What is a Growth Mindset?

I spend a lot of time researching topics pertinent to children and families that are facing the everyday challenges of Learning Disabilities.

One resource that I turn to often is Understood.  This is a comprehensive website geared towards parents and educators with various articles, resources, and toolkits that I have found especially useful in working with children and families experiencing Learning Disability.

In piggybacking on my last blog article , I wanted to focus on the practical ways parents can help children become self-advocates.

Developed at Stanford University by professor Carol Dweck, the concept of Growth Mindset focuses on the belief among children that they can fail at something, and still succeed.   Children with this mindset take feedback and what they learn from an experience and create new strategies to improve.

This is in contrast to a fixed mindset where failure would then lead to the child’s belief that they just aren’t good at the task at hand and that they don’t have what it takes to be successful.

Keep in mind, that the concepts of growth and fixed mindsets is fluid.  An individual can have both dependent upon experiences and feedback.


So… now that we get the concept, how do we encourage a growth mindset in children? 

The simple answer is Process.

Think about the implications of the growth mindset with children struggling to read and write.  Children that experience Learning Disabilities often times feel that they are not as good as their peers, experience increased anxiety, and often times feel that they are “stupid”.   By encouraging a growth mindset, we pull the focus away from effort ( “just try harder”),  and capability (” I’m just bad at reading”), and target how children approach the inevitable challenges that they will face.

Steps to creating a Growth Mindset:

  • It is imperative that children know that the adults in their world believe that they are able to find ways to create new strategies for success.  Make sure when you are talking with your child, you stay away from making statements such as ” reading just may not be your thing”  or ” don’t worry about it, writing is just not your strength”
  • Focus on the process. While it is helpful to say to your child ” you really worked hard on your project”, to promote a growth mindset you may say ” I love the way your organized your tasks on the calendar in order to get your project done” .

This type of praise puts the emphasis on the steps that were taken in order to produce the end result and lets them know that you value their ability to find strategies that work for them.

  • Follow up with your child to give and elicit feedback.  Walk through “next” steps and what they learned from the experience.   ” what would you do differently next time? ”   ” Do you think it would be helpful to talk with your teacher? ” ” What did you learn? ”  ” Would using a calendar to organize your time be helpful?”
  • Most importantly, impart the message that failure is not a reason to stop working to improve.  Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm– Winston Churchill


For more information on the growth mindset, see Growth Mindset: What You Need to Know




For more information on my practice and services, see my website:  Nichols Counseling LLC






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