Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stop Saying "You're So Smart" - Growth Mindset

Last year, my school invited Eduardo Briceño to talk to us about the importance of having a growth mindset, a concept from "The Power of Belief - Mindset and Success" and this book by Carol Dweck (affiliate link)!

He basically asserts that there are two types of people: those who think intelligence and skills are fixed/unchanging and others who believe they are able to be developed/honed.

In his speech and his book, he discusses one thing that we all (likely) have done:  tell a student how smart he/she is or tell a student how good he/she is at a specific skill.  Now, I have heard that telling your kids they are "smart" is not the way to go, but I guess I had filed that info away in a section of my brain that doesn't get much use.  Well, according to Briceño, doing this puts kids into a fixed mindset where they think they are either good or bad at something and nothing can change that.  He says that children who live in a fixed mindset are less likely to engage in challenging or difficult work because they think it's just too hard and they can't do it.

Since I am no longer in the classroom, I decided to use this concept on my 6-year-old to see what kind of affect it had on her.  There are tons of examples that I could give that I have done on my own, but I'll just mention one of them that happened recently with my daughter's swim teacher.

My daughter takes swimming lessons all year long.  She is the type of kid who could care less about sports and would rather just play at home.  It bothers me because I grew up in sports (I played competitive and college soccer and high school tennis) and have a very competitive spirit.  So, going to swimming is kind of a drag sometimes because she doesn't always want to go.

On her first day of swimming this summer, her teacher told us that she would be working mainly on endurance, so that whole practice, they swam laps back and forth in the pool.  My daughter cried on the way home because she was so tired and her body hurt so bad. On the second day of swimming, I basically had to drag her out of the house.

After a grueling practice, I met with her teacher to discuss how my daughter was doing.  During that discussion, the teacher stated to me and my daughter that she was so proud of her because she never complains, even when the work is hard, and even when she's tired, she never quits.

You should have seen my daughter's face when she said that.  You should have seen MY face!  Not only did she mention specific things that she was doing well in, but she cemented in her head that the path to success in swimming is not just being "good" at it.  It's from working hard, not complaining, and never giving up.  From that day on, I have not heard one complaint out of that child.  She starts off every morning with, "When is swimming?  I just can't wait to go to swimming!".

In the spirit of this, I've decided to come up with a list of words you can use to motivate your students and encourage a growth mindset this coming school year.  

Say them, write them on stickies, leave them in journals or on homework assignments, and tell your kids' parents!

To print this out, click here.

Find my Growth Mindset resource here!  It includes a guide for parents and their children so that growth mindset doesn't stop when the kids walk out your door!


  1. Yes! I didn't know you were into growth mindset and the 7 Habits. LOVE it! When I learned about fixed vs. growth mindset it changed my life. Great post :-)

  2. I LOVE the 7 habits... it completely changed my classroom! I was not a teacher when I learned about fixed/growth mindset, but I took away some very valuable points for myself and my kids! Good stuff!

  3. Love this post! I will be adding that book to my must read list!

    The Math Maniac

  4. Thank you so much! And yes! I had a few "Aha" moments that really changed the way I talked to my students and my own children. It's a great read!

  5. Yes "Kids" love to create works of art, well works of art in the eyes of those who love the children.


  6. This is amazing...can't wait to be back to school on Monday and start this with ny kids..Thank you :):)

  7. Thank you! Hope you had a great start to your year!

  8. Growth Mindset is what my school is targeting this year! So glad I found your blog and your resources. Love your idea of leaving notes for students to help them develop a growth mindset.

    Shepherd's Shining Stars

  9. Aw thank you! I really hope it makes a difference for your kids this year!

  10. I enjoyed reading your blog. As my school's math coach I'm interested in building a culture of growth mindset. Can you give me any leads on how to contact Eduardo Brecino for a speaking engagement?

  11. There's just nothing like an encouraging adult in a kid's life. They thrive on that kind of motivation. Thanks for setting it down in digestible form!

  12. Amazing Blog Post!I read your full post. This is very interesting Blog post. Growth Mindset for kids is very impotent and they need more motivation. Thanks for sharing.
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