A few weeks ago, my 4-year-old Bailey was sitting at the breakfast table with a stack of paper, a stencil, and a bunch of colored pencils when she said something that broke my heart.
I’d been washing dishes about five feet away, so I saw her in my peripheral vision, holding the stencil to the paper with one hand and tracing with the other hand.
But then she sat back and said, “I’m not a good artist.”
I glanced up. The corners of her mouth pointed down, and her eyes were starting to fill.
This is the girl who tells me every day that when she grows up, she’s going to be an artist during the day, then at night she’s going to be Wonder Woman and fight bad guys.
But in that moment, I could see her confidence in her dreams slipping away.
I felt a tug in my chest. I turned off the faucet and dried my hands.
Settling into the chair next to her, I asked, “What makes you feel that way?”
“I just can’t do it right. Every time I try to draw with the stencil, it moves and messes it all up.” She hung her head, and I reached out to rub her shoulder.
Download: Get these fun coloring posters for your child to teach them the power of hard work and sticking with a problem.
The Problem With Kids Talking Like This
A little self-doubt can be healthy – as long as it drives you to put in more effort and try to improve.
But getting stuck in a negative mindset can cause you to give up on what you set out to do.
As parents, that’s the opposite of what we want for our kids. We don’t want to raise quitters who give up at the first sign of a challenge. We want to raise determined kids who work hard and persevere through challenges until they succeed.
A few kids seem to naturally learn that lesson and need no support to transform moments of self-doubt into a determination to work harder.
But after talking to my friends and reading messages from parents who write to me every day, what seems to be the most common situation is this: Our kids need our help to learn how to catch themselves in these moments of self-doubt.
They need our guidance on how to turn negative self-talk from something that makes them give up – into something positive that drives them towards success.
Here’s Why This Could Be the Most Important Lesson You Teach Your Child
A few years ago, I volunteered as a mentor to a small group of girls in a second-grade classroom.
During the volunteer training, the educators running the program taught us a powerful concept I hadn’t heard before: fixed versus growth mindset.
- Kids who have a fixed mindset believe that you’re as smart as you’ll ever be. You can’t change how smart you are, no matter how hard you try. You can’t change your personality, how creative you are, or anything else because your traits and abilities are fixed.
- But kids with a growth mindset believe that if you work hard, you can become smarter. These kids thrive on challenge. Fixed-mindset kids see failure as evidence of not being smart, but growth-mindset kids see failure as an opportunity for growing. In fact, they don’t even see failure as a failure. They see it as learning.
Can you guess which kids end up being most successful in school and in their careers later in life? Which kids have the greatest capacity for happiness?
More than 20 years of research† shows that the key to success in school and life is being able to apply a growth mindset. In other words, if you believe that trying hard will make you smarter, it will.
But if you believe that nothing you do will change how smart you are, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What’s more, fixed-mindset kids don’t enjoy the learning process. Their mindset even drives them to lie about their school performance so they can maintain the perception that they’re smart. They certainly can’t handle mistakes.
“In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort.
In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.” – Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
How to Foster a Growth Mindset in Your Child
To be clear, if your kid is showing signs of a fixed mindset, you won’t find a quick overnight fix. Shifting your mindset takes time. In the words of the top researcher on growth mindset, Carol Dweck:
“Change isn’t like surgery. Even when you change, the old beliefs aren’t just removed like a worn-out hip or knee and replaced with better ones. Instead, the new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.”
In other words, pretty much everyone has both a fixed and a growth mindset. As a parent, the best thing you can do to help your child is give them a toolbox of growth mindset tricks they can use when they’re struggling with a challenge.
Guiding your child from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset will take time and patience, but it will pay off for your child. In a minute, I’ll share a powerful trick to add to your child’s growth mindset toolbox, but first: How do I know?
What Happens When You Foster a Growth Mindset in Your Child
In my family, we’re no stranger to the struggle of shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Our oldest daughter has struggled with her mindset since she started school. We reacted by nudging and encouraging her towards a growth mindset, and we’ve seen a huge transformation in her attitude about making mistakes, working hard, and not giving up.
We’ve tried countless parenting techniques to get to this point – some of them total duds and some that thankfully made an impact.
But we stumbled on one powerful growth mindset trick that I wish I’d done much earlier with my oldest daughter because the results have been fast and impressive with her and my preschooler.
