7 Tips For Teaching Your Child To Have A Growth Mindset

girl working hard at school work
Knowing how to solve tough problems is a skill today's kids need. JW LTD via Getty Images

Did you know that intelligence isn't set in stone?  You may have been brought up to believe that some people were just good at challenging subjects, and others just didn't have the natural ability to learn how to solve very complex math and science problems.

You might be surprised to find out that education and brain research in recent decades has shown otherwise.  Researchers have found that children and adults can develop and train for intelligence.

 One of the important factors for being able to develop this intelligence is the belief that intelligence is the result of hard work and study.

Teachers call this a growth mindset.  The term was coined by Stanford educational researcher Dr. Carol Dweck.  Dweck compares her growth mindset to a fixed mindset.  While people with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence, people with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence cannot be developed.  Essentially, researchers now believe that the ability to learn difficult and challenging material comes from a belief that you can.

So How Do You Develop  A Growth Mindset In Your Children?

These tips are all written with completing school and homework in mind.  You will probably notice that these are really approaches that work for solving any problem in life.  It's good to apply growth mindset to more than just school work. You want growth mindset to become an overall attitude, not limited to school work.


1. Teach Your Children It is Okay To Be Wrong

You know how hard it can be to try something new when you are afraid of failing.  Teaching your child that it is okay to make mistakes will free your child up to try a new challenge.  In the process of making that effort, they will learn what works - and what doesn't.

2.  Teach Them To Try Out New Ideas And Approaches To Problem Solving

Various problems and tasks require different strategies and methods to be completed.  If your child is struggling with a problem, ask them if there is another way that might work to solve the problem.  

Even though you will be tempted to solve the problem for them, don't.  If your child is really stuck with an issue, help them brainstorm what else they can try to solve their problem or complete their work.  Try asking them what other resources they have that they can check for more info, such as different places in their textbook, online websites, or even asking their friends how they solved a problem.  

3 Teach Them To Keep Trying To Solve A Hard Problem, Even If They Can't See The Final Solution

Some problems require several steps in order to be completed.  You probably remember your advanced high school math classes as having these kinds of problems.  But the new rigorous standards being used in school are designed to expose kids to problems that need to be analyzed and thought through - not just answered through rote memorization or quick calculations.


Work designed to encourage these problem-solving skills is being given out in the early grades, to give kids an early start in problem-solving.  Rather than telling your child to give up right away and ask the teacher what to do when they see them, have your child just begin to try to work their way through.  Sometimes the next steps become clear after the first steps are taken.  Sometimes your child will realize that they need to approach the problem differently.  The thing is, they can't get there without taking those first few steps.  

4.Teach Them The Mantra "Mistakes Help My Brain Grow"

Dr. Carol Dweck repeatedly encourages teachers to remind students that mistakes help their brain grow. She teaches that when someone easily finds an answer, they have shown they knowledge they already have without learning anything. when someone makes a mistake, they are forced to find our why and then learn something new in the process.  

Making the saying "Mistakes Make My Brian Grow" not only takes away some of the fear of possibly being wrong, it validates the effort required in making a mistake. It then goes even further into encouraging learning what the right answer is.  Rather than rewarding someone for being smart (fixed mindset), it encourages a path of continuous learning.

5 Teach Them To Pay Attention To Their Approaches To Problem Solving

This isn't just making sure they are following a series of steps to complete their English paper or perform a math algorithm.  This is asking them to look at how they themselves chose to solve a problem.  Did they draw out a picture to gain better understanding of what they are trying to solve?  Did they look for the specific questions they were being asked by an assignment?

Problem-solving strategies can often be used in other situations that may not appear related on the surface. You can ask your child how they decided to solve a problem or praise them for stopping to think about which approach to take to solve a problem. You can ask about this as soon as they completed work if you are sitting near them while they are working, or when you look over their work to see if it is completed.

6. Teach Them To Talk About Mistakes

This one isn't about appearing humble. You want your child to feel comfortable discussing what didn't work, so they learn to discuss approaches to solving problems and completing work.  This can help them learn to identify what they have already tried out that hasn't worked, so they can try again and find what does work.  This will also help develop good skills for working with other people, a skill gaining in value in the workplace.

7 Remember That You Won't Be 100% Growth Mindset All The Time

Growth mindset may be an overall way of looking at learning challenging material and solving hard problems, but it is unrealistic for you to always be sharing a growth mindset.  Don't beat yourself up if you find yourself saying something to your child that doesn't encourage a never give up and always work hard viewpoint.  No one is perfect all of the time.  It is more important to strive for growth mindset feedback than to be perfect.  The more you adopt this attitude, the more your child will.  

This also holds true for your child.  Even if your child's teachers believes that every child can strengthen their intelligence through learning, your child may have moments where they are unsure if they will ever be able to master something.  Just remind them to keep trying.

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