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Growth Mindset

"Mistakes are proof that I'm trying"

What is growth mindset?

Carol Dweck, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University, explored the nature of intelligence and mindsets (or how a student perceives his abilities). All students will face challenges and setbacks, but growth mindset is a way to overcome and learn from these challenges rather than "giving up."

She found people with a fixed mindset think their intelligence can't be changed. People with fixed mindsets are more likely to avoid challenges or give up.

  • "You either have it or you don't" 
  • "I'm just not good at reading"
  • "It can't be improved"
People with a growth mindset believe challenges can be overcome through hard work, using different strategies, and receive input from others. They tend to embrace challenges, take criticism from others, and view effort and hard work as a way to achievement.
  • "The harder you work at something, the better you'll be at it" -Dweck
  • "Making mistakes is part of learning" -Dweck

The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. ~Carol Dweck

Praise & Supporting Growth Mindset

Oftentimes, I find myself saying "wow you're so smart!" or "great effort, you tried your best!" On the surface, these comments look great! I feel like I am encouraging the child, but Dweck warns against praising a child's natural ability or intelligence. Let's dig deeper.

Rather than saying "wow you're so smart!" think about saying "your hard work paid off by figuring out the best way to solve the problem." 

Do you feel the difference in those two statements? By labeling what the child does, it will allow him to see that it's not just about "being so smart"--figuring out an answer to a problem or a tricky word when reading requires strategies; some are better than others!


See the picture below for some alternatives to common fixed mindset statements.

broken image

Do I do this perfectly? No! Will you do this perfectly? No! The point of growth mindset isn't about being perfect--it's about choosing to acknowledge fixed mindset triggers (do I become defensive when I'm criticized? Am I overly anxious about doing a certain task that is hard and avoiding it?)

Recognizing fixed mindsets and taking pressure off of ourselves (and our kids) will reduce stress and aid in better self regulation.


Try setting positive affirmations with your child (say/write them) when you feel a fixed mindset coming on...

"I can do hard things"

"Everything new takes time to learn"

"Mistakes are proof that I'm trying and learning"

"I'm not sure how to do that....yet!"

Growth mindset doesn't mean that every person will have equal abilities and be able to do anything. It does mean that wherever we are at this time, growing is possible with great effort, asking for help, and using strategies to help solve problems.

Books to encourage growth mindset

What do you Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

Flight School by Lita Judge

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by: Carol Dweck