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Growth Mindset and Why It's Important to Give Kids Control

What is Growth Mindset?

Growth mindset is basically the idea that if we work hard, we are able to develop skills that will help us succeed. Instead of giving up easily, we are more apt to try hard and persevere through the “hard stuff” toward success. 

People with growth mindsets tend to say things like:

  • "I can lean anything I want to."
  • "When I'm frustrated, I keep trying."
  • "I'm not good at math YET."
  • "When I fail, I learn."
  • "My success is based on my effort and attitude."

Versus people with a “fixed” mindset tend to say things like:

  • "Either I'm good at it, or I'm not."
  • "When I'm frustrated, I give up."
  • "I suck at math."
  • "When I fail, it's because I suck."
  • "My success is based on my innate abilities."

Growth mindset has become somewhat “buzz” term, in part because studies have shown how beneficial it can be to develop a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset are more likely to:

  • Persevere in the face of hard things;
  • Put in the effort to build new skills;
  • Find inspiration in other people's successes;
  • Accept criticism;
  • Have a desire to learn and embrace challenges.

How Growth Mindset Relates to a Sense of Control

Think about the people in your life who are the victims of their circumstances. People who give up easily, who play the victim, who always ask things like “why me?” versus people who face hard things with a determination to make them better.

The latter are people who believe that they are in control of their own lives. In science terms, this is the “locus of control.” If you have an INTERNAL locus of control, you make things happen. If you have an EXTERNAL locus of control, you believe things happen to you, and you don’t have any say in them.

As an adult, you can see how this can be a really negative thing and lead to some pretty negative outcomes.

Why we need to give kids control

When our kids are babies, we do everything for them, including making all of their decisions.  As time goes on there’s less and less we need to do for them, and especially less decisions we need to make for them. 

It’s a lot better for their development if we let them make their own decisions and give them control over things that affect their lives. Why?

In short, it's so they don't grow up thinking they don't have any agency over their own lives.

I really believe that we are here to help our kids through life’s hard stuff so when they grow up, we’re all confident they can do it on their own: we believe in them, and they believe in themselves.

Here are some ways to give your kids control in small ways, so they realize life isn’t happening TO them:

  • Let them decide which chores they’re going to do
  • Let them decide the order of their routine and be involved in planning it
  • Let them choose between two different options - allow them to choose which park to go to, for example

For little kids, that last one is key - you can ask them if they want to ride in the cart or walk in the store. Ask them if they’d like their banana cut up into pieces or whole.

It might seem simple, but helping kids understand that they can make things happen has a big long-term effect.

It helps them trust themselves by you trusting them first.

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher is the Founder + CEO of Mighty + Bright. She's a young cancer survivor, mom, and former single mom.

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