Raising successful children begins and ends with their mindset. By encouraging your child to develop the level of grit necessary to power through challenges, you can help them become motivated, resilient, and passionate enough to not only succeed but excel in every part of their education. 

Children - they're creative, adventurous, and naturally curious.

It's very likely that, even from a young age, you observed the same traits in your child that so many other parents do: the willingness to try new things, the excitement about exploring the world around them, and the tireless enthusiasm for doing the things they love. 

These are only a few examples of the most important traits in young children, the qualities that shape the foundations of their character and prepare them for a successful path in the future. But how does a child manage to maintain these crucial qualities even well into their maturity?

How should you, as a parent, encourage your child to embrace new challenges, to not be afraid of failure and be able to try over and over again until they triumph?

That's where the idea of a "growth mindset" comes in: the belief that your abilities are a result of your own hard work, not because of a natural, fixed level of intelligence that you might have been born with. And this mindset, professionals believe, is what holds the ultimate key to success in children. 

What exactly is a growth mindset?

Originally coined by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, the logic behind this concept lies in a person's perception of their own skills and abilities. A "growth mindset", at its core, is a way of thinking that encourages effort and progress. It rejects the theory that someone's capacity to succeed is set in stone from birth; instead, it promotes an understanding that dedication and hard work are what really allow people to achieve their goals. 

Dweck, in her 2014 Ted Talk, observed that children who reacted well to difficult challenges consistently performed better than children who shied way from them in fear of failure. The main difference, of course, lay in their approach to the situation. The first group of children weren't afraid of a challenge because their primary goal was to learn. They had a "shockingly positive" outlook. "They understood that their abilities could be developed," Dweck explained. "They had what I call a growth mindset." 

How does a growth mindset help children learn and develop?

The children Dweck described were able to succeed because of the beliefs they held in their own abilities. Instead of giving up in the face of a tricky obstacle, all of these children possessed a mentality that granted them the strong desire to persevere and the efforts to back it up. Since they saw failure as a learning opportunity instead of the be-all and end-all of their work, they could pick themselves up again and again, gaining new skills and experiences and improving each time until they finally overcame the challenge.

At its root, that's what the growth mindset is all about: the ability to accept the possibility of failure, and the willingness to put in the level of dedication needed to succeed.

It's been consistently proven in studies that children with a growth mindset are always more likely to excel in their education and careers than those without one, because the qualities that helped them develop that mindset - qualities like resilience, like tenacity, like creative thinking - are ones that will prove useful well into adulthood and their journey into the professional world. 

[Fixed mindset VS. growth mindset - what's the difference?]

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's the "fixed mindset", which Dweck observed in a different type of children - a group that saw the difficult challenge she gave them as a catastrophe and feared that their own intelligence was being negatively judged in relation to their failure. 

While a growth mindset focuses on the development of success through effort and persistence, a fixed mindset maintains the belief that a person's abilities are "fixed" and cannot be changed, not even through challenging yourself, learning new skills, and gaining valuable experiences, all things that children with a growth mindset know to value. 

Dweck's students with fixed mindsets were solely concentrated on the "now" instead of contemplating what they could have the power to do in the future. "There's hardly any activity," she stated. "They run from the error. They don't engage with it."

"But on the right, you have the students with the growth mindset, the idea that abilities can be developed. They engage deeply. They process the error. They learn from it and they correct it." 

Where the students with the fixed mindsets lacked, the students with the growth mindsets excelled. They knew how to challenge themselves. They believed in repeated efforts and practice. They saw failure not as a dead end, but as an open door to more opportunities and experiences that could help them improve. 

This one crucial difference, of course, is the very centre of Dweck's theory, and the key quality that sets successful children apart. 

The link between "growth" and "grit"

The secret to effectively developing a growth mindset in children actually lies in another G-word: grit. 

"Grit" is a word that captures the level of perseverance and resilience that is necessary for a child's growth, not only in their academic performance but also in their character, their outlook on life, and the abilities and skills they require to succeed. Having grit means having motivation. It means being able to try again after a failure. It means sticking with something no matter how challenging it is, and it means keeping focus even in the face of setbacks and obstacles. 

Grit is characterized by perseverance, passion, and determination. It's crucial not only because of the way it encourages motivated, resolute children, but also because it's one of the most key predictors of success. Children with grit are more likely to press onwards towards their goals and achieve their long-term dreams, and for this reason, having grit in their character is the first step towards successfully building a child's growth mindset. 

What can you do as a parent to help your child succeed?

At the end of the day, it's up to each individual child to determine whether or not they possess the necessary qualities to develop a growth mindset, but there are certain triggers that can help a great deal in encouraging these positive traits.

Some of the ways through which you can encourage a growth mindset include:

  1. Praise children for effort, not ability. This helps your child understand that the hard work they put in towards achieving a goal is far more important to their success than any natural talent they may possess (no matter how exceptional it is!).
    Instead of saying "you're so smart," try to say "you worked so hard, I appreciate that" or "you studied very well, I'm proud of you."
  2. Teach your child to persist through difficult times. Let them understand that obstacles and setbacks are natural, and help guide them through brainstorming ways to overcome them. This builds problem-solving skills and strengthens the grit necessary for them to succeed. 
  3. Be a positive role model in your child's life. Children learn from their parents first and foremost, and it's important to reflect the same degree of effort and enthusiasm that you want to nurture in your child. When you run into an obstacle together, make sure to show your child how you deal with it as an adult.
  4. Encourage your child to set goals. Goal-setting is a crucial skill that helps young children develop planning and critical thinking skills at an early age. Writing down goals, even if they're as small as "practice the alphabet for 15 minutes today", provides a source of guidance for your child to work hard towards achievements.
  5. Don't unnecessarily punish your child for failure; instead, help them see it as a way to grow. Communicate to them that failure is healthy and they shouldn't fear the possibility of it, because trying your best is always the most important part of the process. 

Activities that teach your child new skills and knowledge on top of developing their existing abilities are a great way of helping them gain the qualities needed for a growth mindset. This can include anything from encouraging them to keep a journal of their successes and failures to inspiring them to working on challenging tasks, such as puzzles, hands-on experiments, and educational DIY kits that motivate children to learn through a creative and engaging package. 

How can STEAM education encourage a growth mindset?

At Inspirely | STEAM Education, we understand the value of developing a growth mindset in children early on, and we believe in doing so through nurturing a love for learning through the STEAM model of education - science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. These five areas span a countless selection of skills and talents and prepare children for their future careers through a practical, hands-on approach that supports young minds and stimulates their natural curiosity.

STEAM education is important in building a growth mindset in your child because it helps them understand the fun in challenging themselves, the importance of both creative and critical thinking, and the balance of failure and success on the path towards their goals. It teaches them to believe in their efforts. It gives them grit. It helps them grow. 

At Inspirely, our goal is to empower your child - whether that be through STEAM-focused online summer camps or classes that teach crucial 21st-century digital skills - and we strive to do so in a way that sets the foundation for your children's futures while inspiring them in the present.


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