What is Growth Mindset and How Can You Help Children To Develop It?

You may have heard of the phrase growth mindset, but what does growth mindset actually mean? More importantly, what does growth mindset mean for kids?

There are growth mindset books, definitions and quotes everywhere. To help make sense of it all, we’ll explore what it means and why it is important for your children. Throughout, we will draw on Carol Dweck’s work regarding fixed and growth mindsets.

This blog is part of our series of blogs designed for parents supporting home learning and looking for home learning resources during the Covid-19 epidemic.

What is a fixed mindset?

Believing that intelligence cannot be changed in any meaningful way. People are naturally intelligent, it is fixed.

What is a growth mindset?

Believing that intelligence can be developed over time. Through effort and determination, intelligence can grow.

Why should you encourage a growth mindset in your child?

1) Increase your child’s engagement with learning

Children with a fixed mindset are afraid to try new things because they don’t want to look dumb. Their goal is to look smart and avoid tasks they could fail at. Over time, this means they are less likely to enjoy the process of learning because they are more concerned with demonstrating what they already know rather than making the effort to develop new abilities.

Children with a growth mindset view tasks that challenge them as their favourite tasks of all. This positive view of challenge helps to fuel a spirit of curiosity, giving children the confidence to engage fully with the learning process and have fun.

2) Improve your child’s exam results

Dweck’s study followed hundreds of students through their transition from primary to secondary school. She found that those who had a growth mindset achieved higher grades when compared to those with a fixed mindset, despite all starting at a similar level. This is because their goal is to learn, even if that means appearing dumb to their peers when learning something new.

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3) Set your child up for life

Einstein wasn’t the man he was when he as born. He developed his ability over his life, seeking challenges to grow his brain. He put in the effort year after year to ensure he kept learning at all costs. Difficulty, he thought, was a positive thing. Something to move towards rather than run away from.

Instilling this philosophy at a young age will ensure your child has the right priorities going forward.

We know that life can be difficult sometimes. If they understand that the price of learning something new means making a few mistakes here and there, they won’t be so bothered about trying to cover them up. Instead, they can focus on becoming who they want to be: growing their brains like little Einsteins!

To find out more about growth mindset take a look at Carol Dweck’s video:

Our Top 3 Tips To Encourage A Growth Mindset In Your Child

1) Don’t talk about growth mindset in isolation

Sitting your child down and telling them about what it means to have a growth mindset is not going to transform their world in an instant. A longer term approach will ensure your child reaps the benefits of a growth mindset, with their attitude starting to reflect your attitude.

To start embedding good practice at home, you could design a ‘growth mindset’ board to display some growth mindset phrases.

2) Use of appropriate language

Dweck’s research indicates that views on intelligence are influenced in part by the language they are surrounded by.

When providing praise, focusing on the process rather than the result or person is a step in the right direction.

This means using phrases such as ‘thank you for your effort on that task’ rather than ‘well done on getting all those questions correct’ to start changing what is seen as valuable. Over time, your child will start to prize perseverance over correctness, building the resilience necessary for success going forward.

Importantly, it means avoiding phrases such as: ‘Not everyone is good at maths — I never understood it’ and instead focusing on ‘how they may not be good at maths YET.’

Indeed, the word ‘yet’ is truly powerful in helping to foster a growth mindset. You can hear more about the power of yet by watching this video:

3) Value mistakes & challenge

Growth mindset theory illustrates how mistakes are an opportunity to learn. You could use these occasions to remind children that everytime they learn something new, including why they got something wrong, their brain grows! Rewarding children who spot their mistakes will take you another step closer to embedding a growth mindset. Indeed, some parents have taken the step of making banners with the title: ‘It’s ok to make mistakes’ to help change their child’s attitude.

Through all this, challenges should be seen as an opportunity for growth. Instead of focusing on carrying out tasks in areas your child is comfortable with, encourage your child to move outside of their comfort zone to attempt new things. Of course there will be some challenge involved, but this is good!

You could ask the question: ‘Did you have any fabulous struggles today?’ to encourage your child to view challenge through a positive lense, allowing their brain to get even bigger!


Find yourself baffled by the maths terms that are mentioned in your child’s school? Take a look at our Maths Dictionary For Parents!

Ellie Williams
Ellie Williams
With a love for all things KS2 maths, Ellie is a part of the content team that helps all of the Third Space Learning blogs and resources reach teachers!
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