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We already know about the magnificent power of teaching children a growth mindset. However, what if you are struggling to teach this to your kids or students? You are certainly not alone. It appears that it’s NOT an easy task and many parents and teachers are facing three similar challenges.
Here’s how to tackle some commonly faced scenarios.
Struggle 1: You’re Teaching Something You’re Still Learning
As educational concepts go, the theory of growth mindset is still relatively new. While Dr. Carol Dweck’s research began 30 years ago, it wasn’t until 2006 that her Mindset: The New Psychology of Success introduced us to the life-changing idea that attributing success to perseverance rather than innate ability leads to a happier life.
In that sense, ALL of us are newbies to this incredible shift in thinking. So let’s use our freshman status in growth mindset to our advantage!
Kids are often turned off by our “expert” opinions and find it refreshing when they see adults learn about new topics. In my experience both in the classroom and with my own children, little ones are more engaged when I’m sharing my experiences, especially my struggles.
How to overcome:
- Be transparent.
- Know your options.
WRITING: Use Big Life Journal (a growth mindset journal for kids) and be his or her Journal Buddy!
- ART: Each week try beautifully illustrated Big Life Journal printables together. Draw pictures of yourselves learning something new and the steps it took to get there. Hang your work side by side!
- READING: Books like The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, Not Yet by Lisa Cox, and Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg are a few options ideal for elementary-aged kids. They will get some excellent conversations going. View the entire list of recommended books here.
WATCHING: Movies are a great tool for mindset and character development. They can explain important life lessons and help reinforce messages we're trying to teach our children. View our list of recommended movies here.
You can also get our convenient Growth Mindset Movies & Books lists in our Growth Mindset Printables Kit 1&2.
- Make a mistake in real time.
Struggle 2: You’re Facing Rigid and Negative Thinkers
Unfortunately, many children are already entrenched in pessimistic or inflexible thinking. Sometimes it can even lead to depression and anxiety.
According to decades of research, children with a pessimistic worldview are at risk for doing poorly in school and compromised physical health. They are also at risk for viewing setbacks and losses as permanent (Seligman, The Optimistic Child, 1995).
Achieving GROWTH mindset may appear as yet another impossibility to the pessimistic thinker, another area at which to fail.
So how do you REACH those negative thinkers?
How to overcome:
- Draw connection between thoughts and feelings.
- Help kids recognize the positive voice inside.
Younger children can choose names for their negative and positive thinking (for example, “Mr. Saddy” and “Mrs. Calm”) and begin to see them as characters that can be listened to or ignored as they choose.
Practice positive thinking with our 7-Day Positivity Challenge for children available in our printable Challenges Kit.
- Encourage kids to name and accept their feelings.
- Increase their feelings vocabulary.
Play “feelings charades” and act out different emotions. Discuss how feelings come and go, and that we can honor them but watch them pass without getting too attached. Another one is usually on its way!
- Believe in your message.
Each time you show acceptance of a difficult emotion (in yourself or your child) and each time you talk about the power of “yet”, you strengthen his/her future ability to do the SAME for themselves and others. Immediate results aren’t guaranteed, but trust that you’re already making a difference.
Struggle 3: You Feel Alone On This Journey
It can feel quite daunting to imagine all the ways in which our children are exposed to FIXED mindsets (from relatives, friends, coaches, etc.). And it’s tempting to feel ALONE on this journey of valuing effort over the outcome and viewing failures positively.
Unfortunately, many people and systems around us are so deeply entrenched in the more traditional, fixed approach.
How do YOU keep from feeling deflated?
How to overcome:
- Know your triggers.
Even those of us who believe strongly in the concept must be aware of our “fixed mindset triggers” like feeling discouraged by criticism and frustrated by challenges.
As I often tell my students, the only thing we can control is ourselves, not the actions of others. So keeping track of our own mindsets is what we can do, and the best place to start!
- Connect praise with RESULTS.
For more praise ideas, grab our “Parent’s Guide to Praising Your Kids” in the Growth Mindset Printables Kit 1&2.
- Reframe grades.
Instead of dwelling on their grade, encourage kids to ask these questions: What would they do differently this time? What can they do to achieve a different score in the future?
Developing growth mindset takes time, both for the teacher/parent and the student. While challenges in teaching growth mindset are common, there are many simple ways to persevere. The strategies above can help you tackle the issues we all face in helping kids (and ourselves) shift our thinking! Whatever you choose, know that you’re already making a difference simply by sticking with the challenge. And isn’t that the message of growth mindset after all?