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Early Childhood Education: Building a Growth Mindset in Your Child

While people desire a wide variety of things to be true for themselves, it can be said with confidence that all of us want to live successful and happy lives - so much so that the fear of not living successful and happy lives is just as common.

This competing interchange between hope and fear begins at an early age, and deeply influences our actions, decisions, and outcomes.

According to a 2019 OECD study, three out of every four Singaporean students fear academic failure and believe that with failure comes doubts about their future prospects. For reference, the average for the 37 OECD countries was closer to one out of every two students sharing the same fears. Singaporean children, unfortunately, are more likely than their OECD peers to fear failure.

Much of this relates to the ways in which students and children more generally have been taught to view their successes and failures by the ways the adults in their lives treat both inevitable realities.

American Psychologist Carol Dweck believes that the way adults respond to successes and failures plays a key role in the sort of mindset children develop. Her research and that of her colleagues suggests that developing a growth mindset can radically reposition the ways in which our children view themselves, their potential, and their journey toward the success and happiness they desire in their own lives.

You may be wondering, wow! That sounds great, but maybe a little too good to be true. Why haven’t I heard of this before?

A ‘Growth Mindset’ is still relatively new in the field of education and the realities of parenting; though the related ideas and strategies have been around forever, they’re just now gaining in popularity.

Adopt a growth mindset from an early age

Thankfully, developing a growth mindset in your child is relatively easy to learn how to do.

This article will both paint a clear picture of what a growth mindset is and provide four actionable ways to help develop a growth mindset in your child.

[ What is a Growth Mindset? ]

Having a growth mindset, as defined by Carol Dwek herself, simply means that an individual believes in their capacity to develop talents, skills, and abilities.

According to her research, people who believe in their capacity to change and grow over time experience higher levels of success and happiness than people who have ‘fixed mindsets.’

These people believe the opposite about their talents, skills, and abilities - that they are static things, unaffected by effort and perseverance, largely determined by gifts or grace.

Much of the difference in these types of mindsets has to do with how people respond to challenges in their lives.

When students, for example, fail a test or receive a low mark on an assignment, their reaction to the results is indicative of the sort of mindset they possess. Reframing the way we look at challenges is essential for changing the ways in which we respond.

Take the following challenges for example, and note the difference in the ways the challenge is responded to.



Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

Failed Math Test

Math sucks. I’ll never be good at math. What’s the point in even trying?

That test was challenging. What can I do better for next time? I believe I can learn this!

Didn’t make the Baseball Team

I must not be good enough to play baseball. Sports are dumb.

What can I practice to get better? Is there another sport I can try?

Lost Something Important

I’m such an idiot. I hate when this happens, this always happens.

How can I remember where I leaf things so this stops happening?


By changing the way children think about the success and failure, we can empower them to persevere through the inevitable obstacles they will face.

Someone with a growth mindset embraces challenges, believes in themselves, knows they can adapt and learn, and puts their best effort forward, no matter what.


[ 4 ways to build a growth mindset in your child ]

1. Reward and praise effort - not just results.

When children are only rewarded for crossing the finish line, they learn that success is the only thing worthy of recognition - and, when they inevitably fail and receive diminished recognition, they internalize an idea of inferiority, of not being enough.

People fail for all kinds of reasons, all of the time, and most failure doesn’t have to do with any sort of deficiency or problem with the person failing.

Praising hard work will give them the confidence to know that their effort was enough, and will encourage them to continue putting forth their best effort and seek ways to improve and succeed in the future.

2. Frame failure as a learning opportunity.

In each failure or setback there is a chance to reflect. It’s not often that failures are filled with total shortcomings.

In each failed attempt to achieve, there is a chance to both highlight what your child did well.

In calling attention to what they did well, children are more receptive to looking at the things they didn’t do so well, and are encouraged to improve by knowing that they are closer than their failure may indicate.

3. Emphasize the word YET.

“You haven’t learned that equation YET, but you will if you keep practicing.”

“You don’t know how to ride a bike YET, but you can learn if you keep trying.”

Children need motivation, from a parent, relative, teacher or private tutor, and an easy way to show them the light at the end of the tunnel is to encourage them that it’s within their reach.

4. Make failure acceptable.

Whether we like it or not, failure is unavoidable. It’s something everyone will deal with - most of us pretty frequently.

Embracing failure is key to overcoming the fear of failure, and central to what it means to have a growth mindset.

By treating it as something unavoidable, children can exchange their fear of failure for a desire to interrogate and overcome it. 


Author Bio: Frank Festa is a freelance writer and educator based out of Philadelphia, PA.

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