A Beginners Guide to Growth Mindset: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Squash Fear of Failure and Become Lifelong Learners

A Beginners Guide to Growth Mindset: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Squash Fear of Failure and Become Lifelong Learners

If there’s one thing educators know for sure, it’s this — mindset matters. Day after day, we see how students are impacted by their attitudes and beliefs about their own abilities. With a growth mindset, the sky’s the limit. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is often a recipe for failure, frustration, and a long-term lack of fulfillment. Here are the basic definitions and differences:

Growth Mindset: A belief that one’s intelligence can be developed. Students with this mindset believe they can become smarter and achieve more…and they do! They are not afraid of making mistakes and are able to persist through life’s various challenges. 

Fixed Mindset: A belief that one’s intelligence is static. Students with this mindset believe their qualities and abilities are unchangeable. They compensate by shying away from challenges, becoming defensive toward constructive criticism, or trying to prove themselves.

The terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” were originally coined by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck. Her research described how growth mindsets foster success not only in the classroom, but in life.Consider these five strategies for helping your student develop one.

Examine the mindset you are modeling.

“I’m no good at math.” “Sports are not my thing.” “My brain just doesn’t work that way.”

“I can’t read maps.” Do you catch yourself casually making statements like this?

Parents are a child’s first teachers. If we want our children to develop growth mindsets, we have to embrace them for ourselves. Let your child see you trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone, and responding to challenges with grace and grit.

Learn about the growth mindset with your child.

The science behind growth mindset is fascinating. If the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again,” isn’t motivating your child, consider going deeper and helping them understand how the brain truly works. 

In a nutshell, modern science explains how malleable the human brain is, and how it can actually grow through our experiences, actions, and habits. Consider reading the book “Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It” by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. Learning about the brain is also a wonderful opportunity to highlight God’s unique design.

Have intentional conversations about what your child is learning and how they are performing in school.

How you talk about the school day can make or break your child’s mindset. Whenever possible, avoid dismissing mentions of mistakes and challenges and turn the conversation to what was learned from a hard experience. 

Praise is important and helps build self esteem, but be mindful of what you are praising. Rather than praising talent or effort, try praising your child for the approach they took to a challenging task, the strategies they used, and the process you saw them engage to reach the finish line.

Help your child overcome fear of failure.

Every parent strives to provide unconditional love, but with some children, our responses to failure have to be well thought out. Try to encourage a sensitive child by highlighting their mistakes as learning experiences.

Children that shy away from challenges because they fear they might fail often need help envisioning the potential outcomes. Try posing the question, “What’s the worst that could happen if you…” When parents do this, kids often see that the rewards of trying something new are greater than the potential pitfalls.

Plan activities with your child where it’s safe to fail.

If your child has anxiety around potential failure, the first step is changing the conversation. So, “I can’t do it,” becomes, “You can’t do it yet.” Parents — check out this awesome video on The Power of Yet.

The next step is to get out there and practice. Go to a children’s museum during a non-peak times and encourage your young learner through some of the stations. Sign up for piano lessons. Encourage your teens to try a new sport in a recreational setting. And make sure they remember what fail truly stands for:


See How Your Child Can Grow at GRACE Christian School

If you’re looking for a school where your child will be encouraged and equipped as a lifelong learner, we invite you to learn more about GRACE. Our teachers work to instill a growth mindset in every student, and spent the summer reading titles like Carol Dweck’s “Mindset,” and “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. Their research benefits students in powerful ways.

To learn more about GRACE Christian School, download our free e-book today.