Encouraging a Growth Mindset in Our Kids

Andrea FortenberryBlog2 Comments

Do you ever find your kids stuck in negative thought patterns?

Maybe they say things like, “I’m no good at this. Everyone else is better.” Or “I’m failing. I’ll never improve.”

We can sometimes get stuck in these patterns too, don’t we?

Having a fixed mindset, or an attitude that things will never improve or change, can stunt our growth and limit our potential. For someone with a fixed mindset, failure is viewed as fatal, instead of part of the learning process.

At my children’s school, they emphasize a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is being open to new ideas and flexible when making mistakes. When you have a growth mindset, you realize that failure is what helps you learn and improve.

When my son struggles with getting something right the first time, my husband often likes to remind him that Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. He could have quit, believing that he’d never improve. But he used not making the team as an opportunity to work harder and get better.

When you find your kids (or yourself) in the negativity of a fixed mindset, here are a few things to try:

  • Remind them that everyone fails and makes mistakes: A guest pastor at our church, Scott Rodgers says, “Failure is an event, not a person.” Failing is something that happens, it isn’t part of who we are. As humans, we’ll all fail sometimes. Not just some of us, but all of us. They aren’t alone.
  • Ask, “What does this make possible?”: When things don’t turn out like we hoped, we can get stuck or we can consider the possibilities. Allow your kids to explore new options and outcomes from mistakes or plans that went awry.
  • Encourage them to practice: We improve by practicing. If your child truly wants to get better in an area, set up a system or schedule to help them get in the practice time they need. With consistent practice, they’ll soon see how hard work pays off.
  • Remind them that constructive feedback helps us get better: It’s not always comfortable to hear how we could have done something differently, but when we’re operating out of a growth mindset, we can use the feedback to improve.
  • As they grow, it’s also important to teach our kids the difference between critics and constructive criticism. There are people who criticize to be plain mean, but there are also people who truly have our best interest at heart and want to help us grow. Those are the people worth paying attention to.
  • When giving your kids feedback, use the Oreo method: As parents, we’re consistently correcting and coaching. To a kid, it sometimes feels like we’re nagging or that we’re only pointing out negative behavior.
  • The Oreo method also includes positive feedback: start with something positive, give suggestions for growth, and end with something positive. For example, you could say, “You did a good job on your book report. I did notice you misspelled a few words you know, perhaps you can take a few minutes to double check your spelling next time. You chose a really advanced book, I’m proud of you for challenging yourself.”  

Let’s not only tell our kids about having a growth mindset, let’s show them. When we find ourselves in negative thought patterns, let’s remember these tips and apply them to ourselves too! Let’s encourage our kids to be brave and try new things. Let’s encourage them to make mistakes and learn from them. Let’s be proud of them not only when they excel, but also when they fall and get back up.

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