Foster a Growth Mindset For Kids Early On (The Why and How)

Helping our children develop a growth mindset at a young age is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. A growth mindset for kids helps them learn how to choose growth when faced with the many challenges and obstacles of life.

At Joyful Through It All, we believe in the power of a growth mindset. We have seen firsthand how to use a growth mindset to take actionable steps toward choosing to live a carefree life of passion and purpose. As parents, we work hard to help our children understand these values as well. Our goal is for our kids to understand that they have the power to choose their lifestyle.

It is very easy to settle in life. Parents all want the best for their kids though, and need to equip them with the tools they need to grow and develop throughout their lives. A growth mindset for kids is one tool that we can provide our children with that will help ensure they can tackle any obstacle that their lives throw at them.

a child reading a book

What is a Growth Mindset for Kids?

A growth mindset believes in the power of overcoming obstacles and finding growth opportunities when faced with challenges and obstacles. Rather than giving up after a defeat or failure, a growth mindset looks for possible learning experiences so as to improve for next time.

Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking book Mindset explores the idea of a growth mindset. In this book, Carol Dweck explains how developing a growth mindset changes the way we learn, work, and parent our children. Much of what I share here I learned from this book. You can check out our top 5 key takeaways from Mindset for more on how this book can change the way you think about growth and challenges in your life.

At its core, a growth mindset for kids is the same as a growth mindset for anyone else. However, children who learn to hunt for growth opportunities in setbacks will look for them throughout their entire lives. This gives them the best chance at success and wellbeing.

By contrast, learning to adapt a growth mindset later in life can be difficult. The years of fixed mindset programming can be tough to overcome. However, in the spirit of growth, it can be done! Remember that you can do anything you put your mind to!

To remind one another that we can do anything we put our mind to, my family has these posters hanging on a wall in our home. We use these two phrases as family mottos to help remind us that we are control of what we can and cannot do!

motivational posters
These motivational posters will remind you and your family that you can do anything you put your mind to if you believe in yourselves!

How Do You Teach a Growth Mindset to a Child?

Okay, so you understand what a growth mindset for kids is and why it is important. But how do you teach a growth mindset to a child? You can’t exactly sit them down and give them a summary of Carol Dweck’s Mindset.

As tends to be the case with parenting, modelling a growth mindset for kids in our everyday lives is the most effective way to teach a growth mindset to a child. Our kids are always watching us, and they listen to the way we talk about challenges and obstacles.

a mom modelling growth mindset for her children

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to be mindful of the way we speak about things that bother us. It is easy to openly complain about family, work, or anything else that irritates us throughout our day. Often times it is these topics that fill dinner conversations where little ears are listening in.

If we openly complain about how hard things are, or how annoying things are in front of our children, they will start to do the same. They internalize the message that it is better to complain rather than take action to change the situation and start to form limiting beliefs about themselves. They will start to shy away from challenges rather then embracing them for the growth opportunities they present.

So many of us are complacent in the things that we do. We don’t look for growth opportunities in the things that bother us. Our children deserve better, and it is up to use to show them how to do this!

Here are a few ways you can start:

Why it is Important to Praise Effort

Kids are incredible. We see them grow from these small squishy beings into fully functional human beings who can do all sorts of cool tricks.

Because of this, it is normal to experience outpourings of pride when our children surprise us with new skills that they master. With this comes a natural desire to praise them for the results they produce! You aren’t alone in this!

a child completing a workbook

When it comes to praise, a growth mindset suggests caution. Now, you might be thinking “wait, are you telling me I can’t tell my kid I’m proud of them?”

Of course we want our kids to know that we are proud of them. However, a growth mindset for kids suggests that we should give praise for the efforts our children put in, rather than the product they produce.

Here’s why.

Struggling with Failure

Imagine if you were told how great you are every single day of your life. You are told that you are incredible and that every single thing you do and touch turns to gold. Now, imagine how it would feel to be put in a situation where you aren’t awesome. A situation where you struggle to be amazing.

When we praise our children for being smart, or even just ‘good at’ things, we rob them of a key tool they need in their growth mindset toolkit. That tool is the ability to overcome the feelings they feel during challenging situations.

Children who believe that they are naturally gifted, struggle when they don’t master challenges easily. This leads to stress, anxiety, and self-doubt.

By contrast, if a child is taught that they can do anything that they put their mind to, with a key emphasis on the effort required, they will see that they can do anything, even when it is hard. A growth mindset for kids helps them understand that it is the effort they put in that counts, not their natural ability.

