Have you ever heard yourself say something like, “I’m just not a math person” or “Writing is just not my thing?” Of course, we all say phrases like this from time to time. Phrases like this, however, illustrate a key underlying mindset. They represent a belief that intelligence or skill in a certain area is fixed. That is, the belief that a person is either “skilled” or “unskilled” in a certain area and there is nothing to be done about it.

This belief is in contrast to a growth mindset, which says that intelligence or skills in a given area have the potential to be improved. Underlying this belief is the idea that intelligence or skills are not fixed but malleable through hard work, practice, and consistent effort. 

What may, at first glance, be considered a seemingly unimportant psychological tidbit, turns out to be one of the most influential and illuminating research findings in recent years. The idea that one’s mindset can influence not only their understanding of themselves but their motivation, academic performance, and school engagement has sparked the interest of educators, psychologists, and parents.

Helping children adopt a growth mindset has become not just another parenting “fad” but a research-backed way to support their development and learning. Let’s dive into this topic with a few growth mindset phrases and ideas that parents can use to help foster this mindset in their children.

“Yet”

Although it’s only one word, the power of using “yet” when discussing a child’s ability or performance can make a dramatic difference in fostering a growth mindset. We often hear children struggle when learning a new skill or task. They might say, “I can’t do this math problem” or “I can’t read this book.” These types of phrases often put children into a fixed mindset mode of thinking. They might really believe that the skill or task is beyond their ability. However, just adding the word “yet” to the end of the phrase changes their meaning completely.

“I can’t do this math problem yet.”

“I can’t read this book yet.”

Why it Works:

By adding the word “yet,” it signifies that growth is always possible. Yes, this task might be challenging for a child at this moment, but it probably won’t always be so. It opens the door to the possibility that a child’s skill level has the ability to change. 

“Mistakes Mean You are Learning”

Making mistakes or experiencing failure is always a possibility when taking on any new skill or task. However, in the face of failure, some children give up or move on to a less challenging task, while others persist despite the failure. What explains these two different approaches?

Researchers argue that at least one relevant factor has to do with how children understand failure. Generally, individuals with a more fixed mindset see failure as a sign of incompetence or lack of ability. In contrast, those with a growth mindset tend to see failure as a sign of the need for more effort. In other words, each mindset attributes failure to a different source. Failure is generally attributed to a lack of intelligence or skill by those with a fixed mindset, whereas failure is attributed to a lack of effort or insufficient practice by those with a growth mindset

Mindset

Why it Works:

Thus, the phrase “Mistakes mean you are learning” represents a clear growth mindset approach. With a growth mindset, mistakes or failures are seen as a chance to learn more through putting in more effort or practice. This approach can have a significant impact on how children move on after a failure or mistake happens. Studies show that children with a growth mindset are more likely to persist in their efforts toward their goal, even following failure. That is, they have a goal of mastering the topic or skill without as much concern about “looking like a failure” or “proving their ability” in a certain area. The phrase “mistakes mean you are learning” can be an easy way to help children persist in the face of mistakes by reinforcing the idea that mistakes are not a sign of incompetence but an opportunity for growth.

“All Things are Difficult Before They are Easy”

This simple phrase (attributed to Thomas Fuller) illustrates well a key aspect of a growth mindset⏤the notion that learning is an ongoing process and that challenges are a natural part of this process. In other words, this concept contrasts with the idea that some individuals are just inherently more skilled or knowledgeable in certain areas. 

Why it Works:

The idea that challenges can be faced and even embraced is crucial to developing a growth mindset. A fixed mindset would see challenges as a sign that an individual is not skilled or knowledgeable in a particular area. This can lead to an individual shying away from challenges because it means they are not already completely competent in that area. In contrast, a growth mindset approach to challenges views them as opportunities for growth and part of the learning process. Since challenges no longer represent a threat, individuals with a growth mindset feel motivated to take them on rather than avoid them. 

“Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength”

One important, but often overlooked, aspect of developing a growth mindset is learning when to ask for support. In many cultures and contexts, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. With a growth mindset, however, knowing when to ask for help is seen as an effective strategy for dealing with challenges and not just giving up.

Why it Works:

The ability to ask for help and not see it as a sign of incompetence has been clearly linked to a growth mindset. Children who tend to attribute outcomes to their own efforts (a component of a growth mindset) are more likely to seek help. Having a fixed mindset involves attributing one’s struggles or failures to static, unchangeable features of oneself or outside factors. Children with a fixed mindset, then, are less likely to seek out help when needed.

The Power of a Growth Mindset

Ultimately, the power of a growth mindset is the power of possibility. Helping our children develop a growth mindset offers them the idea that new skills, new knowledge, and new opportunities are possible for them. They learn to see the world through a lens of growth and opportunity rather than being confined to a fixed, unchangeable version of themselves. With practice and parental support, children can acquire a growth mindset that will open the door to new opportunities for them.

Preview blurb: Have you heard your child say something like, “I’m just no good at writing” or “Math is just not my thing?” While these phrases may seem like no big deal, underlying them is a mindset that can affect how children approach learning and achievement. Help your child flip the script on their mindset and approach challenges in a whole new way. Click through to learn about the power of a growth mindset and how it can help your children.

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.

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