As a parent and former educator, every time I hear these dreaded phrases: “I can’t do this,” “This is hard,” “I give up,” or “I am just not good at…” it is like nails on a chalkboard. And let’s face it, as adults how many times do we say these same things inside our own heads? I want my children to embrace challenges and not give up when things get hard. I want them to know that they can do anything with a lot of hard work and persistence… and not be afraid of failure. At the end of the day, I want to empower them with a growth mindset.
We can’t protect our children from failures and setbacks, so let’s give them the tools they need to bounce back and learn from their mistakes. Here are five ways to help your child develop a growth mindset and empower them to take on the world!
1. Learn about the Brain & How it Works
Tell your child that their brain is like a muscle that grows the more that you use it. Their brain physically grows connections as they practice and learn new skills and concepts and that making mistakes helps their brain to get stronger. Here is a great book to read with them about the brain and how it works. Khan Academy also has a great video that explains to kids that You Can Learn Anything.
2. The Power of YET
Next time you hear your child say “I can’t…” or “I am not good at…” have them add the word YET to the end of the sentence. Try it yourself sometime (it is very empowering). You will have to do it for them the first few times but eventually, they will do it for themselves. Here are two great books for kids that encourage a growth mindset and the power of YET.
3. Embrace Failures & Mistakes
It is good to make mistakes, that is how you learn. Celebrate mistakes and treat them as an opportunity to grow your brain. When your child brings home a paper with mistakes tell them “ I am so happy you had the opportunity to learn something new today”. Research and talk about famous people that failed. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan and Bill Gates all failed many times before they succeeded. Discuss Thomas Edison’s quote, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Here is a great book for kids that celebrates mistakes.
4. Model a Growth Mindset
You know the old saying “I learned it from watching you.” It is true, our children are always watching and learning from our actions. At the dinner table discuss problems that you ran into at work and how you solved them. Ask your child for suggestions to a problem that you haven’t solved yet. Share your own failures and how you overcame them. Try a new activity together as a family and let them see you struggle. It is good for them to see that you aren’t always magically good at things and struggle to learn and get better just like them.
5. Praise Effort & Hard Work—Not Results
When you praise your child avoid phrases like “You are so smart” or “Good job.” Use specific praise that highlights the process and not the results. Here are some examples:
Great effort, I can tell you worked really hard. You studied hard for your test and were well prepared. You have really been practicing and have improved so much. You tried a different strategy and you figured out how to solve the problem. You stuck with it and didn’t give up.
With just a few small changes you can help your child feel more empowered to take on their world!