Taking Less Risks

In Carol Dweck’s Mindset, she shares the results of an interesting study. Her team managed to show that children who are taught that they are naturally gifted tend to take less risks. They have too much to lose!

Think about it. Imagine you work hard to establish yourself as a super-credible authority on something at work. Now imagine how it might feel to be put in a position where you might make a mistake. You probably would avoid this situation at all costs. Imagine what it would do for your credibility!

As it turns out, this is an example of a fixed mindset approach to things. Kids with a fixed mindset don’t like the idea of challenges. It makes them feel inadequate and that their natural abilities are being questioned in some way.

a nervous child

However, a growth mindset for kids helps them develop a willingness to try something new. They are curious about what they could learn from it, even if they fail! Especially if they fail! They understand that failure is just a learning opportunity in disguise.

At school, children with a fixed mindset tend to feel that their abilities are constantly being evaluated. Because of this, they spend a lot of time and energy on looking and sounding smart rather than learning. They tend not to participate or raise their hand for fear that they will make a mistake.

By contrast, children with a growth mindset believe that school is where they go to grow their skills and knowledge. They see opportunity in the challenges presented at school. These types of children do not fear being wrong, for they know that there is much learning to gain through this!

Effort and Motivation

The effort kids put into solving a problem says a lot about their mindset. One of the most common occurrences in our house serves as an excellent example of how a growth mindset for kids helps them understand the importance of effort.

Almost every day when I’m doing the dishes or folding laundry, one of my kids asks me where one of their toys is. My brain likes to tell me to respond with a simple “I don’t know”. However, this type of response shows them that their challenge isn’t worth pursuing. It sends the message that the obstacle they are facing isn’t even worth the effort to try to conquer.

To model a growth mindset for kids, I instead aim to give a prompting response like “where have you looked?”. This shows that I value their challenge, and puts the task back to them. 

Now more often then not they just stare at me and wait for me to help. But if I give in, and just find the toy for the child, it robs them of the opportunity to learn to solve the problem themselves.

There are some things kids are capable of, but as parents, we just do for them because it is easier, quicker, makes less of a mess, etc. But if we aren’t careful, this can send the message to our kids that they aren’t capable of solving the problem. Or worse, that their problem isn’t worth their effort in the first place!

Removing the Obstacle

We all want our kids to learn to live happy and carefree lives. However it is also important that our children learn to develop the tools to overcome obstacles on their own.

It can be hard to watch (or listen to!) a child struggling through a problem, or failing at a task. However, the failure children experience will be an opportunity for them to learn something about themselves.

It is natural to feel that removing obstacles is the way to helping kids live a happy and carefree life. It even makes sense, right? If we want kids to be happy and carefree, we just need to eliminate all the things that make them unhappy or stressed. Right?

While the desire to remove the obstacles from our children’s lives is a natural one, a growth mindset for kids suggests a different way. By removing obstacles, we aren’t giving our kids the chance to overcome them. And overcoming obstacles and learning from setbacks is a crucial step in their development and learning to become a growth minded person. 

a child doing a difficult puzzle by themselves

Simple Growth Mindset Exercises to Try at Home

As you start to think about how to teach a growth mindset to a child, consider these simple exercises to introduce a growth mindset for kids in your home.

  • At your next meal, ask your kids about something that they found hard during the day. Prompt them away from complaining about what was hard, and toward what they learned as a result of the struggle. Start by modelling this with something from your own day!
  • Next time you are watching TV as a family, find an example of someone who is really good at something (a singer, athlete, etc). Ask your kids what they think of their performance and how they think they got so good. When my daughter first heard Carrie Underwood sing, she said “wow, she must have practiced really hard!”
  • During your children’s next sport practice, music lesson, etc. check in with them and probe to see how they felt about a challenging part of something new they learned. This shows kids that learning happens everywhere, not just at school!
  • Start using these growth mindset quotes for kids anytime your kids are faced with challenges and obstacles!

By modelling a growth mindset for kids at home, we help them understand that effort is the key to mastering new skills. We show them that there is growth to be found when things get tricky. And most importantly, we teach them that failure isn’t something to be ashamed of.

If you want to give your children the best life that you can, it starts with helping them develop a positive growth mindset. Remind your children of the importance of a growth mindset daily by modelling it yourself. This will help set them up to be happy, successful, growth minded kids that develop into happy, successful, growth minded adults.

Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family on social media! If you know someone who is interested in learning more about parenting using a growth mindset, this post could be just what they need!

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