Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”
Written by: Caitlin Courshon
Using decades of research, Stanford researcher and professor Carol Dweck explains that people have a tendency to view intelligence from one of two competing perspectives: “fixed mindset” versus “growth mindset.”
A person with a fixed mindset tends to view talents and abilities as unchangeable. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I can’t read that word!”
“I’m not a math person.”
“I’ll never get this right!”
By contrast, an individual with a growth mindset tends to believe that they can improve their abilities over time with practice. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I love a challenge!”
“Puzzles are really difficult for me, but I’m going to keep practicing.”
“That book was tricky for me to read, and I worked really hard to make it to the end.”
Watch this brief video that explains some key differences between fixed and growth mindsets.
Research shows that students who have a growth mindset tend to value learning, remain positive when dealing with setbacks and believe that the harder they work toward a goal, the better they will become. For more information, watch Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on “The Power of Believing that you can Improve,” in which she explains the importance of growth mindset through her years of fascinating research.
How do we teach children to adopt a growth mindset?
1.Teach your child about the brain
Ask your child, “Did you know that your brain is a like a muscle?” Then watch this brief video and explain the concept of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to constantly change and grow.
Teaching your child about how the brain works and reminding them that they can change their brain through practice is a great start to encouraging a growth mindset. You can use videos, books, coloring sheets and physical models of the brain to make this information engaging and interactive!
2.Praise your child’s process, not their intelligence
Instead of praising your child for their talents, try to provide specific praise about their process, such as the effort they showed, the strategies they used, their focus on work or how they improved or learned from a mistake.
Instead of: “You are such a talented artist.”
Try: “I really like the details of your painting. I can tell you worked really hard on it.”
Instead of: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You are so smart!”
Try: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You studied a lot for that test, and I’m proud of you for working so hard.”
Instead of: “Nice job getting that math question correct!”
Try: “You tried a lot of different strategies to solve that tricky math question. That was great to see!”
3.Use the word “yet”
The word “yet” can be very powerful when it comes to teaching children about how to re-frame their fixed mindset. For younger children, check out this Sesame Street “Power of Yet” music video
Child says: “I can’t read that word.”
You say: “You can’t read that word just yet! Let’s sound it out together.”
Child says: “I don’t know how to do addition.”
You say: “You don’t know how to do addition yet! Would you like to practice together?”
Child says: “I’ll never get this right!”
You say: “Not yet, but with lots of practice, this will get easier.”
4.Be the growth mindset role model
What better way to teach your kids how to adopt a growth mindset than to model one yourself? Show your child what it looks like to work hard when you encounter a challenge, the importance of practice and how to learn from your mistakes.
In the words of Carol Dweck, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”