Developing a Growth Mindset

Do you ever think about your thinking? Have you considered how your ‘self-talk’ impacts your attitude and actions?

I remember telling myself chemistry was hard because my sister always said it was hard and I decided the teacher was ‘no good’. I went on to hate chemistry and failed, yet managed to do physics and maths fine. All those subjects required some work and plenty of study but my enjoyment levels (and results!) in those classes were very different.

Psychologist Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor, is known for her work on developing a growth mindset. She says,

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

I wonder if my chemistry results would have been different if I’d decided that chemistry might be hard and was going to require a big effort and lots of practice on my part but with some help, I could take on the challenge, just as I was doing in physics and maths.

Through conversation, activities and role modeling, parents, leaders and mentors can assist in developing this attitude of a growth mindset in children – building resilience, increasing engagement and promoting appropriate risk taking in learning.

Our words become our self-talk

Our words, both spoken and thought, impact our mindset and can help us go forward rather than stay stuck. Changing our words can change our mindset.

Rather than, “This is too hard” we can say, “This is hard but with practice I can improve.”

“I’m always shy” can change to, “I’m shy but I can manage to talk to one person.”

“I can’t do this” could become “I can get help to have a go at this.”

Watch this clip to better understand the concept.

Fixed mindset or growth mindset?

Where might you have a fixed or a growth mindset? It might be fixed about chemistry (I can relate to that!) and at the same time you might have a growth mindset about another area in your life (for example, physical exercise).

Our mindset impacts all areas of life, including our spiritual beliefs and understanding. Where do you think you may be limiting your relationship with God by having a fixed mindset about Him? Think about some Bible stories where God has shown He is at work in people’s lives, moving them from a limited to a more open mindset about Him.

Family Exercise

As a family, you might like to consider (or print) some growth-mindset statements, sharing examples of each statement in your own lives:


“I can TRAIN my BRAIN to do it!”

“I can’t do it YET… with EFFORT I can!”

“My MISTAKES help me GROW!”

Remember, just as an athlete doesn’t turn up at the Olympics and win a gold medal overnight, so it is with us. As we take on a challenge, it takes training, effort and learning from our mistakes to make progress. Attitude has impact.

Have fun as you become more aware of your mindset!

– Colleen Houghton
Kids COACH coordinator of Community Mentoring, Crossway Lifecare
Colleen has over 20 years’ experience working with children and a background in nursing and pastoral care. She is married with three adult children and three grandsons who are a source of great love, fun and lots of games!