Growth vs Fixed Mindsets

Growth vs Fixed Mindsets

Growth Vs Fixed Mindsets

Most of you have heard of the terms growth and fixed mindsets. This term was first coined by Stanford professor Carol Dweck, after she noticed that some students performed better in the face of challenges while others of the same intellect became discouraged when met with the same challenges. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success she explaines the growth vs fixed mindsets.


What is a growth mindset

Simply put, children with growth mindsets see challenges and set backs as a chance to grow and improve.

Identifying Growth mindset.

Children with growth mindsets will often exibit the following-

  • Have a Problem-solving mentality
  • Believe that intelligence can be developed with practice
  • Have a try & try again mentality
  • Focus on developing abilities
  • See mistakes as part of  the learning process
  • Focus on growing and getting better

What is a Fixed mindset?

On the other hand kids with fixed mindset believe intelligence is a fixed trait and basic success is inborn. They don’t believe they can change.

Identifying Fixed mindsets

  • Avoidance mentality. They play it safe always choosing the easy way out.
  • They only want to stick with what they are good at and will avoid tasks where they can make mistakes and grow
  • Easily discouraged when they make mistakes.
  • Afraid of trying new things.
  • Try not to show themselves as less intelligent
  • They are Defensive, hide mistakes and conceal deficiencies.
  • Don’t like to ask questions and take criticisms personally as an attack on their ability.
  • Focus on looking smart and overly concerned about what others think of their abilities.
  • Afraid of effort. They see effort as showing that they are not smart. As a result, the don’t study deeply in order to learn and grow.
  • See difficulty as a bad thing and avoid it.
  • They value immediate results and not progress.

Beyond the mindsets

How are mindsets formed?

Children are born with a growth mindset. Children are born with curiosity. They want to get into everything but in our attempt to keep them safe, we kill their curiosity. In our attempt to make sure they act right, speak right, look right, we focus on their mistakes. We ridicule and shame them when they make mistakes and little by little the once curious kids go from wanting to do anything to kids who are embarrassed and ashamed to try. We are born to learn  and to have an impact on the world but after a few years children lose interest in learning because of the way we react to their mistakes.

“The way parents react to kids mistakes is a big determinant of their mindsets”.-Carol Dweck

Parental influence, as well as our environment, has shaped how we see ourselves. The root of our self-esteem is in our belief system. How we see ourselves and what we believe about ourselves affects our mindsets and self-esteem. Mindsets are transmitted through the type of praise given by parents, teachers, and caregivers.


The wrong mindsets can make children afraid of effort, challenges, and setbacks – Carol Dweck


 How we can help

1. Celebrate Trying.

When babies learn to walk. The fall multiple times. They fail multiple times. Yet I haven’t met one parent who shames or punishes their child for falling while learning to walk. Instead we shower the babies with encouragement. Encouragement leads to learning and growing, and creates the motivation to keep on trying till we succeed.

The same applies to school age kids.

Encourage them. Let them see their potential. Potential leads to action; Action leads to results, and results in turn, influence the beliefs we have about ourselves. Encourage them not to give up when things are hard.

Let them know that the brain is malleable and it can grow like any other muscle. Neurons coated with myelin sheath(white fat) creates a network that talk to each other. When they do a task enough times it becomes automatic and they don’t think about it. And each time they learn something new and hard, their neurons get stronger.


2. Teach Strategy and encourage the process

Teach kids not to fear failure but to learn from it. Let them know its okay to fail and they wont be afraid to try. What holds a lot of people from trying is the fear of failure and the fear of being percieved as not smart. Im not saying you should celebrate failures but  as parents and teachers we need to create an environment where its okay for a child to try and to fail without punishment and shame.

Shame and punishment makes kids become afraid to try. They stay away from situations that can make them learn and grow.  It stops them from dreaming big dreams.

We need to teach kids that failing is part of learning and growing.


3. Watch how you praise your kids.


When we praise, let’s teach children to believe in themselves.

Praise and self-esteem

When you praise smartness with the intention to boost self esteem or motivation, we are actually putting chidren in a box. Children interprete things differently. When you say “waow you got an A, you are so smart”, the child will interprete this to mean that if they encounter difficulty in their work then they are not smart so they will avoid difficult and challenging work as much as they can.

