This is a guest post written by Katie Coyle. Please see her bio at the bottom.
I spent eight years working as a pediatric neurology nurse. Those years gave me a unique perspective on just how resilient and malleable the brains of children are. It is an incredible thing to watch a child
recovering from an injury or surgery and witness their brain reinforcing old pathways and creating new ones.
In the years that I was working in that setting, I also became a parent to premature twins and spent a great deal of time at various therapies with them. I got to witness their brains growing and changing. It was a powerful experience. The combination of my personal and professional experiences has made me
a passionate believer in the idea of a growth mindset.
Practicing a growth mindset means embracing the idea that our brains are capable of growth and change. Our resilience is not fixed but rather can shift and grow. A growth mindset encourages us to remember that our brains can learn new skills and form new pathways. It is a well-researched and proven approach to building resilience in children. Encouraging a growth mindset has transformed my parenting and changed our family.
In 2006, Carol Dweck published her incredible book (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) and gave the world such a gift. Her research supports the idea that when children view their brains as capable of growth and change, it allows them to bounce back from failure with more resilience and grit.
I am going to share with you eight ways to help raise children with a growth mindset.
1.) Recognize that practicing a growth mindset it NOT just for children. We can not effectively teach our children skills that we are not modeling. They are paying attention to our actions at least as much (if not more!) than our words. What this practically looks like is working towards eliminating perfectionistic thinking in your family. Be honest with your children about your
mistakes. Tell them stories about when you’ve had to persevere through challenges. I now
verbalize with my children things like, “Mommy is feeling kind of nervous about starting this new job. It’s really hard for me to start something new. But I know that my brain can learn new things. I also know it is going to take me some time to learn this so I’m going to have to be patient with myself.”
2.) Use the word YET as much as you can! A growth mindset embraces the idea of YET. For example, if your child is struggling with their math homework, encourage them to remember that they don’t know how to do this YET. But remind them that their brain can learn something new with practice.
3.) Praise PROGRESS instead of PERFECTION. Instead of saying things like, “You’re just naturally good at that.” Try something like, “I noticed how hard you’re working on that.” While it’s true that we are born with certain traits or gifts, we need to acknowledge that our skills
and abilities are not fixed.
4.) Roleplay – children learn through PLAY! While you’re playing Legos or dolls with your children, incorporate growth mindset language and ideas. It may feel uncomfortable at first but it does work. Repetition is so valuable. Talk about how your doll tried something new and didn’t feel successful. But she didn’t give up! She persevered and asked for help and tried again.
5.) Read growth mindset books together. Children also learn from stories. My two favorite preschool books are Giraffes Can’t Dance and Beautiful Oops! My two favorite elementary-aged books are What Do You Do With A Problem? and What to Do with An Idea?
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6.) Practice growth mindset affirmations. I will include a link here where you can download some free printable and materials I’ve created to encourage growth mindset affirmations for my own
If you subscribe to my blog, you can get access to my freebies page, which has the growth affirmation cards. Click on newsletter at the top to subscribe.
7.) Discuss the idea of a growth mindset with other caregivers. Most likely your children have other caregivers in their lives. Discuss with them what a growth mindset means and talk about ways that you’re implementing it in your family. My twins had a favorite babysitter when they were
young and I had her start using the same language we were using in therapy. I also got my parents on board. Consistency and continuity of care are hugely powerful.
8.) Practice self-care. When we are exhausted and overwhelmed it is so much easier to be reactive instead of proactive in our parenting. Practicing a growth mindset requires us to be proactive in our approach. Prioritizing self-care also sets a valuable example for our kids that adults need
quiet time and breaks too. I understand how complicated the juggle of work/life/parenting
balance can be it can be but self-care matters too much to ignore. I often will do childcare
exchanges with friends so that each mom can go for an hour walk/run while the kids play. I also love the daycare providers at our gym. Brainstorm ways that you can include some self-care in
If you would like more on helping your child develop a growth mindset, please click here.
We will never perfectly model a growth mindset for our families, that is the point! We are growing right alongside our children. May we be patient and kind both our children and to ourselves in this process.
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Katie Coyle works in pediatric triage, and you can find her blog here.
You can also follow her on Instagram.Follow me on social media: