6 Growth Mindset Questions for Kids

Here's a list of growth mindset questions and activities that can help students develop their self-improvement capacity and make the most of learning opportunities.

Emily Veno
May 9, 2023

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In a 2020 article “What Happened to American Childhood?” in The Atlantic, journalist Kate Julian highlights how mental health issues among young people have significantly increased over the past few decades. Julian examines various factors that may contribute to this rise, such as an overemphasis on academic achievement, the influence of social media, and a decrease in unstructured playtime. The article also explores how overprotective parenting and a lack of resilience-building experiences might exacerbate these issues.

This article caused a stir in the education field and many parenting circles, because it seemed to tap into a clear rise in fragility and resistance to overcoming challenges in today’s young people. In a podcast interview, Kate Julian summarized her argument: “It’s not that we’re inflicting too much stress on our kids, it’s that we’re not allowing them to experience enough stress in preparation for that later stress. We protect, we insulate, we do everything we can to prevent them from experiencing any anxiety throughout childhood, and then suddenly they’re dumped into the competitive rat race and they don’t remotely have the skills to deal with that.”

There are many skills kids should learn early to be able to cope with the challenges of adult life: resilience, frustration tolerance, executive functioning, and critical thinking. Embracing a growth mindset, however, is possibly the most key.

This article provides a list of growth mindset questions and activities that can help students develop their self-improvement capacity and make the most of learning opportunities.

What is a "growth mindset?"

The concept of “growth mindset” was first introduced by psychologist Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking research on motivation, success, and learning.

In one of her early studies, Dweck and her colleagues observed how children reacted to challenging tasks. They found that some children displayed a strong motivation to tackle these tasks and learn from their mistakes, while others shied away from challenges and were easily discouraged by setbacks.

Some of the children most discouraged by setbacks were high academic achievers or gifted learners, who were afraid if they made a mistake, they would not “look smart.” This observation led Dweck to investigate the underlying beliefs driving these different behaviors.

Dweck's research revealed two distinct mindsets: a "fixed mindset" and a "growth mindset." Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence, abilities, and talents are innate and unchangeable. This belief can lead to a fear of failure, avoidance of challenges, and reduced effort, as they think their inherent qualities cannot be improved. (See our post on “gifted kid burnout” for more on that).

On the other hand, individuals with a growth mindset see their intelligence, abilities, and talents as malleable and capable of development through hard work, dedication, and the right strategies.

Through further studies, Dweck demonstrated that individuals with a growth mindset were more likely to persevere through difficulties, embrace challenges, and display greater resilience in the face of setbacks. These individuals ultimately achieved higher levels of success and personal satisfaction than those with a fixed mindset.

Dweck's groundbreaking research has had far-reaching implications for education, parenting, and personal development. Her work emphasizes the importance of the learning process and the power of "yet" – the belief that with effort and persistence, we can learn new skills and achieve our goals.


How to build a growth mindset in kids

Building a growth mindset in children involves encouraging them to adopt new strategies, develop their problem-solving skills, and celebrate their progress. Growth mindset activities, such as goal setting, affirmations, and reflective discussions, can help kids understand that they have the ability to grow and learn, regardless of their current abilities.

For educators, we’d recommend also considering how grades and scores might be impacting the growth mindset of learners. At Prisma, we’ve done away the traditional grading system in favor of mastery-based badges. We find that focusing on revision, feedback, and continuous improvement toward mastery helps instill a growth mindset in kids over points and grades that reward getting it “right” the first time.

Here are some other quick tips on how to build a growth mindset in young people:

  1. Focus praise on growth and effort just as much as, or more than, achievement or “fixed” qualities. We’d argue that getting an 85% on an assignment you tried really hard on and learned a lot during is more impressive than scoring 100% on a test you’d know the answers to in your sleep. Telling a child “You’re so smart!” rather than “You worked so hard on that!” may inadvertently cause them to view their good qualities as fixed traits liable to go away if they make a mistake or do less than perfect.
  2. Point out growth from year to year. Consider having kids review their writing or art from the beginning of the year compared to now, and discuss how much they’ve improved over time. They could even make a progress documentation video (search “art progress” on YouTube for examples!)
  3. Don’t make a big deal out of mistakes. By this, we don’t mean you should never point out or talk about mistakes, since never getting any criticism can also prevent kids from developing a growth mindset. But you should always talk about mistakes as part of the process, and part of how we learn.
  4. Model a growth mindset yourself! Let kids see you try new things, struggle, go out of your comfort zone, and confidently make mistakes. Try not to say things that indicate a fixed mindset like “I’m not smart,” or “I’m not good at math.” Kids will learn from watching you accept feedback and push to be better.

Why reflection builds a growth mindset

“Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous” - Confucius

Reflection plays a crucial role in developing a growth mindset, as it allows children to recognize their progress, identify areas for improvement, and set new learning goals. At Prisma, we incorporate reflection steps into all project tasks to help kids think about what they are learning and to emphasize process over product.

Reflective growth mindset questions can help students shift their focus from the end result to the learning process, cultivating a more positive attitude towards challenges and setbacks.

6 Questions to Build Growth Mindset in Kids

Here's a list of growth mindset questions that can help students develop self-awareness, resilience, and a love for learning. You can use these questions as conversation starters or create a printable resource for kids to reflect on their experiences.

  1. What did you learn today that you found hard or challenging? This question encourages kids to reflect on their learning experiences and identify areas where they faced challenges. By acknowledging that some things are hard today but can be mastered with practice, children learn to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.
  2. What strategies or new skills did you try today to overcome a challenge? Asking children about the new strategies or skills they used to tackle a problem helps them recognize their ability to adapt and learn from their experiences. This question also emphasizes the importance of problem-solving and experimentation in the learning process.
  3. Can you think of a time when you felt proud of your hard work and perseverance? This question allows children to celebrate their achievements and recognize the value of hard work and persistence. By reflecting on their success stories, kids build self-confidence and a greater appreciation for the learning process.
  4. Who did you see demonstrate a growth mindset today? Sometimes, it’s easier to recognize traits in others than it is to see it in ourselves. After you’ve taught kids what a growth mindset looks like, encourage them to shout out peers who demonstrated perseverance or hard work in the face of challenges. This will make those learners feel great, and help other learners get better at identifying what it looks like to have a growth mindset.
  5. How can you use what you learned today to help you achieve your learning goals? Connecting daily learning experiences to long-term goals helps children develop a sense of purpose and motivation. This question encourages goal setting and fosters a growth mindset by focusing on the potential for improvement and development.
  6. What are some affirmations or mindset statements you can use to encourage yourself when facing challenges? Affirmations and mindset statements can help kids develop a positive attitude towards challenges and setbacks. Encouraging children to create their own affirmations, such as "I can do hard things" or "Mistakes help me learn," reinforces the power of a growth mindset.

By incorporating growth mindset questions and activities into your child's daily routine, you can help them develop resilience, self-awareness, and a passion for learning. These questions not only encourage reflection but also promote a deeper understanding of the learning process and the power of persistence.

In addition to asking growth mindset questions, you can support your child's development by providing them with resources such as the Big Life Journal, which focuses on building a growth mindset through engaging activities and stories. You can also create a growth mindset bulletin board, featuring inspirational quotes, examples of perseverance, and visual reminders of learning goals.

Remember, the power of a growth mindset lies in the belief that with effort, time, and the right strategies, we can all learn new skills and reach our goals. By asking growth mindset questions and engaging in growth mindset activities, you can help your child unlock their full potential and embrace the learning opportunities that life has to offer.

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