Growth mindset comments for kids

growth mindset comments for kids

Growth mindset comments for kids

*Posters are listed at the end of the post.

“You are smart!” a teacher tells a student.

image of a girl with books

You would think that what the teacher is doing is great and will probably raise the self-esteem of the child.

Well, not exactly. Contrary, telling a child that he is talented by nature, could have negative effects on the performance of the child. How is that possible?

#1. The growth mindset experiment

Carol Dweck and her colleagues studied how the children respond to various comments offered by adults with good intentions. Instead of comments lets use the word: praise. Here is what they found out.

They took 400 5th grade students from all over the USA and they gave them an easy non-verbal IQ test. At the end of the test, they praised all children. This is how they praised the first group of children:

Great job, you must be really smart at this!
Notice the emphasis the researcher gives on the child’s intelligence.

The second group of children received this praise: Great job, you must have worked really hard at this. This group was praised based on their effort.

After, they gave both groups two options for their next test.

1. First option: They informed the children that “the next test is going to be harder but it is going to be a great opportunity to learn and grow”.
2. The second option: was a test similar to the first on which “you will surely do well”.

Here is where results get interesting.

67% of the children that were praised for their intelligence choose the easier test, while 92% of the children that were praised for their effort, chose the hardest test.

The harder test was chosen by 33% of the children that were praised for their intelligence

The harder test was chosen by 33% of the children that were praised for their intelligence compared to a whopping 92% of children that were praised for their effort.

This study confirms the impact of the kind of praise we give our children.
But why did praising the intelligence of children made them prefer the easier test?

Well according to Carol Dweck, when we hear that we are brilliant and smart, we interpret it as the main reason that the other person admires us, so we better not do anything clumsy to disprove their opinion, or better their evaluation.

stop sign
That is why we avoid doing anything harder in fear that we will fail. And this is the fixed mindset. The notion that we were born having a natural talent for playing tennis, or chess etc.

On the other hand, if we hear how important are the strategies we use, the effort we put on a task, the amount of work we do, then we focus more on getting better and upgrading ourselves. We realize that if we don’t consistently take up harder tasks we are not going to get better.

Continuing the study, Carol Dweck and her team gave all children an impossible test. They focused on how the kids in each group handled the challenge. The group that was praised for their effort, worked harder and longer and they enjoyed the process while the group that was praised for their intelligence spend the shorter time on the test and became frustrated.


After all children experienced the “failure” test, a final test was given to them, as easy as the 1st test.

The group that was praised for their intelligence did worse than the first test. Their average score dropped by a 20% in comparison to the first test.

The group that was praised for their effort, raised their average score by 30%! This is a 50% difference between the two groups and the only difference was the way they were praised.

Think about it. A few words can impact our development.

Think about it. A few words can impact our development.

#2 Praise should focus on the process.

We should avoid praising the person e.g. “You are extremely talented”.
We should also avoid praising the outcome, for example: “You got an A in Maths, that’s great!”

Keep in mind the process.

Observe the child while she works. Comments should not be focused only on the effort. Many times, it’s not the effort that counts, but the choice of the right strategy. Praise her for using strategies to solve a problem. For finished assignments, observe the effort on behalf of the child.

The comments should be descriptive.

When you are checking how the child works, you first make a diagnosis and start with the positive. For example, when writing: “Well done, I see you are forming paragraphs and your spelling is correct”.
“Your description of the place made me feel like I was there Kacy!”

“I see you are working really hard on completing your tasks!”

For handwriting,  a descriptive comment would be: “He puts a lot of effort into his handwriting. The spacing between words is good, letters are on the line and clear”.

Praise behaviors like the curiosity, courage, asking for feedback, persistence, choosing difficult tasks…

praise persistence

“I see how hard this problem was for you and I am proud of you for sticking with it!”

“Your grades reflect your hard work.”

“You are working wonderfully as a group. You give each other time to speak, you take notes and ask questions when you don’t understand something!”

“Well done for fixing your mistakes!”

“Great job! You used the strategy we taught in the classroom!”

But, what about when there is nothing to praise?
Usually, most of us when we are tired, blurt disapproving comments without first noticing what the child did well. It is natural after all, especially when a teacher needs to focus on many children at the same time.

teacher and students
It may be that the child didn’t do many things, but we should always remember to find something good. Even if the child wrote a simple sentence in the 20 minutes of writing, we should take a deep breath, read the sentence and say something positive about it.

