Don’t tell your kids they’re clever – The Growth Mindset - The Confidence Clinic & Club Ltd.

Don’t tell your kids they’re clever – The Growth Mindset

When I first heard this a few years ago, I thought – ‘Oh great, another thing I’ve being doing wrong for years!’ Actually, it makes a lot of sense. This theory has has been proven in many studies over the last number of years but the first to discover it 30 years ago was Carol Dweck.

(Here it is in my own words)

If we tell our children they’re clever, they believe they have a fixed ability, they give up trying to do something – they assume, well if I’m clever I should be able to do this thing immediately, and if I can’t do it, then I just can’t do it – end of story. And so they stop trying. Whereas if we tell our kids they’re great learners, they will learn their entire lives, then they know that learning can take time and patience and they have to keep trying and work hard (the growth mindset).

In Carol Dwecks own words

“We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better”.

As a life coach to kids and teens I’ve come across quite a few children whose parents say if they can’t do their homework at first glance, they ‘give up easily’ or ‘get very frustrated’ or ‘refuse to try’. To teach them to keep trying and not give up is an important lesson. I’ve explained the growth mindset and told many parents to look it up and so, I thought this week, it’s high time I wrote about. There are some fantastic resources out there – I’ve listed a few at the bottom of the article. I feel so strongly about this we’re including it in our camps, the idea of not giving up is easier said than done if you’re child is struggling with homework.

If you believe your brain can grow, and you can improve, you are more motivated, and you do better in school. A number of ‘interventions’  have proven that children who have been taught about their potential to grow their brains have higher math results after the lesson (or intervention) compared to those who didn’t learn this lesson.

I think its very important to teach kids that learning is for life – the phrase life long learning applies to all of us. All you have to do is look at the amount of formal and informal learning that takes place for us adults; whether its going back to college or learning how to use all the apps on our smart phone!

Some of you might say that intelligence is not as important as a child being happy, resilient, kind or confident. However, we as parents or guardians, do get caught up in worrying about their academic abilities, how they do in school, if they can keep up or if we’re lucky, they’re ahead of their peers, either way this research is important. The growth mindset verses the fixed mindset can help them in their future… wherever their intelligence appears to be, high low or in the middle. Just remember to tell them they’re great at learning, praise their effort and not their intelligence and instill the idea of life long learning.

As always I hope this helps,


Caoimhe O’Grady Tegart : Child & Teen Life Coach
The Confidence Clinic Ltd. : Empowering Children and Teens



Further reading/ resources:

  1. The Big Life Journal – A kids journal and lovely resources; they sometimes offer free resources to print 
  2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  3. You tube 2 min video 
  4. You tube 5 min video to show the kids 

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