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What exactly is a growth mindset?

Learn about what a growth mindset is and how it can help your teen succeed in school and life

Mother looking at son working on his laptop

A growth mindset is a way of thinking and approaching life that can have a positive impact on learning, personal development and achieving goals. It’s an attitude that encourages individuals, including teens, to believe that their abilities and intelligence can be developed over time through effort, learning and perseverance. Some teens may already have a growth mindset while others might have more of a fixed mindset, causing them to see their strengths and weaknesses as fixed traits that cannot be changed or developed.

Growth Mindset in Action

When it comes to encouraging a more positive attitude there are a number of things you can do to point your teen in the right direction and plant the seeds for the kind of mindset that will see them thrive.

1. Praise effort over talent

Success is not solely defined by achievements, such as winning a race or getting an A in an exam, but also by the learning, growth and character-building that occurs along the way. Effort is the path to mastery, so when praising your teen, praise the process they engaged in. Compliment their ability to embrace challenges and their perseverance and improvement in the task, rather than simply focussing on the outcome.

2. Reframe failure as learning

Struggle is the essence of learning. Teach your teen that failure is not a sign of inadequacy, but rather a steppingstone towards improvement and an opportunity to enhance their abilities. Everyone faces failure at some point. When giving feedback to your teen, aim to be constructive and help them to identify areas of strength and improvement.

3. Encourage exploration

Nurture your teens curiosity by encouraging questions, creativity, and new learning opportunities. Whether it’s a new hobby, a challenging subject, or a social situation, show interest in their activities and guide them towards resources that can help them expand their knowledge and skills. Stepping out of your comfort zone is important in all stages of life, but it is especially beneficial for teens who are in the process of finding their own goals and passions. If your teen is naturally drawn to certain activities, it could lead to them discovering their spark.

4. Promote perseverance

The ability to persevere is an essential aspect of maintaining a growth mindset. Mistakes and failures can be hard for teens to deal with, but encouraging them to keep trying when things get tough can help them learn and improve. Providing examples of people who overcame obstacles in order to achieve their goals can help your teen understand that everyone deals with failure, and their efforts can pay off in the end.

5. Practice what you preach

Show your teen that you also value learning, effort and overcoming challenges. Strive to model positive self-talk and encourage your teen to replace negative statements “I’m not good at this” with positive ones “I can get better with practice”.

Maintaining a growth mindset isn’t always easy. When your teen is putting in the effort but is still struggling to see results, it can be hard for them to stay positive. By encouraging your teen to take on a more positive approach, you can do your part to inspire them and help them to reach their full potential.

Last Updated: 13 December 2023