Helping Kids Grow Positive Mindsets

Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids
By Mary Cay Ricci and Margaret Lee
(Prufrock Press, 2016 – Learn more)

lori-hochstetler-2Reviewed by Lori Hochstetler

While Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids seems to be geared towards parents, anyone who works with or interacts regularly with children will find this book helpful.

mindsets-for-parents-hofI became interested in mindsets after I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindsets. I lead a book study on Mindsets and discovered that many teachers were just as fascinated as I was by just how much our attitude can affect our learning. Her book gave me much to think about, both in my own learning as well as that of my teenage children and my 6th grade math students.

However, Dweck’s book left me wanting more. I wanted to know some practical things that I could say and do to help my children and students develop a growth mindset. Mindsets for Parents provides just that.

What’s in the book for parents and teachers

In case the reader is not familiar with Dweck’s work, Mindsets for Parents begins with a quick overview of the two different mindsets, fixed and growth. In a nutshell, a fixed mindset is the belief that people are born smart or not smart, good at something or not good at something, and there is not much we can do to change that.

A growth mindset is the belief that there may be things that are easier or harder for us, but we can all learn more. People with growth mindsets believe that mistakes are opportunities to learn how to do something better. People with fixed mindsets believe that mistakes prove you are not good at something.

There are eight chapters in this easy-to-read book. The topics covered are as follows:

  • Description of the two mindsets
  • Role of parents in growth mindset development
  • Praise and feedback
  • Helping children understand how the brain works
  • Developing perseverance and resiliency
  • Mindsets at school
  • Growth Mindset in sports and the arts
  • Growth Mindset experiences for home

Even if you have read Dweck’s Mindsets, the first two chapters of this book are a good review and worth reading.

Overall, there are several things that made Mindsets for Parents helpful. First, throughout the book, Ricci and Lee provide questions so that readers can reflect on their current status as far as having a growth or fixed mindset. These questions and reflections are done in such a way that the reader will want to read on to find out how to build a growth mindset. Also provided are examples of the not-so-helpful thing to say to a child and an opportunity to reflect on what could be said instead.

Lots of concrete examples

A second helpful aspect of this book is that it is full of concrete descriptions of how to build a growth mindset in children, whether you are a parent, teacher, coach, or grandparent.

Ricci and Lee include examples of things you can say to children as well as model for them. There are numerous examples of what to do when we find ourselves in common situations. There is also a fabulous list of books, both picture and chapter, that can be read to and discussed with children in order to instill a growth mindset.

My children are now 14 and 16. I wish I had had this book when they were toddlers so that I could have made a more intentional effort to build a growth mindset in them. However, even with teenage children heading to college in a couple of years, I found many things from this book apply to them.

For example, my daughter has a new soccer coach. I have noticed that he doesn’t say much to them during the playing of the game, only when they come off the field. Another parent seemed to be annoyed that the coach wasn’t “coaching.” However, Ricci and Lee point out that some of the better coaches sit back during play and let their players make decisions and mistakes on their own.

Instead of giving them a play by play from the sidelines as to what they should be doing, these coaches let their players problem-solve on their own, take risks and learn for themselves what works and what doesn’t. Then later the coach can discuss the good and not so good decisions and help students learn from them. Great food for thought! (By the way, my daughter loves her coach and responds very well to his coaching style.)

Math, mindsets, and middle school

I taught math to sixth graders for 21 years. Working with middle schoolers is a challenge. Those middle years are years full of self-doubt, but they can also be years of self-discovery. I think using the ideas in this book about how to praise students and give them feedback in order to encourage a growth mindset can help lead students to discover they have many more talents than they realized.

I enjoyed reading this book and will probably read it again. I felt like I got some wonderful, practical ideas that I can use when working with math students and with teachers who work with students, my own children, and even my nephews. If you interact with children at all, I would strongly recommend this book.

Lori Hochstetler taught 6th grade math for 21 years. The last nine of those years, she also served as her district’s K-5 math coach. She currently works as a full time coach in Middlebury, IN, providing support to all the K-5 teachers in teaching math. She is constantly working to excite students and teachers about math and instill in them the belief that all can learn math!


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