Growth Mindset: Setting our Children Free to Thrive

I had an experience with my daughter recently which opened my eyes to the pressure children can feel to succeed, a feeling which I know all too well as an adult. It can be both a driving force and crippling stress in life.

The artwork

My daughter was drawing with a friend. We were very proud of my daughter at the age of 2 when she began drawing faces, then adding arms, legs and eventually hair! But her friend was obviously quite a talented young artist and had drawn a whole person, using all the colours, covering every inch of the page. I noticed my daughter see her picture and stop in awe. As her friend showed the adults around the table they all exclaimed, “Wow”, “Amazing” and “That’s so good, well done.”  I watched as my daughter looked from her own picture to her friends and back. She turned to me and in a sad voice asked, “Can I have more paper?” It was written plainly on her face that she had begun comparing her picture with her friend’s and had come to the conclusion that hers wasn’t as good because she didn’t have the same natural ability for art as her friend.

Let me say now that I don’t have a problem with praising children, but as her friend turned to me and showed me her picture, what would I say? It was a good picture, impressive to say the least! But what would my response communicate?

Growth Mindsets vs. Fixed Mindsets

It made me ask the question to myself, when I praise my child’s achievements, am I praising the effort she puts into their work? Or praising the success of her work?

When I just praise the success, it sends the message to her that her accomplishments are trait-based like she was born with that ability, but leaves no room for growth, and when challenges increase she may feel like she cannot learn from her mistakes, rise to the challenge or improve. This is a ‘fixed mindset’.

On the other hand, praising kids for working hard promotes a growth mindset. It sends a message that the child’s effort is what led them to success and when challenges come, they know they can learn from their mistakes in order to improve. This is a ‘Growth Mindset’

“Your brain is like a muscle. When you learn, your brain grows. The feeling of it being hard is the feeling of your brain growing!”

It taught me that the key to supporting our children to have a growth mindset is in my praise. I should be praising: effort, progress, hard work, rising to a challenge and learning from mistakes.
Instead of praising: talent, being smart or not making mistakes.

Growth Mindset at Citywise

In our Citywise Curriculum, part of our growth in self-knowledge is learning about having a Growth Mindset. ‘Class Dojo’ have some helpful videos featuring Mojo who learns all about how to have a growth mindset. Maybe you could watch them too? Your Brain is a Muscle, The Magic of Mistakes, The Power of ‘Yet’