Growth mindset posters.
But not just any growth mindset posters. Kids color in the phrases on these posters – phrases specifically designed to help kids internalize the crucial message that putting in effort is how you grow your brain.
Because the truth is that overused platitudes like “never give up” don’t stick in kids’ minds. But these special growth mindset mantras will burrow their way into your child’s internal dialogue and come out at the exact moment your child needs them.
9 Unique Growth Mindset Posters That Will Shift Your Child’s Mindset
The problem with most ready-made growth mindset posters you can get is that you stick them on the wall and they become…wallpaper. Your child may notice a pretty poster for a day or two, but then they blend in, and your child’s eyes will gloss right over them without really seeing the important messages you’re trying to get across.
Because of this, I put together a special set of printable growth mindset posters for my kids, and they loved them so much I decided to share them here.
You can use these color-in mindset posters at home with your kids, or you can use them in a classroom of students then decorate the walls with the students’ creations. (Just remember to move them around every now and then to keep them from becoming wallpaper!)
The phrases on these special growth mindset posters include:
- I can’t do it yet, but I will
- I’m the boss of my mind, and I can tell it what to do
- My brain is a muscle, and mistakes are like lifting weights
- I’m perfectly imperfect, and that’s a beautiful thing
- Winning doesn’t matter. Learning does.
- The more I try, the more my brain grows
- There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs. (A quote from Zig Ziglar)
- Worrying about mistakes is like putting a leash on my brainpower
- I can (This one’s our favorite because it shows “I can’t” with the “t” being cut off with a pair of scissors!)
Why These Growth Mindset Posters Make the Mindset Message Stick
These are the only growth mindset posters that will actually make the mindset message sink in with kids.
- Powerful mantras arm your child with positive sayings they can repeat to quiet internal negative thoughts, so they’re ready when they hit speed bumps during the learning process or during the everyday challenges of childhood.
- But kids may have a hard time grasping abstract concepts and remembering a string of words, which means phrases like “strive for progress not perfection” end up going in one ear and out the other. But the mantras on these growth mindset posters are as literal and concrete as possible. When you can paint a picture in your child’s brain to go along with a mantra, your child is much more likely to remember it.
- After you get these posters, you can print new copies for your child to color as often as you want. Here’s why that’s important: For your child to shift to a growth mindset, she needs to internalize the lesson so she won’t have to think about it consciously. But she can’t just hear a message once and internalize it immediately. She needs repetition. From math to vocabulary and beyond, repetition and rehearsal of new information support a process that’s essential to memory – a process called consolidation. During consolidation, the brain moves memories from temporary storage in the brain’s hippocampus to more permanent storage in the cortex (the outer layer of the brain). Translation? The more your child colors these growth mindset posters, the more the message will sink in.
- And most important of all, these color-in growth mindset posters are just plain fun. Whereas slapping a ready-made poster on a wall and asking kids to read them aloud veers into drill sergeant territory, engaging kids in the fun activity of coloring unlocks their creativity and invites them to be an active part of the learning process. In fact, brain research suggests that fun isn’t just a “nice to have” for the learning process but that it may be required for authentic learning and for storage in long-term memory.
But…Will These Growth Mindset Posters Spark a Change in Your Child?
When I first set out to create these growth mindset posters for kids, my goal was to shift my kids’ internal dialogue in those moments when they struggled. Specifically, I wanted to erase the internal dialogue where they painted a picture of themselves as incapable of improving – and replace it with a handful of powerful, positive mantras to remind them that hard work and sticking with a problem will help their brains grow and help them become the people they want to be.
And although I’d done a ton of research ahead of time about the science behind how growth mindset posters could help my kids, I didn’t know exactly how well the messages would stick.
The day the final posters were ready, I called my two oldest kids over to the dining room table while their toddler sister was napping.
“Hey guys, let’s color!”
I’d laid the growth mindset posters on the table, along with my fancy coloring pencils that I keep on a high shelf in my closet except for special occasions.
They walked into the room, glanced around the table, and hurried to sit down.
We each took a sheet and started coloring. My preschooler Bailey wanted to talk about the letters on her poster while she colored, and my grade-schooler Abby said, “We have posters kind of like this at school in some of the classrooms, except you can’t color them in.”
“Oh yeah?” I said. “What do they say?”
