Growth Mindset

Albert Einstein once said “it’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”. This is a wonderful example of how a growth mindset can have a profound impact on an individual’s life.  Fostering a growth mindset in our children is arguably as important as any academic skill. It’s a skill that can support them in every aspect of their lives!

A child with a fixed mindset believes they ‘can’t’ do things they’ve never tried or haven’t mastered yet, and they are often unwilling to attempt new tasks due to their fear of ‘imperfection’ or making mistakes. This fear of failure and high levels of perfectionism often results in reduced confidence, underlying anxiety and reduced emotional regulation, particularly as task demands increase at home and school.

Daily tasks within the home such as dressing independently, bike riding, drawing, handwriting, and managing shoelaces may be perceived as being too difficult for them to master, and as a result, their independence, social and play skills, and their engagement in activities at home or school will be impacted.

An individual with a growth mindset believes that their abilities are based on their willingness to practice and persevere with tasks, and through this, their skills will improve. A growth mindset allows a child to feel a sense of success with each step towards mastering a new skill. Each feeling of success provides a child with positive reinforcement and motivation to continue to practice and eventually master tasks throughout their development, both at home and school. This growth mindset will empower children in all aspects of their life — not only through their schooling years, but also far into the future.

Tips for supporting growth mindset development:

  • Praising or rewarding a child for their efforts in completing, or even attempting tasks is a great way to encourage a growth mindset. When providing praise, it is important you are explicit and provide an example, rather then simply saying “good job”. For example:
    • I am so proud that you did not give up during that task, even though it was tricky!
    • Your brain is becoming so much stronger at this task every time you try.
    • I can tell you tried your hardest because…
    • I can tell that you’re not afraid of a challenge because…
  • Recording the child’s progress in a task can be a helpful tool to show the child their improvements. This strategy provides the child with ‘evidence’ of their improvements. Ways of recording progress may include:
    • Videos: videoing the child when they first attempt the task and then again when they master the first small step of the task. Show the child the difference between the two videos.
    • Photos: take a photo of the child’s work at their first attempt and show their improvement after each practice. Keeping a record of this will show the child’s development over time.
    • Numbers: depending on the task, you may record the number of attempts, number of successes (e.g. correct formation of a letter, number of skips in a row before stopping etc.), or record the time and notice how much quicker they are getting.
  • Break down new or novel tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, when learning to tie their shoes or get dressed, have them only practice the first or last step, and celebrate each attempt. Continue to celebrate each attempt until they are completing the task themselves.
  • Give the child a concrete timeframe or specific number of attempts for a task. This can be done during the regular daily routine, or at a time when they are most relaxed. When a child is aware of when and for how long a task is going to be practiced, they are more likely to participate.

If your child is experiencing difficulties with a task, and you’re unsure if occupational therapy can help, contact with the team at Empowered Kids and we will be happy to have a chat with you.