Growth Mindset: What Is It and How Can Parents Use It

When students are having trouble mastering a subject or topic, it can be easy for them to get frustrated and think, “I can’t do this.”

But what if students could change their attitude from "I can't do it" to "I can work hard, improve, and get better?" Say hello to growth mindset.

“When students possess the belief that their intelligence and skills are not fixed, but rather can be developed with effort and perseverance, they are exhibiting a growth mindset,” says Dr. Myra Finneran, curriculum specialist at Palmetto Christian Academy (PCA), a private Christian college preparatory school serving preschool through 12th grade. “Cultivating a growth mindset culture in education not only impacts student achievement, but it impacts how students respond to academic challenges and adversity. It truly helps them to become lifelong learners.”


The history of growth mindset

The concept of a growth mindset, which can be applied in everything from sports and education and business to relationships, is based on the work of Stanford professor Carol Dweck. Her research centered on the impact of letting go of a "fixed" mindset (the belief that intelligence and talent are fixed traits) in favor of a “growth” mindset (the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.) Teaching a growth mindset, Dweck found, fosters motivation and productivity.

How educators are instilling a growth mindset

“It’s about shifting the value of academics from the drive for perfection to the value of effort and perseverance,” Dr. Finneran says. “Shifting the culture from where failure is viewed as a judgment to a culture where failure is seen as a primary method for growing, learning, and achieving.”

The primary way educators incorporate a growth mindset is by adjusting their language. For example, a popular word at PCA is “yet.” If a student says, "I'm not good at math," the teacher should say, "You're not good ‘yet’." Another popular phrase is "working on it." Teachers focus on praising effort and perseverance over perfection.

“Here at PCA, I have been working with the teachers to instill a growth mindset culture throughout our school,” Dr. Finneran says. “We work diligently to instill these ideas and beliefs in our students so they can see and reach their fullest potential. I am holding monthly professional development sessions for teachers where I am providing them with thought provoking lessons with tools and resources they can use.”

How parents can cultivate a growth mindset at home

“Being the primary educator of the child, parents have the most powerful impact on their child's mindset,” Dr. Finneran says. “They can help cultivate a growth mindset by focusing on process praise instead of perfection, accepting mistakes as learning opportunities, and understanding the role of emotions in the learning process.”

By encouraging this philosophy both at home and at school, parents can set their children up for success in all aspects of life — and set them on a path to becoming motivated, productive, and hardworking adults.

In Mount Pleasant, Palmetto Christian Academy is a private, Christian, college preparatory school serving students in preschool through 12th grade. PCA's mission is equipping students to pursue Jesus Christ passionately as they impact the culture. For more information, visit the school’s website or call (843) 881-9967.