“I can’t remember,” she said.
“Hmm,” I said. Probably not the effect the teachers were going for when they took the time to pick out those pretty posters and hang them up to inspire the kids to keep trying.
As we colored, we talked about the phrases on our posters – what the phrases mean, situations we’ve been in where the phrases would have helped us, and more. I kept it light and breezy by asking lots of questions and biting my tongue when I felt like lecturing. Just let the posters sink into their minds, I reminded myself.
We had a fun afternoon coloring together, then we picked out a piece of prime wall real estate to hang up our creations.
Later that day, I was in the kitchen while the girls were building with Magna Tiles in the living room, and I overheard Abby say, “I can’t get it to work.”
And 4-year-old Bailey said, “You can’t get it to work YET. But you will.”
But Would the Messages Stick Long-Term?
I smiled at the fast impact, but I still wondered if the messages of the growth mindset posters would stick with my kids for the long-term.
Every week or so, I’d bust out a fresh set of the posters with my special pencils, and we’d have another group coloring session. I overheard the girls repeating the growth mindset phrases to each other for encouragement, and I noticed a shift in their self-talk – so I was one happy mama.
But after picking up Abby from school one day, on the ride home she said, “We have to write two paragraphs every week with six to eight sentences each on the same topic. And we have to use these stupid prompts! I can’t write with a prompt.”
“Hmm,” I said. “Have you ever written with a prompt before?”
I expected her to get more frustrated and focus on why writing prompts are so hard, but she surprised me. “Well, it’s not that I can’t write with a prompt. I’ve done it before. It’s just that it’s hard to get started because it’s not my own idea.”
She got quiet, and I glanced at her in the rearview mirror. She was staring at a piece of paper, and I wondered what thoughts were churning behind the scenes.
She said something under her breath, so I asked, “What’s that?”
“Oh, I just said maybe this one will work. And if I don’t like how it turns out, I can try again.”
I smiled. “That sounds like a good plan.”
She was no longer just repeating the growth mindset phrases from the posters. She’d internalized the message.
But the real clincher came for me that weekend while we were in the car running errands as a family.
The two big girls sit in the back row, and I could hear them talking to each other but couldn’t quite make out the words.
Then after a bit, Bailey called up to us. “Mommy and Daddy, we have a new phrase!”
Ty and I glanced at each other. “A new phrase?” I asked.
“Yeah. Wanna hear it?”
She and Abby whispered to each other some more, then Abby said, “She wants me to go first. My phrase is ‘A life without mistakes is no life at all.'”
I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I leaned across and whispered to Ty, “The growth mindset posters!”
Then to Abby, I said, “That’s awesome!”
“Wanna hear mine?” Bailey asked.
“We’d love to!” I might have been a little excited.
“Okay,” she said. “Winning doesn’t matter. Trying does.”
Not only had they internalized the messages from the growth mindset posters, but they’d been making up their own growth mindset phrases in their own words. All because of our special set of growth mindset coloring posters.
The girls have even taken it one step further and started coming up with their own rules to live by in the same style.
So far, my favorite from 4-year-old Bailey is this one:
If you have something nice to say, say it. Otherwise, if you can’t say something nice, shut your mouth.
Wise words, little one.
How to Download Your Growth Mindset Posters
Invite your kids to color these growth mindset printable posters, then you can hang them in your house as a gentle and positive reminder of the power of your mindset. For an extra dose of fun, try printing two copies, then sit by your child and color them together.
If you’re a teacher, these are the perfect growth mindset posters for the classroom because you can print as many copies as you want and have a built-in growth mindset activity for your students.
- Download your mindset posters here. After you order, you’ll get a special link to get your growth mindset posters PDF.
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal, especially if you plan to hang the posters on the wall later.
- Set your kids up to color the posters. Regular old crayons work fine, or you can pair the activity with a fun new art supply like watercolor pencils or 80’s Glam Sharpies.
For an extra treat for your kids, you can have these growth mindset posters printed at Staples using their “engineering print” option to make super-sized versions of the posters. We’ve had the best luck with the 18×24 size (less than $2) and the 36×48 (about $7).
We pick one of the growth mindset posters every now and then to do this with, then unleash all the kids at once for a group coloring project that keeps them moving towards a growth mindset.
Which of these growth mindset posters is your child’s favorite (or yours)? Share in a comment below!