A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviours, choices, or tools.
A growth mindset is a wonderful gift to develop in your child. With a growth mindset, your child will feel empowered to persist and work hard in the knowledge that they will get better and more proficient at a skill. By contrast, a fixed mindset can stagnate a child’s talents and sense of agency. It is not helpful to tell children ‘they are a natural’ at a skill or hobby as it limits their ability to improve and excel.
The way we praise our children can have a profound impact on their mindset. Research on praise and mindsets shows that when we praise children for being smart, it promotes a fixed mindset. It sends a message that their accomplishments are trait-based, and tied to something innate. In contrast, praising kids for working hard promotes a growth mindset. It sends a message that the child’s effort is what led them to success.
A growth mindset gives a child a sense of control over their skills. This ‘internal locus of control’ is empowering as opposed to an ‘external locus of control’ where, e.g., genes or ‘natural talent’ is identified as the reason for a child’s skills.
Even if you think your child is talented and motivated in a certain area, one of the most precious life skills is a growth mindset. It is an attitude that will permeate every area of your child’s life from creativity, art, and music, to sports, academic work, and even their emotional development.
Also, a growth mindset helps to give a child a path to improvement and learning as well as a sense of energy and resilience during the learning or training process. This makes motivation and productivity easier and even enhances emotional development and a child’s relationships.
Toddlers have a growth mindset. They enjoy the process of playing, art and exploring rather than the result and are less interested in the result, e.g., painting a picture. They don’t reflect on themselves as ‘talented’ and just get on with trying and doing. They have big reserves of perseverance and will try and try and keep practicing new skills until they accomplish them. This is how they learn to pull themselves up to standing and start to walk.
Alternatively, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
One of the best ways you can model a growth mindset is to speak candidly about the mistakes you’ve made, and what you’ve learned from them. Speak positively about your mistakes and struggles, and this will show your children that taking risks and making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Explain to your children that trying hard things is what helps us grow, and you can’t be perfect when you try something hard!
People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they’ve simply always had. My colleagues and I call this a false growth mindset. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience. A “pure” growth mindset doesn’t exist, which we have to acknowledge to attain the benefits we seek.
Practising growth mind set theory with children is a great way to get them engaged with subjects and activities that they try to avoid through fear of getting things.