A couple of years ago, I took my first watercolor painting class. There were lots of thoughts going through my mind at the time—like

Why would I ever think I could be good at this?

I’m sure that everyone else is better at this than I could ever be.

What if I mess up—will everyone look at me? How embarrassing.

What if I completely fail at this?

Of course, this mindset is completely the opposite of what we want to teach our children. Carol Dweck’s work on ‘growth mindset’ helped me to reframe my thinking.

Your mindset is the view you have of yourself.

A growth mindset leads me to believe that I can change and grow and learn—with time and effort. A fixed mindset leads to thoughts like I describe above when I took that first watercolor class—that my abilities are fixed.

In her research, Carol Dweck asked lots of kids—‘when do you feel smart?’ Kids with a fixed mindset said, “It’s when I don’t make any mistakes.” Kids with a growth mindset responded, “When I work on something for a long time and then I start to figure it out.”

At Sand Hill School, our middle schoolers are learning about growth mindset vs. fixed mindset through the use of Carol Dweck’s Brainology curriculum. Students are exposed to brain science—that our brains can change if we exercise them. That exercise consists of things like effort and persistence and believing that every mistake is an opportunity to learn.

So—I picked up the watercolor brush and thought ‘this is going to be fun!’ With every brush stroke I learned more about watercolor. With every dip of the brush I figured it was a great opportunity to see what could happen with color and water. And guess what? I learned to paint!

Now I look forward to putting in the time and effort. It’s enjoyable to think that I can get better at watercolor painting.

So, here’s to our kids (as well as ourselves) adopting a growth mindset and thinking—I can learn. Working hard at something is enjoyable because I am learning. A mistake is just part of the learning process.

Check out this great growth mindset resource from Understood.org:

Growth Mindset Activities for Kids