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Building a Growth Mindset Culture at Home

Our school/district is committed to developing a growth mindset school environment—a place where all students believe that with effort and perseverance, they can succeed. Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University, has identified two belief systems about intelligence.

More About Fixed and Growth Mindset

A fixed mindset is one where we believe that our children’s innate abilities, talents, and intelligence are fixed. They are either “good” or talented at something or they are not. They can certainly learn new things, but this particular skill or subject is not really their “thing.”

How many of you have ever thought to yourself (or said out loud), “My daughter probably isn’t very good in math because I was not very good in math.” Or, “I was not good in high school English, so I guess my son takes after me.” These are examples of fixed mindset thinking. Even a perceived positive statement like, “He has a God-given talent in_______” or “ He is a born leader” demonstrates fixed mindset thinking.

As a parent, you may have fixed mindset thinking about your own abilities; you may think, “ I can’t cook”, “I can’t dance; I have two left feet”, “I leave that to my wife/husband, I can’t figure it out.”

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence, skills, and talent are malleable, and they can change with effort, perseverance, and practice. Neuroscience explains this as neuroplasticity. We can all get “smarter.”

This 4-minute video, Fostering Growth Mindsets is part of a discussion series created by the Greater Good Science center between Christine Carter (sociologist, mom, and “happiness expert”) and Kelly Corrigan (author and mom) about how moving toward a growth-oriented mindset can give your children the drive to succeed.

So, we never want to say things like this to our children:

  • Some people are just not science (or fill in the subject of choice) people.
  • Writing (or art, math, etc.) comes naturally for you.
  • Look at that, you did that without even trying.
  • You have a God-given talent.

These are all fixed mindset statements. We need to focus feedback on what a child does, not who he or she is. We never, ever want to say things like, “You are so smart!” Click on the links below to find out why:

One of the most frequently used words in your vocabulary should be the word yet, such as, “ You are not quite getting it yet, but with practice, you will.” A couple of links to help you use this word more often are:

Learning From Failure

From the moment our children are born, we want to protect them. Our instincts are to catch them before they fall. It is not easy seeing our children not have success in whatever goal they are working toward—from learning to walk to getting into their first choice of college. But in order to raise resilient, confident, optimistic children, we must learn to be comfortable when they make mistakes and/or fail. When children are given opportunities to struggle, it builds resiliency. Without struggle it is difficult to develop coping skills, grit, and resiliency. As parents, we must model this as well; let your kids see you being persistent and overcoming challenges—not quitting because something is “too hard.”

When you see a less-than-desirable score or grade on an assignment, assessment, or report card, do not freak out. Look at the grade as data, look at failure as data, and talk with your kids about some things that can be done to improve and grow. If your child put a lot of effort into the assignment or prepping for a test, then talk about some new ways that may help him or her understand the content. Reinforce that it is not about the grade—it is about the learning that takes place. Remind your children that the word fail stands for:

First Attempt In Learning.

Kids love this 30-second Michael Jordan commercial about failure. In this commercial, Jordan highlights many of the mistakes he has made and what the outcome is: success.

To read more about learning from failure, click on any of these resources:

It is essential that we all work together
toward building a growth mindset for our children.