The power of “yet”: How to develop your child’s growth mindset

Today’s youth are faced with challenges that none of us had growing up. With the world at their fingertips and social media permeating their everyday lives, children can feel that their accomplishments are constantly being compared to those around them. Research in this area was pioneered by American psychologist Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University, who has shown that how we view ourselves as learners has a huge impact on what we are able to achieve. She suggests that people fall into one of two broadly defined categories: those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.

A fixed mindset is represented by the idea that:

  • Intelligence is fixed (I’m just not smart.)
  • Having to work hard means one is less skilled (I’m not good at this.)
  • Outside praise and rewards drive performance (Why do I even have to do this?)
  • Fear of failure and reduced risk-taking (I’m not going to get it, so why even try?)
  • Blaming others for one’s mistakes (That wasn’t on the study guide!)

Meanwhile, a growth mindset is represented by the idea that:

  • Learning is fun and important (I wonder what else I could find out about this.)
  • Working hard means more success (I know I can figure this out.)
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities (I get what I did wrong and can fix it!)
  • A desire for more challenges (Bring it on!)
  • Emotional resilience and intrinsic motivation (That was tough, but it is going to feel so good when I do better next time.)

A simple way to talk about the idea of growth mindset with younger students is to highlight the word “yet.” Adding this small word to the end of fixed mindset sentences can ignite a transformation. When kids shift from thinking “I’ll never understand this” to “I don’t understand this YET, but …” the opportunities seem endless.

Here are some practical ways to help your child shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Another way to think of this is to focus on praising effort instead of focusing on accomplishments. This “praise the process” mentality for children has been shown to lead to greater growth in subsequent tasks. Therefore, remember to avoid praising intelligence or results as this reinforces a fixed mindset. Instead, highlight growth, hard work, and determination in order to truly benefit children and develop their habits of success.

As Carol Dweck said, “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us…no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”