“I Can’t do That…Yet”: The Importance of Helping Your Child Have a Growth Mindset

Girl Smiling with Book on Her Head

“Yet.”

It’s a small but powerful word.

When kids adopt a mindset where they include “yet” into how they view their abilities, some very big, positive changes can happen!

“I can’t solve that math problem…yet.”

“I haven’t scored any soccer goals…yet.”

That’s the way a child with a growth mindset thinks.

Here’s what you need to know about what a growth mindset is and how to help your child maintain this positive frame of mind so he or she can thrive academically and in life!

What is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is having the belief that we can actually improve our intelligence and strengthen our skills by putting in effort and facing challenges.

According to this way of thinking, we aren’t bound by a limited set of talents or level of intelligence that we were born with. We can actually grow these areas.

The term growth mindset was originally coined by educational psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Parents and teachers have since worked to instill this way of thinking in children to help them navigate through challenges and maintain a positive outlook.

Dweck contrasts a growth mindset to a fixed mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe that we were each dealt with a certain hand, so to speak. We were born with a given level of intelligence or set of abilities. There are things we excel at and things we are just not good at.

But children who have a growth mindset have been shown to be happier, healthier, and achieve more in life!

Why Instill a Growth Mindset

Kids who believe that they can actually grow their brains to become even smarter have been proven to have higher academic performance.

Studies have shown that children with growth mindsets achieve higher math grades and take more advanced classes in school.

Children with a fixed mindset focus more on the outcome of a scenario, such as grades. They may compare their grades in school to those who performed worse than them in order to feel better.

Children with a growth mindset, on the other hand, focus on learning from their mistakes in order to improve their skills.

Instilling principles of a growth mindset in your child from a young age can set them up for a life of success by encouraging him or her to:

  • Take risks.
  • Welcome new experiences.
  • Enjoy the process and understand the value of learning.
  • Face challenges with a positive attitude.
  • Work hard.
  • Learn from his or her mistakes.

How to Promote a Growth Mindset

#1: Praise the Process

Praise your child for the efforts he or she puts into a task, not just the outcome itself.

Feedback like, “You worked so hard!” or “That seemed tough but you really stuck with it!” are some examples of how to praise the process. This gives your child a sense of accomplishment about their perseverance.

Studies have shown that when parents used “process praise” like this with children who were between ages 1 to 3 years-old, the children were more likely to have a growth mindset 5 years later.

#2: Lead by Example

Be open with your child about mistakes you’ve made and how you’ve learned from them. Let your child see you do something new or challenging – like exercising, cooking a new recipe, and fixing things around the house.

Maintain a positive attitude and demonstrate the learning process (like watching a how-to video, reading instructions, or practicing). That way, your child will be more likely to engage in the same behaviors when he or she is faced with a challenge.

#3: Explain the Science Behind Growth

Kids love to learn, and teaching them can help them see why it’s great to have a growth mindset!

Explain to your child that brains really do have the ability to grow. Talk to him or her about how our brains are “plastic”, meaning that they can change. And, that we have the power to make neurons fire and connections stronger by practicing a skill or learning something new.

#4: Introduce New Experiences

When you introduce your child to new experiences, you’re teaching him or her to embrace adventures!

Go hiking at a national park or set up a big puzzle for the family to do at home. Remind your child that learning something new actually makes new connections grow in their brain!

Ask your children if there’s something new they would like to try, then help them go for it! If they struggle at first, encourage them to be persistent and watch their confidence build as they see their skills grow.

#5: See and Sing About It

Show your child some of the popular songs and shows that promote the benefits or having a growth mindset, like these!

Introduce your child to shows where the characters take on challenges and persevere, like The InBestigators.

Reading books is another great way to encourage your child to develop a growth mindset. Take time to pause, talk about the story, and encourage your child to think about how he or she would react in a similar situation.

#6: Seek Services to Help

If you or your child’s teacher have concerns about your child’s communication, fine motor, or gross motor skills, consider therapy that will help your child maintain a growth mindset as he or she improves abilities in these areas.

TherapyWorks offers Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy both in person (in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio) and through teletherapy (nationwide). If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides in-home speech, occupational and physical therapies in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and teletherapy nationwide.

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