Research suggests that students with a growth mindset perform better in school, have higher self-esteem and more friends. Growth Mindset is the belief that our abilities are always changing (not fixed) and that we are able to improve with hard work and practice. It is a focus on personal growth, using internal dialogue to combat negative thoughts and viewing mistakes as opportunities for growth. Research by Carol Dweck has shown that students with this mindset are more successful in school because they bounce back from failure and do not get stuck in a negative thinking pattern of self defeat.
Children from any background and any ability can learn these tools to become the best version of themselves. Let’s look at a few ways to build a growth mindset in children. I’ve included free printables for you to start practicing now.
Catching and Changing Negative Thoughts
Did you know that our minds have thousands of thoughts every hour? Many of those thoughts are automatic and negative. If we don’t pay attention to them and change their tone, they can control our behavior and mood. The good news is that we have the power to change those thoughts from negative and automatic to positive and intentional.
There are at least a dozen “cognitive distortions” or negative thinking patterns that are common in children and adults. (You can read more about those here.) Helping students recognize those patterns and turn them around, is key to developing a growth mindset. Download this free maze for students to practice navigating through positive and negative thoughts.
The Power of Yet
Change the phrase “I cannot do this.” to “I cannot do this, yet.” By simply adding that word, you have decided not to give up. You are acknowledging the fact that you can do hard things with hard work. Embracing challenge is at the heart of a growth mindset. When you catch someone saying that they cannot do something, have them rephrase their sentence by adding “yet.”
Comparing yourself to others has little meaning. A healthy competition is fun, but it should never define who you are as a person. Everyone has different abilities and learns at a different pace. The real prize is being able to compare yourself to yourself. The end goal should be personal growth, not a letter grade or a trophy. A fun way to practice this is to keep a growth record. Celebrate when you beat your own records!
To combat automatic negative thoughts, practice saying positive things over and over. A fun way to do this is to look in a mirror and read a script of compliments. You could have students write down a list of wonderful things about a person they admire. Then have them read that list to themselves. Eventually, those words begin to stick and it becomes easier to get rid of negative thoughts.
Before a student can fully attain a growth mindset, they need to work on their self-control. This includes letting go of worries that may be holding them back. Help them distinguish between worries that are not in their control and ones that they can work on with a specific plan. Download this self-control activity now.
If you want more in depth practice for your kids, check out my new Growth Mindset Journal for kids called Learn, Grow, Succeed. It is a self guided journey that they can take on their own. It has been tested by my 9 year old daughter who was also the inspiration for the book. Pair it with a fun pack of colored pencils or markers.
Download a free week of my growth mindset bellringer journal for kids. It comes in two versions: 1st-3rd grade, and 4th-8th grade. Each includes 40 weeks of prompts for your students to develop higher self-esteem, create goals, practice weekly breathing techniques, and build a growth mindset.
Order printed class sets mailed to your school here.
You might also want to check out my post on Growth Mindset Quotes for kids. You can use quotes as part of a “morning mindset” routine. Have students read the quote and write what they think it means. You can choose one for each Monday and discuss it or refer to it during the week.
I hope you found a few ideas to get your kids on the right track to developing a growth mindset. Let me know in the comments how you have seen a change in your children after they began building their new mindsets.