What is a growth mindset?

My 14-year-old sits hunched over her math homework. She is frustrated because she does not understand it. Her hands fly up in frustration and the words spew out “I can’t do it – I’m just not a math person!”

According to Stanford University researcher Dr. Carol Dweck my daughter is showing a fixed mindset. This is when you believe that your talents, intelligence, and personality are fixed and can’t be changed.

The opposite mindset – a growth mindset – is the belief that how smart you are, how well you do at math, how you dribble a basketball or how you manage your time – can improve with effort.

Having a growth mindset allows you to see challenges as opportunities rather than a reflection of how smart you are. Here are some suggestions to increase growth mindset:

Teach kids that their brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use.

This concept is called brain plasticity. When we learn new things the cells in our brain make new connections and our brain actually changes. Kids need to know this to know their amazing potential.  Something challenging (like my daughters math problems) can actually help her brain to grow.

Praise the effort.

Dweck suggests praising our kids for being smart or talented encourages a fixed mindset. Instead, we should encourage our kids’ efforts, persistence and hard work. When children see their abilities as something they can develop, they are more likely to work hard and want to learn. So instead of telling your child, “You are very smart for getting an A on your math test,” you can say “You worked very hard to get that A.”

Celebrate mistakes.

Mistakes grow your brain and are an important part of learning.  As parents, we can model a growth mindset by owning up to our mistakes and use them as learning opportunities! If we sweep our mistakes under the rug, we send the message that mistakes are a sign of inability rather than a chance to learn.

Role model.

Pay attention to how you talk about your own abilities. Stories are powerful. Talk about your own challenges, such as improving your backhand, finally learning to knit and how this is stretching your brain.  Asking for help can be a great strategy to solve a problem.

Dr. Dweck provides some good food for thought on how to use and encourage a growth mindset to prime our brains for learning.  I hope to use some of her strategies to encourage my 14-year-old to change her mindset from“I can’t do it!” to “I can’t do it, yet.”

Connect with us. We’d love to hear your stories.

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this guest blogger:

Kajsa KlassenKajsa Klassen – I am a public health nurse with the School Years Program. I love working alongside students, school staff and parents to create positive environments where all can thrive. As a mom of 3 I greatly enjoy sharing in the parenting journey with other Halton parents and all the adventures that come with it.  Our family likes to                                         explore the outdoors in our Halton Hills community.



This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Teen, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Play, Growth & Development, Preparing for Kindergarten, Teens, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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