In the classroom, I would often see children demonstrate traits of two types of mindset: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Children (and adults) with fixed mindsets see intelligence as something that is ingrained, and cannot be changed. They will thus be quick to decide that they cannot do a task, and there is no point in trying since it is beyond them. A growth mindset means that individuals believe that tasks are achievable given time, and that skills can be learnt. Obviously, the latter is the mindset that we want to encourage in all our learners, but it is not always easy to achieve. So how can we help teenage learners adopt the growth mindset?
Teach them about neuroplasticity
As well as being one of my favourite words, this scientific concept has shown that it is possible for us to rewire and reprogramme our brains. Up until the 1960s, it was believed that once we reached adulthood, our brain development had finished, and we could not change our mindset. Now we know that is not true, and we can train our brains to think in a different way. This means that we can reprogramme a mindset that is negative into one that is positive, if we expose the brain to enough positive messages, and challenge our negative way of thinking.
A great way to do this can be through the power of affirmations. These are short positive statements that need to be repeated daily in order for the message to enter our subconscious. Some people like to write them out each day, others like to say them in front of the mirror.
Yet is a powerful word that can make a big difference in mindset. Every time your child goes to say something negative about themselves, try to get them to rephrase it with the word “yet”. So instead of saying, “I cannot do this question”, they need to say “I cannot do this question, yet”. For such a small word, it has a remarkable power to change a sentence and encourage a growth mindset mentality.
Use feedback as an opportunity to learn
Many of us, myself included, can often fear feedback, and see it as criticism, intended to know us down, rather than advice that is intended to build us up. Change their approach to feedback, and help them engage with what the teacher is saying. Remind them that this is their chance to learn, and that the teachers want them to do better. Encourage him/her to seek further feedback where necessary, or ask for clarification if it is not clear.
Catch them being persistent
In order to encourage resilience and persistence, make sure that you actively praise them when they are having a go at something they are finding tricky. Perhaps if they complete an extra class they were feeling nervous about, or go and see a teacher to ask for help. Every time you see them taking steps out of the comfort zone, recognise their achievement and encourage them to keep going.
Permission to make mistakes
This is perhaps one of the most important things to show your child. Remind them that making mistakes is a vital part of growth, and many of us wander down the wrong path for a while, before we discover the right one. This does not mean that it has all been a waste of time, as every opportunity means a change to learn something. Why not share some examples of “famous failures” to inspire them? For example, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job and told she was not a good fit for television! Stephen King had Carrie rejected for publication thirty times and even through it in the bin (his wife rescued it!)
Want to know more about how to help your child develop their growth mindset? I will be running a free five day challenge in my Facebook group, with a live video and handout each day. These will be quick tasks, designed to fit into your child’s busy online learning schedule, and help your child persevere in these challenging times. To join my group and take part in the challenge, go to: