Growth mindset is all the buzz these days. But what exactly is growth mindset? And if it really is that important, how can homeschooling parents use the power of growth mindset to benefit both their children and themselves? Read on for a detailed overview, complete with specific growth mindset tips, especially for homeschooling parents.
Growth mindset tips for homeschooling parents
Let’s start at the very beginning.
What exactly is growth mindset anyway!?
According to Dr. Dweck, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”Dr. Carol S. Dweck, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”
So what’s the alternative to a growth mindset?
A fixed mindset.
Dr. Dweck says, “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”Dr. Carol S. Dweck, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”
Think about how YOU tend to view your own personal qualities, challenges, mistakes, and accomplishments.
When was the last time you experienced a significant challenge? And how did you respond?
This is your first clue as to whether you’re operating with a growth or fixed mindset.
Do you embrace learning new skills even when it’s not easy? Do you enjoy challenges, learn from your mistakes, and believe that with effort and hard work, you will be successful. This describes growth mindset.
On the other hand, when you reflect on your life, do you tend to shy away from challenges, fear embarrassment if you lack initial competence, and avoid mistakes at all costs? If so, this points to a fixed mindset.
Again, depending on how you answer these questions, you’ve got a pretty good indication of what type of mindset you’ve got. Growth or fixed.
And now consider your kids. At this point in their lives, does it seem like they’re exhibiting signs of growth or fixed mindset?
And does it honestly matter!?
I believe wholeheartedly that it DOES matter. In fact, I think it matters A LOT!
Understanding the difference between growth and fixed mindset is invaluable. Identifying what kind of mindset each of our family members has, provides important information for us as homeschooling parents. We’re able to access useful tips and resources for how best to homeschool our children.
It opens the doors to understanding, growing, and learning.
It’s now been a few decades since Dr. Dweck and her colleagues became increasingly interested in their students’ beliefs surrounding achievement and failure. They observed that some students bounced back quickly after a disappointment or setback, (what became known as ‘growth mindset’) while other students were devastated and experienced an extreme drop in confidence, (what became known as ‘fixed mindset’).
Basically, mindset describes the underlying, (and powerful!) beliefs that people have about their own intelligence and learning abilities.
When people believe they can get smarter, they understand the need to exert effort and practice in order to improve their intelligence. The same can be said for athletic pursuits, artistic endeavors, and any other skill a person is interested in obtaining.
Dr. Dweck’s research implies that students who have a growth mindset believe that they have the ability to learn, become smarter, and develop new skills. They understand that the more effort they exert and the more consistent they are in this effort, the more likely it is that they will gain skills and see improvement. When they make mistakes or fail, (again, we’re ALL human so this is obviously inevitable!) they understand that this is just part of the learning process and pick themselves up to face more challenges. When they’re confused and overwhelmed, they ask questions and reach out for support.
Their belief in themselves is ABUNDANT; it’s rooted in GROWTH.
On the other hand, students who have a fixed mindset tend to learn less than they are capable of learning, and avoid challenges for fear that they won’t be able to perform or will embarrass themselves. When these same students make mistakes or fail, (which WILL happen because, again, we’re all human!) they have a very difficult time bouncing back. They assume that they are just bad at a specific task. Instead of asking for help or clarification, they allow their fear of being judged to hold them back from seeking support.
Their belief in themselves is LIMITED; it’s FIXED.
Examples of Mindset in children:
“Math is challenging for me, but I know I can improve with practice.” – GROWTH MINDSET
“I hate math! It’s so hard and I’m no good at it.” – FIXED MINDSET
“I’m not very good at basketball yet. But I know I will get better if I work hard.” – GROWTH MINDSET (Notice the word ‘yet’. It’s a powerful word and we’ll cover its importance below.)
“I’m terrible at basketball. I’m too short and not fast enough to ever be any good so what’s the point in even trying?” – FIXED MINDSET
Examples of mindset in homeschooling parents:
“I’m feeling really overwhelmed about teaching my kids. I’m not sure how homeschooling is going to work for us but I know we can figure it out.” – GROWTH MINDSET
“I’m not patient enough to teach my kids – there’s no way I can homeschool.” – FIXED MINDSET
“My son isn’t reading yet but I can look for resources to help and outsource if we feel the need to. He’ll learn to read, it just might take him longer than most of his peers and that’s OK. – GROWTH MINDSET
“My son will NEVER learn to read! He’s already behind his peers and there’s no way he’s going to catch up.” – FIXED MINDSET
So are we BORN with our mindset?
And if we’re born with a FIXED mindset, does this mean we’re doomed to a life filled with limits?
While the concept of nature vs nurture, genetics, and biochemistry obviously play a significant role in how we perceive the world around us, there is A LOT we can do ourselves to improve our ability to strengthen our minds.
According to Dr. Dweck’s research, as well as the latest research in neuroscience, our brains are WAY more adaptable than we previously thought! Lots of research on brain plasticity shows that neuron connectivity actually has the ability to change. This change occurs through consistent practice, and the result of this practice is that neural networks actually grow NEW connections and strengthen connections that are already existing. These incredible discoveries illustrate how we’re able to increase neural growth which actually alters the way that we think!
Our brains literally have the ability to grow stronger and change with consistent effort!
Challenging ourselves, consistent practice, positive self-talk, and reaching out for support are all ways to strengthen our brains and become more growth-oriented.
Basically, we can “exercise” our brains through thinking positive thoughts and practicing empowering reactions to challenges and adversity.
This is such encouraging news!
A quick note on praise: In our quest to encourage our children, (and ourselves too!) it’s common to offer praise in the form of comments like, “You’re so smart!, You’re so creative!”, and “You’re so talented!” While at first these compliments appear to offer support and encouragement, they say nothing about the effort and determination involved in achievements and accomplishments. We need to be careful about the WAYS in which we offer praise. “You worked so hard on that assignment!”, “You reached out for support and asked questions when you felt overwhelmed!”, and “I’m so proud of you for practicing so hard and not giving up!” are more effective ways to offer encouragement and support.
So instead of praising the actual accomplishment, we should try to praise the effort, dedication, and growth involved in reaching the goal.
Now, while I’m suggesting these growth mindset tips for homeschooling parents, these can easily be incorporated by non-homeschooling parents too. In fact, they can be used by ANYONE!
Use these while interacting with your children but also use them while you’re talking to YOURSELF. Seriously, these are powerful tips!
Growth Mindset Tips for Homeschooling Parents
1. Strengthen Your Brain
Throughout the day, say to yourself, “My brain WILL get stronger!” Because this is the reality. Your brain truly CAN get stronger and it WILL as long as you take the time to strengthen it!
Write it down on a post-it and stick it on your mirror, say it to your children, have them say it back to you… Seriously! Use this as a daily mantra!
Even if you feel silly at first, know that the more you and your children say “My brain WILL get stronger!” the easier it will be to believe. It’s just like exercising to increase muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance. The more we practice, the easier it gets.
Here’s a visual you might like to use:
Imagine yourself on a well-worn hiking trail that is familiar to you. The path is clear and free from debris. It’s easy to proceed forward because you can easily tell where the path is. Now let’s imagine that this well-worn path is full of negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. This path represents a fixed mindset.
You REALLY want to take a new trail – you’re bored and weary on the fixed mindset path, but there are no other well-marked paths around that you can see.
But then it dawns on you.
You can create a new path on your own! A new hiking trail that nobody has started on before. At first, you’re not able to see a path AT ALL because none exists yet! But as you start to remove debris, you slowly make progress and begin to see the promise of an actual path.
The elevation gain is challenging. The dedication required to keep showing up, clearing debris, and creating a path is demanding. At your lowest moments, you feel utterly defeated and hopeless.
What’s the point?
But you persist and eventually, you see an actual path beginning to emerge. You catch glimpses of stunning scenery and feel pride in your accomplishments.
And the whole time that you’ve been intentionally clearing a new path, (growth mindset) your old path, (fixed mindset) has started to become grown over.
See ya, fixed mindset!
This is a great way to think of growth mindset. You’re forging a new path and while it may feel daunting at first, you keep at it.
A fantastic tool to help retrain your brain is to journal. Writing down positive affirmations, empowering quotes, and inspiring intentions, is a simple yet surprisingly effective way to strengthen your brain.
Note: If you’re looking for some awesome journals for your children, check out the Big Life Journal for Kids and Big Life Journal: Teen Edition, for tweens and teens! I highly recommend any of the wonderful products this company has developed!
So take the time to strengthen your brain through thinking and saying, “My brain WILL get stronger!”
2. Find Examples of Growth Mindset
Who in your life has overcome a significant challenge? Someone who has faced a difficult circumstance but decided to face it head-on, with determination?
Perhaps one of your children has struggled in their sport.
Maybe a good friend has recently received a cancer diagnosis.
Maybe your neighbor just lost their job.
Consider examples where the person has done their best to learn, grow, and stay positive.
And feel free to look for examples of people you don’t actually know in real life!
Famous people you or your children admire. Fictional stories in favorite books or movies.
