8 Ways to Encourage a Growth Mindset

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Only 25 percent of your performance is based on your IQ.

The other 75 percent is hard work, grit, effort, and perseverance.

Do you believe this?

Do you believe that if you work hard, push through challenges, and learn from your mistakes you’ll improve? Even at something that seems impossible?

Or do you believe you are good at certain things and not good at other things? “I’m just not a numbers person…” or “I wasn’t born athletic…” or “I’m not good with names…”

See the two different mindsets?

Whether you realize it or not, mindsets are part of today’s classroom. And they’re an extremely powerful tool.

Teachers talk about two types of mindsets: growth and fixed.

A growth mindset knows that true, lasting growth comes through experience. Whether success or failure, there is value in experience because there is always a lesson.

A fixed mindset can be dangerous — especially to our children — because it implies we are either good or bad at something. There’s nothing we can do. It’s predetermined by our genetics.

You have heard fixed mindsets many time, in many forms. You think if math is hard, you’re just not good with numbers. You’re told if you don’t like to read, you’re not as smart as other kids. If you’re not good at sports, you’re not athletic. You believe: “Why work hard if you’re not good to begin with? You can’t change your strengths.”

But you CAN!

How you perceive challenges is powerful. It can change your life and your child’s life.

We want our kids to grow and learn, to reach their highest potential, but are we modeling a growth mindset to them by our comments?

Remember, what you say and how you act is your child’s biggest example. You have a lot of power to influence their mindset.

We need to believe — truly believe — that our brains can grow and change and learn new things because… well… it’s true….we can affect our performance through what we tell our brains (see No. 8 for the exciting science!).

Here are 8 practical steps to help you model a growth mindset today:

1. Watch Your Language

Your daughter comes home from school and shows you her science test. She got a “C.”

A fixed mindset would say your daughter is “an average student.” But a growth mindset would say she received “an average score on her science test.”

See the difference?

Her “C” grade may be average, but she’s not average. She has the potential to grow and improve.

2. Harness The Power of “Yet”

Your son gets his long division equation wrong… again.

He’s not bad at math. He just hasn’t mastered long division… yet.

Remember the beginning of our article? Only 25 percent of your performance is based on your IQ. With hard work and determination, he’ll get there… he just hasn’t gotten there yet.

A study on growth mindset followed hundreds of students transitioning to 7th grade. The students started 7th grade with similar grades in math; however, the students with a growth mindset outperformed those with a fixed mindset. The gap between the two groups continued to increase each semester.

3. Improve Your Flexibility

In life, things don’t always go as planned. It’s inevitable. So, when the unplanned happens, practice being more flexible. It will pay off big!

Think of the new Spider Man. His ideas rarely go as planned. He’s always making mistakes and inventing new plans on the fly… literally.

But he’s still a superhero because he doesn’t give up and learns THROUGH his pain.

4. Keep Your Glass Half Full

Be optimistic. We know… easier said than done.

But finding the good, even in a bad situation, really will improve your growth mindset.

If you believe you can grow, you’ll embrace learning. You can choose! Believe that the effort you put in will pay off. So, if something doesn’t go your way, you won’t give up; you’ll keep pressing ahead.

5. Praise The Journey

Your son comes home with an “A” on his book report.

You say, “Wow! You’re so smart!”

Oops. That’s a fixed mindset.

Studies show that telling children they are smart encourages a fixed mindset. When they come across a task or skill that doesn’t come easily, they are more likely to get frustrated and give up because they now believe they are not “smart enough.”

Instead, say “I can see how much effort you put into that project! I’m so proud of you!” This puts value on learning and growth instead of the end result.

6. Say “Thank You”

Are you grateful for your kids regardless of their performance? Of course! But do they know?

As kids grow and mature, we have to find new ways to stay connected. One of the best ways to preserve any relationship is through gratitude — independent of performance and regardless of weird hormonal behavior.

Find normal, everyday opportunities to say “I’m so grateful you’re my daughter or son.” An environment of love and acceptance (apart from performance) will help your kids tackle challenges and take on risks without the threat of negative emotional consequences.

7. Allow Failure

Your daughter comes home with a D on her history test.

Failure is uncomfortable — to say the least. But, if you’re not failing, you’re not pushing hard enough.

Try this growth mindset approach: “Ok, let’s look at the ones you got right and celebrate. Let’s look at the ones you missed and see why. Then we can retrain your brain to do those differently next time.”

Brain scans of students with growth mindsets show increased brain activity as they learn from their mistakes and figure out how to move past failure.

Make growth more important than perfection.

(P.S. This means letting your kids mess up homework assignments. And it means asking teachers to return graded tests, quizzes, and essays. We learn best through mistakes with the right guidance.)

8. Give Extra Time to Adjust

As we learn, our brains physically grow and form new pathways. This is called neuroplasticity.

“With practice, neural networks grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and build insulation that speeds transmission of impulses,” says Dr. Carol Dweck, leader in growth mindset science.

Using good strategies, asking questions, practicing (even when we fail), eating healthy foods, and getting enough sleep all increase our neural growth.

This means a growth mindset physically and scientifically happens when we allow it!

Our brain is a muscle. Just like strengthening a new muscle, it takes hard work, grit, effort, perseverance, and time to see results. But it is SO worth it.

You have the power to supercharge your growth and your child’s growth. So GO FOR IT!

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