3 Ways to Build a Growth Mindset at Home

3 Ways to Build a Growth Mindset at Home

It was everything I could do to hold back my tears. There I was, 30-something years old and taking beginner tap dance. My classmates glided across the floor, but I couldn’t seem to master a basic dance step. “Maybe tap just isn’t for me,” I thought.

Have you had similar thoughts? Can you replace “tap dance” with math, history, or reading? Have you heard this from your child?

Many of us believe that intelligence or proficiency is fixed. “Well, she’s just good at math.” or “He’s a gifted a writer. I could never be that good.” However, science tells us that is just NOT TRUE.  Intelligence is not fixed.  Your brain can grow and create new neural connections throughout your entire life. Think of your brain like a muscle – the more you use it the stronger it becomes.

What a positive and empowering message that sends to our kids! It turns out that knowing you can “make yourself smarter” leads to improved outcomes, especially for at-risk kids. Researcher Dr. Carol Dweck has found that “[w]hen students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger.

Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.” Just knowing you can improve leads to more effort and ACTUAL improvement.

You can encourage a growth mindset in your own kids at home. While it takes some changes to your own behavior, it’s so worth it!

3 Ways to Grow a Growth Mindset at Home

Educate Yourself

Check out the Mindset Works website, watch Carol Dweck’s Ted Talk or this video on her research, or take a free online course, available at Mindset Kit

Change how you speak to your kids

Praise the process, not their intelligence or giftedness. The focus becomes on the effort, not the outcome. Kids who are praised for hard work, are more likely to work hard and take risks in the future. If kids are praised for their intelligence they are less likely to take risks; if they fail it must be because they are “dumb.”

Instead of saying, “You are so smart!”, say “You worked so hard on that!” Instead of “Maybe math just isn’t your thing” (Please, please, please never say that!) try “I think it’s time we try some new strategies.” Find more examples and explanations at Mindset Parenting.​

Model growth mindset language and encourage your children to use it as well. At my last school, we always added the word “yet” to kids’ negative statements about themselves. “I don’t know this stuff.” “You mean you don’t know it . . . yet!” While the kids groaned, they understood our point and they kept working.

Here are some great suggestions from Fieldcrest Elementary School :​

Growth Mindset phrases

Embrace failure

Wait, what? Yes, embrace failure. Talk about failure with your kids. How did mistakes lead to new lessons learned? When you make mistakes, respond in a positive manner and treat them as a learning opportunity.

Be positive, not negative about your child’s mistakes. What strategies is your child using? Are they working? If not, find new strategies. (For example, if flashcards don’t help, stop using them.) Discuss with your child what he or she can do differently next time.

A growth mindset doesn’t grow overnight. It will take repeated practice on your part, but instilling a growth mindset is an incredible gift for your child (and yourself.)

How do you encourage a growth mindset? Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Related Posts: Why You Need to Take Academic RisksWhat NOT to Say When Your Child is FailingHow to Make the Most of Short Parent-Teacher Conferences, Top 5 Books for Parenting Teens


“Decades of Scientific Research That Started a Growth Mindset Revolution.” The Growth Mindset – What Is Growth Mindset – Mindset Works. Mindset Works, 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.”Growth Mindset for Parents Course.” Mindset Kit. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.

“How Parents Can Instill a Growth Mindset at Home.” Growth Mindset Parenting. Mindset Works, 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. Skelton, Stephanie. “Growth Mindset – Talk It.” Growth Mindset – Talk It. N.p., Jan. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2017

8 thoughts on “3 Ways to Build a Growth Mindset at Home”

  • This is great to know and I’m glad I read this. I’ve been struggling on what to say to my kids when they say “I can’t.” Not struggle but more like what else can I say to encourage them. I usually say “yes you can do it just keep trying.” Then once they accomplish what they were trying to do, I usually praise them and tell them, “you see, you can do it, you just had to try harder.” Thanks for reminding us as parents that it’s something that can be learned and taught by what we say to our kids.

    • Even as a teacher, it was so easy to default to phrases like, “You’re so talented!” or “You’re smart.” I’m trying to be very conscious of my words when I talk to my own child.

  • This is great. I recently read an article about shifting the way we praise kids to leave room for them to believe they can keep improving while feeling proud of their achievement. It was along the lines of “wow, you can read so many words in that book. Imagine howw great it will be when you learn more words?!”. Angreat way to get them excited about reaching and pushing past their potential than thinking their intelligence is fixed. Great post and tips!

  • I was just sitting next to a father and his son on the ski lift. The son said “I can’t” and the father said, “don’t say that, say you can!” I was so affected by it – what an inspirational father that kid has. Great post about changing how you frame things with your kids.

  • Love this post! While I don’t have kids yet, this is the mindset that I want to build with (the future) them. Also, I love Carol Dweck’s Ted Talk!

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