Growth Mindset Parenting: When Your Child Says, “I’m Not Smart Enough!” (Part 2)

As parents, we watch our children grow from birth through adulthood. As they grow, their mindsets grow alongside their bodies. Think about the typical young child’s excitement level when singing versus the all too frequent “I can’t sing attitude” of many older kids. Somewhere along the way, that young person decided that he couldn’t sing or realized he wasn’t singing as well as his peers, so instead of trying and failing and trying again, he decided that he would rather not try at all. This all too familiar situation occurs as children age due to most people viewing musical ability as a God-given gift or inherent talent. For example, people seem to naturally sing well or poorly. Dweck says:


Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes even better) with training. This is so important, because many, many people with the fixed mindset think that someone’s early performance tells you all you need to know about their talent and their future. (2016, p.70).


The life of Mozart illustrates this point well. He struggled for over ten years before composing the works we admire today. Before then, boring and patched-together chunks taken from other composers marked his pieces (Dweck, 2016, p. 56). Instead of quitting, Mozart constantly stretched himself, analyzed his pieces and addressed their weaknesses. Dweck’s research suggests that when children adopt the growth mindset, like Mozart did, that their achievement increases, along with their motivation (2016). So, how do we as parents develop this mindset in our children?


Parenting with a growth mindset perspective is a relatively new concept leaving many parents overwhelmed at the onset. Have no fear! Many teaching techniques can mark the beginning of this journey, but I suggest starting by teaching your children about growth mindset, especially if this is a new concept for your child. Consider a read aloud for a simple beginning. For example, Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael López and Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chiere Uegaki illustrate growth mindset on a child’s level from a music perspective and make for memorable reference points as you coach this new way of thinking.


Some kids need concrete evidence that growth mindset works, so don’t hesitate to get into the neuroscience. In this great kid-friendly video by Class Dojo, the concept of exercising our brain as the muscle that it is, gets introduced. Little Monster Mojo has a fixed mindset, but with the encouragement of his buddy Katie, he learns that our brains can be stretched and challenged! Thanks to Katie’s phrases like “you can’t give up” and “anyone can be smart; you just have to work at it!”, Mojo adopts a growth mindset. Come back to our blog next time to discover specific ways to create a supportive learning environment for your children that emphasizes effort, practice and determination

Thank-you Jamie Rives!