Promoting a Growth Mindset

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

My previous post discussed strategies for teaching Growth Mindset principles to your child. And while this is an important first step, the real power comes in reminding your child of these principles and promoting them on a day to day basis. Helping your child develop a Growth Mindset involves first making sure that he or she has the tools and strategies that he or she needs in order to be successful, and then remind your child that when he or she pairs these strategies with hard work and persistence he or she can grow their brains and become better at anything that he or she puts their mind to.

When it comes to making sure your child has access to strategies and tools that work for him or her, I recommend setting up a meeting with your child’s teacher. Find out which areas they think your child needs to improve in the most, and what suggestions they have for accelerating this improvement. If your child’s teacher suggests that your child receive additional help outside the classroom, then seek out additional learning services at school or in an after-school learning or tutoring program. Also, ask for suggestions about what you can do at home each week to help your child improve.

When your child is trying out new strategies and working on things that are hard for him or her, encourage a Growth Mindset by taking the following steps:

  1. Remind your child that when he or she works hard they are growing their brain. When we lift weights our muscles grow stronger. We know they are stronger because over time it becomes easier to lift heavier weights. Remind your child that when we challenge our brains by working on things that are hard for us, our brains get stronger too. We know they’re getting stronger because math problems, books, and writing assignments that were hard for us become easier over time. And we get more answers correct the first time around.
  2. Praise Growth Mindset goals. When your child is working hard, tie your praise to our Growth Mindset goals. Praise your child for stepping up to a challenge, trying out new strategies, working hard, and improving. Overall, you’ll be most successful at fostering a Growth Mindset when you focus your praise on your child’s process rather than on your child’s grades and achievement.
  3. Counter Fixed Mindset thoughts with Growth Mindset alternatives. When kids are frustrated they are likely to have a whole host of Fixed Mindset thoughts that get in the way. When they voice these thoughts, try to come up with Growth Mindset alternatives that can help your child think differently about his or her situation. Your child may not seem too receptive in the moment, especially if he or she is feeling very frustrated. But over time, your child will hear you and will start to come up with these Growth Mindset alternatives on his or her own. Here are some examples to help you get started:

Fixed Mindset: I always make mistakes!
Growth Mindset: When we correct our mistakes, we grow our brains.

Fixed Mindset: I can’t…
Growth Mindset: You haven’t done it … yet!

Fixed Mindset: This stuff is easy for other kids.
Growth Mindset: With new strategies and practice it will become easier for you too.

Helping your child develop a Growth Mindset will take time. After all, your child has probably been living with a Fixed Mindset for years. Be persistent and look for small, gradual improvements. Mindsets are fluid, so don’t be surprised if sometimes your child is able to maintain Growth Mindset and other times he or she is firmly stuck in a Fixed Mindset. The goal is to help your child spend more time in a Growth Mindset framework than he or she was able to in the past. Over time, his or her motivation and self-esteem will improve, and you’ll notice that he or she is more willing to take risks and step up to challenges at school and in life.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

Article Topics

Stay in touch and sign up for our newsletter