How to Nurture a Growth Mindset

We have established that a growth mindset is associated with long term success, lower anxiety and depression, and less stress. A child with a growth mindset is willing to work to overcome their mistakes, because they understand that all that stands between them and what they want is effort. So how do we instill this mindset in our children?

1. Children HAVE TO know that BRAINS get STRONGER with EFFORT

Teach your children to imagine that there is a muscle for each area in their brain; a math muscle, a dancing muscle, a reading muscle, etc. Some muscles are stronger than others. Everyone’s muscles are different. But when we put in effort in a particular area, we make the muscle stronger. If something is easy, the muscle doesn’t get stronger. But if it is difficult, the muscle has to work harder and get stronger.

2. Praise EFFORT, not RESULTS

When you praise your child, always focus on the effort that they put in, not the results they achieved. For example: “I am so impressed with how hard you worked on your homework,” or “You should be really proud of how much effort you put into coming up with that solution,” or “I know that wasn’t easy for you, but you never gave up! That’s impressive!” The more specific you are with your praise, the more meaningful it is!

3. Embrace Failure

Show your children that you, too, are willing to fail, and use your own failures to role model resilience and perseverance. Show your children that failure is simply an opportunity to learn and grow. When your child fails, coach them with, “Okay, this didn’t work. What could you try differently next time that might work better?” Use failures as an opportunity to grow and think differently. “What can we learn from this?”

4. Use the word, “YET,” often! When your child says: “I can’t do it!” correct them with: “You can’t do it YET!” When they say: “I don’t understand!” correct them with: “You don’t understand YET!”

5. DON’T praise natural talent

When a child does well WITHOUT EFFORT, don’t praise their natural talent. This cultivates a fixed mindset. When your child thinks their talent is fixed, they become scared of failure. Instead, Carol Dweck suggests saying: “That was too easy for you. Let’s find a problem that is more challenging, that will help your brain grow.”

How do you praise your children? Will this approach change how you encourage them?