Mindset theory is a term that was coined some 30 years ago by Stanford University faculty psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck. Mindset theory offered a way to understand the effects of the beliefs that individuals hold for the nature of intelligence. Dweck became very interested in the attitudes students exhibited about failure after she observed that some kids were able to quickly rebound after a failure while others would be completely devastated. After studying “failure” behavior in thousands of children, Dweck created the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset. They describe the beliefs kids have about intelligence and learning and how this belief determines how much effort they’re willing to put into things.


What is a fixed mindset as opposed to a growth mindset?

When kids have a fixed mindset, they believe their intelligence (and other traits) are set in stone and cannot be changed. For this type of person, they believe that no amount of effort or practice will make them better at something. These kids are often terrified of failing because it means (to them) that they will never be able to get any better.

Kids with a growth mindset,  tend to believe they can become smarter by putting in effort. They believe they can change and become better and stronger. These types of kids believe their intelligence (and other traits) can improve with practice and effort. They usually don’t dread failure as much as those with a fixed mindset because they believe they can improve on it.


Research shows that a growth mindset leads to positive learning outcomes

In 2007, two studies explored the role of implicit theories of intelligence in adolescents’ mathematics achievement. The first study found that those youths who were instilled with the belief that intelligence can be changed showed an improvement in grades over two years of junior high school. The students in the study who believed intelligence is fixed did not have an improvement in grades – their grades remained flat. In Study 2, students who were taught that effort can change intelligence and learning showed increased classroom motivation. Students in the control group (those who didn’t receive lessons about effort affecting outcome) had an ongoing downward trend in grades, while this trend was reversed for students in the experimental group.


What can you do to improve or change your child’s mindset? What you say matters – reward effort, not intelligence

There are many things you can do to improve your kids’ mindset – even if they seem quite fixed at the moment:

While we think constant comments like “You are so smart,” and “I’m so proud of that A you got on the math test,” are good for our children, the truth is, they can contribute to the development of a more fixed mindset. That’s because these comments attribute the kid’s success to innate abilities instead of effort. Our children can come to internalize these kinds of comments to mean they were simply born this way and they have no control over how good they are at math or how smart they are.

A much more effective way to encourage your kids is to reward and notice the effort and practice. In this scenario, “I’m so proud of that A you got on the math test,” becomes “You aced that test thanks to all the time you spent practicing your multiplication tables. Way to go!” By praising your kids’ effort, you will see more and more of it, and encourage them to begin to adopt a growth mindset; something that will serve them well all their lives.

Put kid-friendly growth mindset tools into your child’s hands!

These days, kids seem to be happiest when they are engaging with some kind of electronic device. You can positively leverage that iPad love with a kid-centric app like Ninja Focus. Ninja Focus (your kid’s digital mindfulness coach) features growth mindset meditations that can help them adopt more of a growth mindset. And THAT is a skill that will help them throughout their academic career and beyond. Why not download a free trial today and give it a try with YOUR child?