Fostering growth mindset in our kids: Teaching them to love the struggle and celebrate their growth.
I’ve spent most of my teaching time in third grade, guiding young ones through multiplication facts and folktales and their fair share of assessments. Third grade is a special year, marked with huge gains both socially, emotionally, and academically for each student. One of the ideals that I value most highly in my classroom is that of growth mindset. Coined by Carol Dweck, a growth mindset refers to one’s belief in their capability, their belief that they can, and their faithfulness to the steps it will take to reach their goals. Think of it as the difference between thinking, “I’ll never be good at math. I’m just not a math person.” vs. “I’m getting better at my math facts. Today I got two more than yesterday!” Research has proven that if we believe we can improve in an area, and we are equipped with the right tools and strategies, we can grow. When students get this, and bring this mindset into their learning, it’s magic. Students are happier and more excited about their learning; they stay committed amongst struggle, and find joy in the journey of math, reading, and writing.
How can we foster this positivity? How do we foster this magic and create kids who truly believe, “I can”? Below are a few of my favorite takeaways from my journey as a teacher.
Remind them of growth
Start by talking about where they started. Remind them of when they were learning to sound out simple words, when they couldn’t add small numbers, or when they couldn’t write their first and last names. Kids have short memories and they get stuck in the moment. Get them to acknowledge where they have made growth. It’s the first step in opening their minds to future progress.
Kids struggle to break down their big goals into attainable steps. Help them break down their big goal (“I want to write a story with a beginning, middle, and end.” “I want to memorize all of multiplication facts”) into weekly, even daily goals. Work with your child’s teacher to ensure both of you are valorizing these goals, as well your child’s efforts towards them. Knowing these small goals helps you celebrate the tiniest of victories. Rejoice in the small things—small victories add up to big achievements.
Equip them with tools to succeed
Growth mindset is about more than just effort. Kids need to know that it’s more than just “trying”, it’s utilizing the tools and strategies that they’ve learned to fix mistakes and improve. New tools are sometimes the secret to success. If your child is continuing to struggle in a particular area, don’t allow them to give up. Instead, encourage them to try it a different way, or take what they did correctly and build upon it.
Hold them accountable
This goes for their work, as well as their thinking. Hold them to the strategies they know they are successful with. Remind them of the progress they’ve made using them, and create opportunities for new practice. Challenge their thinking when they are frustrated; these are your most important moments as their coach! They need your pep talks (not sympathy!) when the going gets tough. Acknowledge the struggle, valorize their effort, and push their belief that they are BECOMING who they’ve set out to be.
Be a model of growth mindset
We as adults must model what we want our kids to believe. Instead of saying, “Mom’s not good at art,” or “Dad isn’t good at math,” phrase everything as a journey. Try: “I’ve always wanted to be better at drawing,” or “Math is difficult for me, but this strategy helps me a lot.” We do hard things every day, and we’ve got to be transparent about our push through struggle. We push through the struggle because we know what lies on the other end, and we have to raise kids who believe that, too. Our language around how we view our own struggles shapes the way our children view theirs.
If your interested in more information regarding growth mindset, Carol Dweck wrote a great article in Education Weekly regarding her research and what she’s learned in her most recent work. She also includes great suggestions for parents and teachers! Carol Dweck Revisits the 'Growth Mindset'- Ed Weekly