Anytime a person has felt like the odds were stacked against them, or the task felt insurmountable, or they felt frustrated, confused, and ill-equipped and yet they pressed forward anyway, these are to be celebrated!
Consider people you know, (or don’t know!) who have demonstrated growth mindset.
3. Practice Makes Better
Instead of the famous saying, “Practice makes perfect”, try saying, “Practice makes better” instead.
We’ve been saying this in my home for years now, ever since my kiddos were little. It encourages us to give our best effort, to keep showing up, and to practice, but not with the goal of being perfect.
Our goal is to grow and improve, recognizing and acknowledging all of the ways we continue to show up.
Because while having high standards and goals isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, the constant desire for perfection can be paralyzing. It’s easy for many of us to fall into the trap of perfectionism and then convince ourselves certain opportunities aren’t worth pursuing, for fear that we won’t be perfect, (and this perfection is usually just an illusion anyway!)
So use the words “Practice makes better!”
4. Use the Word ‘YET’
When your child says, “I don’t know how to do it!“, repeat what they’ve said back to you but add a “yet” to the end of the sentence.
So “I don’t know how to do it!” becomes, “I don’t know how to do it YET.”
In fact, I have a hard time thinking of another word packed with as much potential for growth as the word yet.
Make sure to add the word yet to any self-limiting or defeating things that you say to yourself as well!
Model this positive self-talk for your children and soon they’ll learn how to do it for themselves. Use the word YET!
5. Banish the words “I can’t”
If there’s anything that screams fixed mindset, it’s the words, “I can’t!”
Talk about limiting and disempowering!
Instead of falling into the victim mentality of “I can’t”, use the words “I choose not to right now” or “I’ll try again later”. Take a break and come back a little later.
Banish the words “I can’t” from your family’s vocabulary!
6. Embrace Mistakes
I get it, nobody actually enjoys making mistakes! But the truth is that they are ESSENTIAL to our learning, growth, and evolution.
If we accept that mistakes are inevitable and view them as opportunities for growth and improvement, we open up a world of possibilities. It also allows the freedom to experiment, take risks, improve our problem-solving skills, and enjoy creativity.
What if you were to celebrate the mistakes that you and your children make?
Identify the lessons you’ve learned from mistakes.
Recognize times when your mistakes allowed for creativity, adventure, and delight.
Remove unnecessary anxiety and embrace mistakes!
7. Reach out for support
We ALL need support!
Every single one of us has times of confusion, overwhelm, despair, and fear. During these times it’s essential that we reach out for support and not try to do everything alone.
While growth mindset requires that we embrace challenge and growth, it doesn’t mean we need to do it alone!
So encourage your children to ask for the support they need.
Do they need you to sit with them as they work through a tough math problem?
Would editing their writing assignment provide motivation?
And are there areas of homeschooling where you could use some extra support?
Letting your spouse know that you’re struggling in certain areas.
Reaching out to friends who offer unconditional support.
Connecting with your homeschooling community.
When you need it, be sure to reach out for support.
8. Try Meditation
A consistent meditation practice does wonders!
Have you dismissed meditation in the past because you can’t imagine yourself being able to sit still and silence the thoughts in your head?
If so, please stick with me for a minute!
Because if you’re imagining sitting in lotus position on the floor for an hour as you breathe in and out serenely, let me assure you that there are many different ways to meditate! And just a few minutes a day can do wonders for your mental health and general outlook.
There are also simple and effective ways to introduce meditation to your kids!
To help silence negative thoughts and self-talk, try meditation.
9. List your Accomplishments
Identify times in your life when you incorporated growth mindset to accomplish something significant.
And have your children do the same!
Reflect on these accomplishments when you’re feeling overwhelmed and uninspired.
As adults, we often lose the ability to play. All too often, life feels serious and packed with neverending responsibilities.
But play is SO important to our overall well-being!
This means we must be intentional in our quest to carve out time to simply play. The ability to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves so seriously is essential to our well being as well as our overall mental health.
Kids seem to know this innately and don’t usually need much encouragement to play. So keep the joyful, creative spark alive and join in on the fun.
Whenever you possibly can, remember to prioritize play!
Important Note: If your child is experiencing significant anxiety, PLEASE check out the following posts packed with helpful information!
To summarize, here are 10 growth mindset tips for homeschooling parents:
- Strengthen Your Brain
- Find Examples of Growth Mindset
- List Your Accomplishments
- Practice Makes Better
- Use the Word “Yet”
- Embrace Mistakes
- Reach Out for Support
- Try Meditation
- List Your Accomplishments
I hope that these Growth Mindset Tips for Homeschooling Parents offer encouragement as you continue to learn and grow alongside your children!