Humans are not hardwired for perfection which means each of us will experience failures, perhaps more often than we would like. But if we quit the first time we try something new, we will never amount to anything in life. We need to teach our children that trying again is simply part of life.
When we aren’t the best at something, it creates an opportunity for us to feel real struggle. Real struggle builds real character. So how do we teach our children to develop the “grit” to pick themselves up and try again after failing?
We need to teach our children to develop a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is the belief that one can become smarter, better, and more successful by continuing to try. What a gift it would be to our children to help them develop a passion and perseverance for pursuing their long-term goals. Here are five tips on how to raise a confident child with a growth mindset:
#1. Introduce the types of mindsets and how the brain works.
There are two types of mindsets that can determine the actions we take—or don’t take—as we navigate through life. A growth mindset is the belief that our abilities can be improved with effort. A fixed mindset is the opposite: the belief that our intelligence and abilities are unchangeable. When you teach the differences of growth and fixed mindset, your children can start to recognize them in themselves and others.
According to Dr. Dan Siegel, children begin to develop a growth mindset just from learning that the brain grows new connections as they practice and learn how to do something. Once they understand how the brain works, they get excited about the learning process and feel less worried about making mistakes.
#2. Discuss positive and negative self-talk.
Talk to your child about the concept of positive and negative self-talk and their “inner voice.” Teach them to challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. Provide examples for your child, such as changing an unhelpful thought like “this is too hard” to “this may take more time and effort than I previously thought.”
#3. Praise efforts, not just successes.
Instead of focusing your attention on results or successes, recognize the effort put into completing a task. By focusing on your child’s efforts, win or lose, they will learn that what is most important is their effort, promoting an internal sense of self-efficacy. This mindset will not only be beneficial for children who struggle, but also for those who achieve success easily because it will push them to continue challenging themselves.
#4. Teach them the power of “yet.”
I can’t dance. I can’t ride a scooter. I can’t figure this out. Teach your children to add the powerful word “yet” to the end of those sentences. I can’t dance yet. I can’t ride a scooter yet. I can’t figure this out yet. Notice the difference? By adding the word yet, your child will recognize that through hard work and effort, skills can be developed.
#5. Model growth mindset thinking and behavior.
The best way to encourage your child to have a growth mindset is to develop and model it yourself. One way to do this is to positively think aloud when you make mistakes or find something difficult. (e.g. “This is extremely difficult for me. I guess I better keep practicing.”) Other ways to model growth mindset thinking is by attempting to learn something new, taking on challenges with enthusiasm, and meeting failures with a renewed effort to succeed.
You Won’t Be 100% Growth Mindset All the Time
Developing a growth mindset is something you and your child should strive for, but it is unrealistic to believe that either of you will be in a growth mindset 100% of the time. Do not become discouraged if you find yourself or your child saying or thinking something that does not encourage a never-give-up viewpoint. No one is perfect, which is why the growth mindset is necessary in the first place. Thank goodness we all have a chance to try again!
By applying these tips and encouraging our children to develop a growth mindset, we are building them up to become responsible, mentally strong adults, capable of facing the challenges that life will certainly throw their way.