So, take a deep breath, push away the urge to start nudging the child on why he only wrote one sentence and instead say something encouraging: “I am noticing you’re putting a lot of thought on the intro. The first sentence it’s like the beginning of a movie trailer. I wonder what is going to happen next.”

Other comments could be: “Imagine if you put some effort, how much better your story is going to get”.

“You have really improved on ……..”

#3 Feedback on progress should be specific, like a call to action.

After we provide our descriptive comment it is now time to comment on what we want the child to focus on.

Prescriptive comments act like a guide for improvement. Telling a student to improve their handwriting is not of much help. The child needs to know exactly what he needs to do and how to improve. Start with the phrase, “the next step would be to improve your handwriting. You should slow down and take more time”.

Ask questions.

Let’s keep up with the student that got stuck on the first sentence. You could guide him to look back at the guidelines – bullet points you offered for this subject. A quick way would be to check ready made posters you have for ideas.

“What about talking more about the place? Can you describe it using your five senses? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you sense? ”

#6 Break the task into smaller steps so the children can be able to identify their mistake or what they need to focus next.
Avoid overloading. One step at a time.
This process takes time but it would help the student handle overloading of info.

A great activity is listed in the Growth Mindset Coach book by Annie Brock. This activity is aimed to show students that there is a process of learning something new. Have your students create a four-section foldable to draw pictures of something they’ve learned to do.

Under each flap, the students need to draw what they needed to learn before achieving this activity. For example, on the one side they can draw a piano (to show that they know how to play piano) and on the backside, they could draw the notes on they keyboards they had to learn. Older students can simply do a T- Chart with the one side showing what they’ ve learned and the other side what they needed to learn first.

step by step

You could use the foldable to break down a difficult learning process with many steps. In Maths it is easier. You could use Maths’ long division as an example in the foldable, where you will break down the steps. After that, you can encourage students to improve in other aspects. For example, map out the steps on how to tackle a ball, draw a cat, draw a human, make a sandwich, write a book.

For example, to write a book you have to make a mind map of ideas before starting out, organize your ideas into sections/chapters, start writing and writing and writing, choose a title, write a book description, create a cover, edit the book, publish the book.

So whenever a student faces a difficulty, she can go back and revise the steps she took.


#4 add the why in the comments for Growth mindset (start with why)

When you are making a comment for improvement, it would also help if you add the why. Why should the child follow your advice?

Why should the child aim for a growth mindset? How would it help her him? “Why comments” act as an intrinsic incentive to the students. You could comment on how improving their handwriting would allow other classmates to read his work easier, or that by keep practicing on this activity, his brain will grow.

Remind students: “Each time you try and fail, your brain is creating new neurons and synapses to understand the problem”.

growth mindset comments for kids

“Your brain is growing!”

Of course, adding the why is something that can be done verbally, as adding it in the written comments is time-consuming. Plus listening to the why it is more empowering.

#5 Maximize your feedback by involving the parent.

involve the parents

When writing feedback to your students, keep the parent in mind and offer tips to maximize their participation. Peter is using the strategies we learned in the classroom to solve word problems and that is a wonderful improvement. Next step should be to write full sentence answers.

“She is a hard worker. She supports her writing with reasons, examples, and details. Keep practicing at home using the guidelines I ‘ve sent this week”

#7 Transform your space into a risk-friendly environment for children.

Have comments framed like: “Every mistake you make is progress”.

“You are not there, yet”.

You are not there, yet.

“I am not a math person, yet!”

“Challenges make me stronger”.

“When you believe in your self, the brain works.”

growth mindset comments for kids

“When we make a mistake, synapses fire.”

When we make a mistake synapse fire.

“There is always Plan B… and C… and D!”

Learn more about the Growth mindset here.



The Growth Mindset Coach


Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!


What is growth mindset for kids

Growth mindset poster

What is growth mindset for kids

This post is offered as a quick explanation of what is growth mindset having children in mind.

Let’s start by comparing the thoughts between these two boys.

Boy  number 1 usually thinks that:

I can’t do it!

Math is too hard for me.

I wasn’t born for this…

This is too hard…

angry child because of a fixed mindset


Boy number 2 usually has these thoughts:

What is growth mindset for children

I can do it.

 I believe I can make it.

I just need to ask, or find someone who can help me.

Which child thinks like you?

Which child is your child or student? Which child reminds you more of your students?

The one child has a growth mindset
The other has a fixed mindset. What does it mean?

Stanford university

A researcher, Carol Dweck with her colleagues at the Stanford University, found out that, children that persisted through challenges, believed they could get better, while children who stepped back from challenges believed their intelligence was fixed.

Growth mindset is the above theory that was developed by Carol Dweck and it has ever since changed the education world for the better

. In a few words, people with a growth mindset believe they can get better and they relish challenges.

embrace challenges

People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are a gift and they cannot be improved.

scared dog


#1 Why Growth mindset for kids is so important?

students hidden behind books
Children with a fixed mindset are afraid of school as they face it as something that judges them. A test for a child is like a conviction, that states if they are good or bad, if they are smart or dumb.

girls writing

Children with a growth mindset see schools as a place to improve and experiment. They see school as a playground.

As the concept of Growth mindset spread, it was soon realised that the mindset of a child can change. Yes, if a child has a fixed mindset, following lessons explaining growth mindset, they start realising that they can get better at anything they focus on.


Yes, you can get better. Can it be done immediately? It depends on the child. Usually, there should be a consistent lesson for the whole year for children to embed the concept. The younger they are the deeper the impact.

#2 A good allegory to present growth mindset to kids is to say that the brain is like a muscle.

The brain is like a muscle

The more you practice it, the stronger it becomes. The brain like any muscle needs frequent practice and of course, it needs rest.

Like an athlete, you need to practice daily or frequently to achieve your goals.

Strategy is important. Choosing the right tactics could help you achieve your goals faster. For example, an athlete may spend days trying to get better at throwing a ball. However, if he asks a coach to show him how to throw a ball, he can learn the right way in only a couple of hours.

shooting a bal

What is more fascinating is that when you learn new stuff your brain changes! It creates new synapses between neurons. If you believe you are not good at maths, there is a whole network of neurons inside your brain that is functioning based on this belief. However, even the belief that you were born not being good at mathematics can change? It takes time and practice to achieve this and most importantly it needs a strategy.

brain working

For example, you may get stuck at a math problem even if you ‘ve read it many times and took notes. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask the teacher or another student for help.

#3 Showing a table or a poster of the difference between the fixed mindset and the growth mindset is a good reminder for kids

Any time they feel disappointed a glance at it will help them
What would a child with a fixed mindset say? What would a child with a growth mindset say?

Growth mindset poster

Fixed mindset

I am not good at this

When a child says this, it usually means that she does not believe she can improve, so she won’t try.

I am smart. I don’t need to study.

When a child says she is smart, this means she believes that it all depends on how much talent she has. No effort will change the result. This is a trap for the adults as well that think that telling their child that is smart, will make them feel better.

I wish I was born smart

Again this implies hopelessness on behalf of the child. Whatever, he does is a waste of time for him because he believes he is not smart.

Maths are not my strong point

This child believes that she is good in other subjects but not Math. Probably something she has confirmed from her family.

I am not talented enough

This child sees others children’s work and gets disappointed easily. Even if his work is not good enough, this is not a reason to give up. Small successes can gradually improve his mindset.

I am not good enough

This comment could also show a sign of growth Mindset as the child comments that she is not good enough. Praise them for the recognition and guide them to get better.

I made a mistake. This is so embarrassing. I will never try again.

Shy children have difficulty trying out new things. It is better to allow them their own space to experiment, as public “failures” can traumatize them.

I have a natural talent for Maths

All children have strong points. This child has the strong belief that he is a talent at maths and acts like this to confirm this. Ask him if he has weaknesses to see how he evaluates himself.

Growth mindset

Below are thoughts that a child with a growth mindset has when she faces a problem or a difficult situation.

How can I get better?
What do I need to do to solve this problem?
Do I need to ask someone?
Where should I look for an answer?
I am sure that if I put time aside to learn this I will be able to solve it.
I am not able to solve it yet.
I made a mistake. So what? Mistakes bring us closer to success

Carol Dweck published her book “Growth Mindset” in 2006. In the book, you can read about the research she did with her colleagues.

Improve children’s mindset with these suggestions!

Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!

Growth mindset for children- 8 ways to empower a child that gets easily disappointed.

growth mindset for children

Growth mindset for children

*For a quick read on what is Growth mindset read this post.

