Growing Your Child’s
Learning Muscles

Your child is learning from you all the time – and the way you talk about learning can help make them even smarter. Our attitudes about learning – called “mindsets” – have a profound impact on how our children learn, their attitudes about making mistakes, and their self-confidence. A positive “growth mindset” will help your child succeed in the classroom and in life.

Here are some quick questions and resources to help you learn about growth mindsets – the name researchers use for the idea that hard work leads to success.

Do you have a growth mindset?

What is a Growth Mindset?

Do you have a growth mindset?

Read and respond to these two statements to see.

"You can lean new things, but you can't really change your basic intelligence."

"Your intelligence is something about you that you can't change very much."

Get Results

Your responses indicate a growth mindset

Many people show aspects of both growth and fixed mindsets. To foster a growth mindset in your child, be mindful of your own thinking and of the messages you send with your words and actions.

Your responses indicate an intermediate mindset

Many people show aspects of both growth and fixed mindsets. To foster a growth mindset in your child, be mindful of your own thinking and of the messages you send with your words and actions.

Your responses may indicate a fixed mindset

Mindsets can change. The first step toward fostering a growth mindset in your child is to be mindful of your own thinking and of the messages you send with your words and actions.

What's the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?

  • About Growth Mindsets

    Beliefs

    • Intelligence improves through study and practice
    • Intelligence is like a muscle that grows stronger with training

    Children with Growth Mindsets

    • Find the classroom to be a more excited and less judgmental place
    • Believe they can develop their abilities and that the classroom is a place to do that
    • Believe challenges are an opportunity to grow and they can push themselves to get better
  • About Fixed Mindsets

    Beliefs

    • Intelligence is fixed at birth and doesn’t change with practice
    • Like eye color, you’re stuck with whatever you’re born with

    Children with Growth Mindsets

    • Find the classroom to be a more exciting and less judgmental place
    • See school as a place where their abilities are evaluated, not developed
    • Want to show they are smart and avoid looking dumb
    • Believe mistakes mean they lack talent
Are you making the most of failure?

Which Mindset is Right?

Are you making the most of failure?

Children learn how to behave by imitating others. One of the most powerful ways you can help your child develop a growth mindset is to model it with your own actions. New research shows that one powerful way parents can do this is through their reaction to failure.

You can test your own response to failure by thinking about and responding to these three statements.

"The effects of failure are negative and should be avoided."

"Experiencing failure enhances performance and productivity."

"Experiencing failure facilitates learning and growth."

Willing to Fail, Eager to Learn

Parents with a growth mindset recognize that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Their attitudes towards failure convey two important messages to their children.

  1. Learning and improvement are more important than grades or performance
  2. Failure is good - if you use it as an opportunity to learn and grow
Are you using "growth" language?

Three Ways to a Growth Mindset

Are you using "growth" language?

The language parents use when speaking with their children can have a profound impact on a child’s attitude toward learning and self confidence.

Can you identify which statements below reflect a growth mindset? Choose YES for the ones that convey a growth mindset.

"It looks like that was too easy. Let's give you something a bit more challenging."

"That isn't the right answer. You don't understand it yet."

"You are so smart."

"I know it was hard, but look how your effort paid off."

"You’re really talented in math--you should definitely focus on it next year."

"She’ll get it. She’s working on it and making progress."

"You did so well! Keep working hard and you will do great again next year."

Growth Mindset Language

Parents with a growth mindset will praise their child’s efforts, strategies and progress, not just the right answers. Helping children understand that when they struggle their brains are growing will motivate them to succeed.

What else can you do?

What else can you do?

You have a powerful impact on your child’s mindset, and we’re here to provide you with tools you can use based on the latest research.

Here are three steps for helping your child adopt a growth mindset.

1. Share Your Own Mistakes

When adults get excited about the learning that mistakes can facilitate, children start to think of mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. This leads to important changes in learning behavior:

  • 1 Children stop avoiding challenging work just because it could mean making more mistakes.
  • 2 Children stop trying to "sweep mistakes under the rug" because they stop thinking of them as something to be ashamed of.
Action Ideas Action Ideas
  • Learn from your mistakes – out loud! How you react to your own mistakes can show that it’s all about the process of learning, not about being right.
  • At the dinner table, talk about a time that you struggled with something and how hard it was and how you overcame it. Then ask your kids to share their own experience and what they learned from it.
  • Get excited when your child makes a mistake and help her think about what can be learned from it. Even a “careless” mistake like forgetting to study for a test could be an opportunity to learn about prioritization and to-do lists.

2. Use Growth Mindset Language

Everyone falls into fixed mindset thinking sometimes. The first step toward fostering a growth mindset in our children is to become aware of language that signals one mindset or the other.

Here Are Some Questions to Think About

  • 1 How often do you notice and praise effort, strategies, and progress?
  • 2 What thoughts did you have when your child excelled? How could you frame their success in a growth mindset way, e.g., by talking about the process that went into their success?
  • 3 What thoughts did you have this week when your child struggled? How could you frame their struggle in a growth mindset way by helping them understand that this is when their brain is growing most?
  • 4 What kinds of fixed and growth mindset statements did your child make this week?
Action Ideas Action Ideas
  • Think about the “praise language” you use. Is it effort, strategy, persistence, focus, and improvement? Or does it sound more like a fixed trait or ability?
  • When you or your child makes a mistake, does your reaction encourage learning and growth? Or does it encourage them to avoid challenges in the future?
  • You may be surprised how often mindset statements come up! Keep a chart on your fridge for a week listing every time your or child shows a fixed or growth mindset – then try again a month later to see how it changes.

3. Explain How Practice Rewires the Brain

Numerous studies now show that people become more likely to adopt a growth mindset if they learn about the scientific evidence for the brain's ability to rewire itself through practice. One way to foster a growth mindset in your child is to share this evidence with them.

Action Ideas Action Ideas
  • When you and your child are at the table or in the car, explain that you learned that the brain rewires itself and becomes smarter when we learn new things and challenge ourselves!
  • Tell them a little bit about what you have read, or show them one of these videos.
  • Ask your kids where in their lives they use – or could use - a growth mindset.