Developing the growth mindset in children

By Massrat Shaikh

Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration: Thomas Edison

A growth mindset helps us to see that character strengths can be nurtured, and we can grow. It instils in us an idea that values can be learned, and we can always improve and be better people by learning.

Compared to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset encourages us to embrace challenges, sustain the effort, and try new strategies, and that is true for both children and adults. Research studies show that the brain is like a muscle and is something we can strengthen. Students who adopt a growth mindset about intelligence can earn higher grades. While children’s brains change more readily than their middle-aged parents, there is never a day when the neural structures that enable us to think, reason, and make sense of the world are totally fixed. So, growth is not only possible for children but even for us adults, no matter what age we are at, there is always something to learn and keep growing.

The concept of growth mindset does not only apply to intelligence but also to all other areas. If there are qualities we do not like about ourselves, a growth mindset dictates that we can change those. A growth mindset is advantageous when making our way through life. Someone with a growth mindset will not hesitate to try again where they once failed. At any age, we can learn new strategies and develop healthy habits.

How do we instil a growth mindset in our children?

As parents, we can model the growth mindset ourselves. Share stories of when we fell short of our expectations but nevertheless learned a valuable lesson.

Growth mindset is more natural to teach when parents keep learning and see learning as a process rather than adopt an “I know all attitude”. When children see us learning new things and improving daily, they choose the same perspective.

Parents can learn from children too. If our children are good at something and have better skills than us, there is no harm in learning from them, that shows children that we are flexible, and we are not hesitant to learn anything new even from them.

Whenever children make a mistake, always look for ways for them to learn from it.

Encourage them to love challenges because challenges can make them smarter.

Instil in children the belief that we can change.

Let children know that we can always grow in our intelligence.

Avoid praising young people for being “gifted,” “talented,” or “a natural.” Instead, appreciate the process of learning: “I’m so proud of you — when you got stuck on the problem, you tried a different way to solve it and didn’t give up!”

Create authentic opportunities for learning. Give children meaningful challenges, consistent support, and timely, constructive feedback.

To calibrate your efforts, ask them about their goals, “what’s something you want to accomplish but can’t do yet? What can I do to help you?

Dreams don’t work unless you do: John C. Maxwell