Growth Mindset For Kids | How To Foster A Positive Attitude Towards Learning
I don’t know about you, but when I went to school, you were either smart, stupid or somewhere in between.
The belief our kids have about their intelligence and ability has more of an influence over their learning capabilities and success than you might realize.
Research by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Professor showed that students with a growth mindset have higher levels of success than those who have a fixed mindset.
The successful students weren’t “born clever”…they simply thought in a specific way.
What is a growth mindset?
Having a growth mindset is about understanding that intelligence is not simply something you are born with.
The brain is a muscle like any other and can be strengthened with effort and training.
Adults and kids with a growth mindset will not feel overwhelmed by failure when they struggle to understand something.
They won’t give-up simply because something is a little challenging.
They’ll problem-solve and persevere until they succeed.
For someone with a fixed mindset, challenge and mistakes are seen as failures.
The fear of failure is often enough to stop them trying.
It’s easier to decide that they’re “just no good at it” than it is to risk getting something wrong.
Fostering a growth mindset in kids is as much about encouraging the right kind of self-talk as it is about teaching various skills and strategies that they can use to overcome challenges.
Kids with a growth mindset will understand that learning isn’t always easy but that their brain is capable if they train it in the right way.
Our child’s mindset and attitude towards challenges will have a huge impact on their future success and happiness.
The good news is, that you CAN teach growth mindset to kids!
How do I teach growth mindset for kids?
1. Be specific with praise.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to foster a growth mindset in kids is to choose your words wisely.
It can be tempting to think that regularly praising kids will boost their self esteem and help them to feel more positive about their capabilities.
But, however well meaning our intentions, empty praise can unfortunately have the opposite effect.
Over-use of “Good girl”, “You’re great”, “Well done!” can leave kids feeling unmotivated and confused.
This ’empty praise’ becomes meaningless and kids begin to expect it (even when they know that they haven’t really tried).
Reasearch at the University of Chicago and Stanford University found that the type of praise a child receives actually effects their attitudes towards challenges later on.
Avoid praising effort because telling kids that they’ll get it if they “just keep trying” when their effort is getting them nowhere is likely to make them feel incompetent and disheartened.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t praise our kids though!
It just means that we need to be a little more specific.
Research shows that praise should be process specific and focus on the child’s actions and accomplishments.
So, make sure that your praise focuses on the the values of problem solving and testing out different strategies…
2. Teach various learning strategies
If we want our children to become competent learners then we must equip them with the skills they need to teach themselves.
Growth mindset for kids is about giving children a collection of strategies that they can use to overcome challenges.
A big part of this is the knowledge that there are many different ways to learn something.
As educators we must vary the methods we use to present content, the way we encourage kids to process information and how they demonstrate their knowledge to us.
- We can present content using texts, videos, audio and equipment like blocks.
- Give kids opportunities to process information individually, in pairs and as larger groups.
- Let kids choose how they demonstrate their understanding e.g essays, comic strips, video diary, model.
By using a variety of teaching methods you are building your children’s skill-set that they will use to overcome challenges.
3. Teach them that mistakes and challenges are helpful.
“Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.” — Winston Churchill
Dweck’s research also showed that students who had been taught that success took effort showed a clear increase in math scores over a two year period.
The students in a group that thought intelligence was fixed saw a decrease in their scores.
The resource I’ve put together to teach growth mindset for kids includes specific activities that explore effort.
4. Say “yet” more!
“I can’t do a back-flip.”
“I can’t do a back-flip yet.”
That little word “yet” makes all the difference.
“Yet” is a powerful word because it can turn a negative statement into a positive one that implies growth. It says that anything is possible, given time and effort.
The word “yet” can change disparaging sentences into positive ones, promoting growth, according to Dweck.
It works really well in sentences that include “can’t” or “won’t”.
It’s important to talk like this ourselves too. Modeling a growth mindset will help those around us to adopt one too.
5. Actively teach about growth mindset
As a teacher turned home schooling mum I’m a big believer in experiential learning.
We don’t use a huge amount of worksheets when we learn at home.
That said, specific resources can be really helpful sometimes especially with this topic as it can be beneficial to keep a record of progress (kind of like bullet journaling for kids).
I developed these resources for a friend and thought that other educators might find them helpful.
Feel free to adapt them to suit your children.
It’s worth noting that growth mindset for kids can be a sensitive topic so as educators make sure that you can offer support to kids if they need it.
I’d love to hear what you think about the resources I’ve put together to teach growth mindset for kids and what other resources you’d like to see.