We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” We know that it’s not really about the final outcome—though you are allowed to enjoy that—but how we grew along the way. This type of thinking is known as having a growth mindset and it’s one of the best things that you can teach your kids.
Someone has a growth mindset when they know that their abilities can improve over time. The opposite thinking, a fixed mindset, believes that our abilities are fixed and will never grow.
A fixed mindset is one of the most common challenges I come up against as a life coach. Kids don’t grow up believing that they can achieve things if they remain persistent and learn. They try something once, perhaps fail at it, and are told to try something new.
What I try to do, and what I encourage parents to do every day, is embrace a growth mindset in the kids that I coach. None of us are 100% growth-mindset oriented. We all have our challenges that just seem to be too much, and we all have times when we think something is impossible.
That’s perfectly normal. But letting a fixed mindset take over can have long-term consequences.
The dangers of a fixed mindset
First and foremost, a fixed mindset leads to frustration. When you go into something knowing that you’re going to fail and that failure means never trying again, it takes its toll on you.
When someone adopts a fixed mindset, they are less willing to try new things. They aren’t willing to put themselves out there or get new experiences because they think that they aren’t good enough. They start to think they never will be.
Worst of all, a fixed mindset goes against innovative thinking. Innovative thinking is one of the biggest keys to your child’s success and a fixed mindset directly opposes that success.
Indicators of a growth mindset
Before we talk about how to help your child (and you) develop a growth mindset, you should know where your kid stands already. If your child has or is adopting a growth mindset, they will:
· Push through challenges instead of giving up
· Accept feedback
· Be open-minded
· Create strategies for tackling difficult situations and incorporate feedback they get and lessons they learn
· Know that failure is okay
How to develop a growth mindset
Getting a child or a young adult to adopt a growth mindset isn’t easy. Those who have more of a fixed mindset are already resistant to the idea that they can grow. But here are some ways that I encourage the youth I work with to embrace a growth mindset.
1. Praise them for their process, not just the outcome. This is especially important when the outcome isn’t favourable. This doesn’t mean to give them an A for effort. You can—and should—praise effort, but make sure they recognize the value in coming up with a new strategy for a problem.
2. Set SMART goals. People with more of a growth mindset might not know they are setting SMART goals, but they definitely are. By clearly outlining their end goal, it will make it easier for your child to find different routes to get there.
3. Use the word yet. If your child says something like “I’m not good enough at math” or “I’m not fast enough,” make sure to encourage them to use the word yet. I’m not good enough at math yet. I’m not fast enough yet. This will start to develop a growth mindset and encourage them to try different strategies to get to where they want to be.
4. Don’t just let talents be. Everyone has their own talent, and you know your kids are no exception. If they particularly excel at something, don’t just let them succeed without trying. Acknowledge that they’ve done well but find ways to challenge them and develop that talent even more.
5. Don’t look at failure as the end. Failure should always be seen as an opportunity for growth, but a fixed mindset sees failure as the end of the road. A fixed mindset sees failure as a sign to try something else entirely. By encouraging your child to find a way to fix their mistakes or missteps, you are encouraging a growth mindset.
6. Help is okay. Too many kids grow up thinking that asking for help is a weakness. People with growth mindsets know that being able to ask for help when you need it is a strength. Don’t discourage your child from asking for help when it will assist in developing a new strategy to overcome a problem. Don’t let them ask for help and get their helper to do everything, though.
7. Positive thinking is key. A fixed mindset encourages negative thinking. If your child can get in the habit of thinking positively, they will naturally adopt a growth mindset. Failures won’t get them down as much and they will be more willing to try new things.
8. Model growth mindset yourself. As always, the best thing you can do is be a growth mindset role model for your child. If the person they look up to has a fixed mindset, they will be more inclined to adopt that mindset themselves. Take what you’ve learned here and implement it in your own thinking.
There’s no sugar-coating it: changing someone’s thinking from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is tough. If your child has a fixed mindset and you can’t seem to help them change it, reach out to their teachers, coaches or a life coach for help. A growth mindset is one of the greatest things you can teach your kid, something that will help them for the rest of their lives.