Praise is motivation

Praise effort. Specific praise on a childs effort can lead to success. Children repeat whatever activity has been praised. Teach them to see failure as a learning tool. No matter where they are now they can always improve. Help and encourage any new skill they are interested in. Teach them to solve problems and persists despite obstacles. Don’t put them down or compare them.


4. Praise improvement

Praising children’s intelligence does not create growth. Instead praise their effort, improvement,  strategy, focus, persistence, perseverance and process. This creates resilient kids.

Praise more wisely. Tell them what’s right with them and not what’s wrong with them.

Teach kids to love learning and just for the sake of  tests. When kids love to learn, they will do well in tests as  a result of their love for learning. They will be life long learners and not just test takers. Praise hardwork not smartness. According to Carol Dweck, Studies show that  overtime, the way we praise our kids predicts the child’s mindset and desire to face challenges.


5. Give them Tasks

Give kids age appropriate tasks early on and don’t be tempted to finish the task for them or stop them in the middle because they are not doing it right. Encougage them and guide them. Don’t say you are not doing a good job or ask them to abandon the task. It sends a message that they are not good enough.

Teach kids to believe in their ability to figure things out, don’t always try to fix things for them

Teach them to persevere and do what it takes. The more they learn, the more the brain builds pathways.

Teach them to always write down goals and plan for the week.

When things are hard and challenging, teach them to accept it as a chance to learn and grow.

Challenges will stenghten them and should only be seen as the driving force that will take them towards success


 The power of yet

Carol Dweck first came across this idea after learning about a high school where students who didn’t pass a course were given the grades “Not Yet”. She realized this put the kids on a learning path and gave them the mentality that there is room for improvement. Instead of saying “I failed math”, they would say “I dont know it well yet” and thus are more willing to keep trying. Saying “not yet” means someone still believes in you and your ability to be successful over time.  There is a great motivational force that comes with the fact that someone believes in you. You are more willing to put in the action and effort and this gives you the motivation to do the work.

Developing a Growth Mindset

Belief is the Key.  The Belief and self confidence that you can do anything is the number one trait.

It enables and equips you with the self esteem you need to be persistent and resilient.

Belief at the core is more important than study skills alone. Study skills will not be effective if the belief system( mindset) is faulty. Children need Growth mindset skills teaching them that their brains can grow and develop.

Research shows that when Growth mindset and study skills are taught together the child is motivated to take action.


Ask yourself these questions:

How do they see themselves?

Do they see themselves as someone who gives their all?

Who is their role model?

Do you know what your kids are good at?

Help them develop their skills early.

How do you react to challenges and stressful situations?

Embody the behavior you want them to identify with.


The trap of perfection.

Perfection is not self-improvement. It focuses on getting the approval of others.  It is people focused and not effort focused. Perfection hinders growth and this is the same reason why It took me so long to post this topic. I was trying to make it perfect instead of doing my best and waiting on feed back to correct my mistakes and learn from it. I wanted to write the perfect post and I kept re-writing it and not wanting to post it till I felt it was perfect. Now I know it doesn’t need to be perfect, but of value and I would get feedback on what I need to do to write a better content. Dont raise kids to be perfect. Raise them be growth oriented and positive kids.


 Below a video on Growth Vs  Fixed mindset you can watch with your kids.

Share your thoughts. Do you have a growth, fixed mindset or both?

I believe there are times when we exhibit the growth mindset and when we exhibit the fixed mindset. The key is to figure out what triggers the fixed mindset and use positive affirmations to redirect us back to the growth mindset phase.




9 Responses to “Growth vs Fixed Mindsets

  • Debby Sogbetun
    8 months ago

    Very apt and educative write up…well done sis.

  • Thought provoking. There are so many things we need to consider as parents.

    • Thanks, Arin. One thing we can consider as parents is how we react to our kids’ failures whether is school, sports, or when they are trying something new. We shouldn’t punish or shame them but encourage them to see the value in trying again.

  • It’s great to teach kids to learn from failure since young. Many adults are so afraid of failures now because they have been avoiding failures since young. Failing is definitely part of growing.

    • Thanks, Ben. Fear of failure is a characteristic of a fixed mindset that we have developed since childhood. When we change the way we react to failures, our belief in our abilities grows. Fear Paralysis us and makes us stay within our comfort zone. Encouraging kids to try different things can help them see failure as a learning process.

  • Aramide Akinyele
    4 months ago

    This is so accurate!!!! Good points raised.👍👍

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