.

What is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be developed through hard work, asking for help when needed, and the acceptance that failure is a part of learning. The alternative mindset is fixed—the idea that our intelligence is set at birth and no amount of effort will change it.

Why a Growth Mindset Matters

At the heart of a growth mindset lies possibility. Children who develop a healthy growth mindset understand a current lack of mastery at a task or skill doesn’t mean you’ll never conquer it. 

Take the earlier example of bike riding. A child with a fixed mindset will avoid riding a bike altogether, and may make comments like, “I can’t learn how to ride a bike” or “I always fall when I try to ride a bike”. A child with growth mindset, however, understands that riding a bike takes lots of practice…and many falls may happen. What’s interesting is this—children with a growth mindset don’t see falling or the inability to ride a bike as failure. Instead, they accept it as part of the learning process and keep trying.

Tips for Nurturing a Growth Mindset

  • Teach Children How the Brain Works
  • Children are never too young to start learning how incredible their brain is and there are many books that can help parents explain the power of the brain and a growth mindset.

    I love Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak. Vibrantly colored graphics and clear language help children as young as four understand how their brain functions and encourages them to keep trying when learning new skills.

  • Model a Growth Mindset
  • We know, as parents, the influence we have over our child is tremendous. Try to mindfully model a growth mindset—even if you aren’t talking directly to your child. Instead of saying, “I’m no good at working in Excel”, consider saying “Excel is really hard for me. I’m going to have to practice more to understand it.”

  • Embrace the Power of “Yet”
  • Once the tenants of instilling a growth mindset that I love most is embracing the power of “yet”. When children say something that is rooted in a fixed mindset (“I can’t ride a bike” or “I’m not good at soccer”), take the opportunity to gently correct:

    “You can’t ride a bike..yet.”

    “You aren’t good at soccer…yet.

    It’s such a small word—but there is so much possibility and hope tucked in it. It is critical that our children understand they can be unsuccessful now but, with dedication and hard work…and a few occasional setbacks, they can improve and succeed.

    I encourage you to start making these small changes. The gift of a growth mindset is something your child will carry with them well into adulthood. What a freedom it is to know failure is really a learning opportunity and that skills and talents can be developed.

    Here’s to nurturing a marvelous growth mindset! With lots of love from our family to yours xoxo Nalakai


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