Why Mindset Matters: Helping Youth Be Open to Growth

Why Mindset Matters: Helping Youth Be Open to Growth

Girl displaying purple, pink and blue art work

Why Mindset Matters: Helping Youth Be Open to Growth

by Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Mindset plays a big role in the lives of kids and teens – from how they approach their day to how they build self-esteem and confidence in everything they do.

What is mindset? Mindset refers to how we think and make sense of the world around us. 

While your child may recognize when they feel optimistic or discouraged, they may not fully understand how mindset can impact how they interpret their everyday lives. Similarly, they may not realize how much control they have of their mindset (and thus their mood and opportunities) by picking up a few daily habits.

At Boys & Girls Clubs, staff and mentors help young people build confidence and realize their full potential. Clubs encourage youth to try programs and activities that expand their horizons, and work with kids and teens to develop healthy confidence, self-advocacy and leadership skills.

Parents, caregivers and mentors can play an important role in encouraging children to be aware of how mindset can impact their day. By teaching young people to master their minds, they’ll learn healthy habits and approaches to reaching their full potential in life. 

According to Psychology Today, people often find themselves thinking with either a “growth mindset” (the belief that a person’s capabilities and talents can be improved over time) or a “fixed mindset” (the belief that the capacity to learn and improve cannot be meaningfully developed). While both types can be useful, young people should first learn to recognize where they are as they evaluate room for improvement. Are they facing the day with optimism? Are they willing to take on new challenges and believe they will succeed? Or do they feel certain things aren’t worth trying? How do they approach various aspects of their day and life?

When talking about the concept of a healthy mindset with your child, it’s important to remind them that this doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, developing a positive mindset is something that everyone, at any age, continues to work through.

Here are some tips to support your young person’s awareness of their mindset:

Establish a Daily Personal Check-in

Work with your child to set aside time each day for a daily check-in. Not only is this daily check-in a good time for them to tune into any emotions they might have about their day, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the root of those feelings and make an action plan to help them build confidence in moving forward.

During these check-ins, young people can ask themselves questions like “What went well at school today?” or “What do I want to go better next time?” If your child is having difficulty identifying their emotions, you might reframe the question to be a fill-in-the-blank, such as prompting them with: “Tomorrow, I hope _____ happens (or doesn’t happen) at school.”

Daily check-ins don’t have to be lengthy (anywhere from 5-15 minutes) and can be included at any point of your child’s day. But they shouldn’t feel like a chore — if your child often feels rushed in the mornings, consider suggesting taking some time in the evenings for this check-in.

Look Beyond the Comfort Zone

Some young people may see the benefits of challenging themselves in their everyday lives, while others might be afraid to step out of their comfort zones. As humans of any age, we all want to feel a certain level of comfort in our daily lives. However, we also know that growth comes from trying new things.

When kids try new things, they may surprise themselves with how happy it made them or how much success they had with something they didn’t believe they could do. This empowers them to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable, and open up their potential for growth and opportunity.

Challenge your young person to think back to a time when they did something they were scared to do. This can be a powerful reflection tool to grow our mindset and remind young people how much they are capable of when they believe in themselves. 

Maybe it was a new game or a steep hike or a speaking in front of the class. Remind them that while it was scary at first, they did something they never thought they had the ability or confidence to do. And celebrate that victory! Whatever it is, we can help to motivate our young people to be open to new and unfamiliar challenges by reminding them how powerful they will feel afterwards.

Practice Positive Self-talk

Many of us have heard the age-old saying “You are the company you keep” – but how many of us really think about what this means? And how can we teach this concept to our children?

How the adults around them speak about themselves can often inform the way young people think, relate and talk to themselves. Thus, parents and caregivers can be active role models in supporting kids’ self-esteem. Demonstrate positive self-talk in front of your young person to model what this looks like day-to-day. Even on the days when things might not go as planned, it’s important to not be too hard on yourself and to share that these days are just a part of life.

One common practice for positive self-talk used is the use of mantras to reinforce confidence and welcome positive thoughts. Every person has different thoughts that resonate with their needs more than others, so it’s important to encourage your child to identify which mantras might help them feel the most empowered. Here are a few examples of mantras to consider – adapt them as needed to be age-appropriate and resonant to your child:

“I can achieve great things today and in the future”

“I am awesome and I am going to try my best today.”

“I am deserving of receiving the love I give“

“I am enough just as I am.”

The more we repeat mantras daily, the more our brains feel comfortable processing and believing these thoughts. When it comes to improving our mindsets, repetition can be very powerful. 

The Power of Mindset

When we focus on improving our mindset, our brain begins to see the power behind taking control of how we interpret our day. The positive self-talk goes from a mantra to a belief, we’re more likely to step out of our comfort zones to try something new, and we feel capable of growth.

As you talk about mindset with your child and incorporate this guidance, ask them to share how it made them feel to go outside of their comfort zone or which mantra works best for them. This allows them to build confidence in these new skills as they continue improving their mindset.