There are a lot of children who are not the best students. There are many reasons for this. They might be experiencing family drama, or have learning disabilities. The question here is: How do you instill a growth mindset in them?

No matter how hard you try, their learning curve is bigger and slower. This can lead to hopelessness on behalf of the child. And it is not only this…

When a child faces difficulties, in order to hide these difficulties, he/she may turn to violence and bullying other children. They do this, to turn away the attention from their learning difficulties.

lack of growth mindset in children may lead to bullying

In the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, the author Roy F. Baumeister, mentions that when people feel bad because they ‘ve failed, they only get into a vicious cycle of trying to feel better by doing the opposite of what they wanted to achieve (weight, quit smoking, improve academically etc).

Instead, what he states clearly is that at some point our willpower will fail and when this happens we will need alternative strategies.

So… what can we do to instill growth mindset?

Here are some things to consider as a teacher or parent.

1. Talk to them about growth mindset.

Class Dojo has some awesome videos dedicated to growth mindset for children. Growth Mindset theory is about changing your own brain by learning new stuff! Its motto is: never give up. Talk to them about neurons and how they change once you learn something new. Show them photos of neuros.

brain nerve cells

For educators: Whichever digital platform you use for communicating with parents, don’t forget to share the videos with them! They can continue what you’ve started in the classroom and have good conversations with their children at home. Parents can be a wonderfull ally!

A book that is specifically adressed to educators with easy to apply teaching ideas is “Mindsets in the classroom” by Mary Cay Ricci.

2. Learn something new.

Once they kids learn about Growth mindset, it will be much more exciting to learn something new. The theory about Growth mindset is interesting, but the application is what matters!

If you are a teacher and don’t have time, ask them to learn or create something new with their parents at home. I had a student that made a solar clock with his father and then he brought at school and we tested it.

If you are a parent you can look up Pinterest for creative projects to do with your child. You can get more specific by adding if it’s for Spring, Summer etc.

You can grow crystals, plant flowers, read a new book etc!

3. Read them about famous people

that persisted in the face of difficulty, like Thomas Edison (the inventor of the lightbulb), Michael Jordan and Jack Ma. Emphasize that these people succeeded not because they were smart, but because they were trying consistently and they kept going despite facing rejection. They formed strong habits of working consistently that did not rely on willpower.

thomas Edison

4. Emphasize their strong points.

They might not be good students academically, but they might be good in football, building sandcastles, playing domino or painting etc. This will improve their self esteem. Don’t forget to celebrate their small successes at schools

children playing football

5. It’s ok to make mistakes.

This is for you, parents and teachers! I meet so many parents that want their children to be perfect and are panicking when their children make a mistake. Well… this is  one of the worst mistakes, that you can make as a parent.

worried man (freepik image)

Freaking out because they did badly, will only make them feel worse and develop a low self-image. Please don’t do this to your children. If they don’t make any mistakes how will they learn? Remember when they started walking? They had to fall sometimes but eventually, they did get up and walked.

To reinforce what I am writing I will add a famous quote:

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. MiCHAEL JORDAN

After all, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

6. Avoid telling them that they are smart

This is very important, especially for strong academically students. Telling them this will only make them be afraid of making mistakes, so they won’t try anything new. They are afraid that if they fail at something, they won’t be smart anymore.  WHEN YOU ARE AFRAID TO TRY, YOU STAY STAGNANT. Reccommended book: Who moved my cheese

boy hiding

7. Have them encourage or help other people in difficult situations

Ask them what they would tell a child younger than them that wants to give up in mathematics. It could be an imaginary friend. This is a good exercise in the classroom. Have them wite encouraging letters to younger children. Make the children messenger of good. Offer them the chance to do something good.

child writes

8. Last but not least

There are many of successful people that did awful in school, but they did succeed in life. Their weaknesses didn’t take them down. They only made them stronger. Look at Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuck, Daymond John, and others. (Suggestions accepted)

Read more. Check out this post! Growth mindset comments for kids.

.rowth mindset for children

Margarita Marti is an elementary school teacher with 9 years of experience working at schools. She has an Med in “Creative arts in education”. She wrote and self published a children’s book called “It’s ok to be different”. Don’t forget to check it out here!


Reccomended resources:

Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Growth Mindset Learning Community
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength