Growth Mindset For Teens: A Parent’s Blueprint for Teen Success

Reviewed by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Hayley Vaughan Smith, Person Centred Counsellor and The Ridge Practice and Everlief Child Psychology
Author: Hayley Vaughan-Smith, Person-Centred Counsellor

The teenage years are an incredibly important time for a child’s personal, academic and emotional development.  One of the practical ways you can help your child thrive and succeed during this time is by encouraging a growth mindset in your teen.

I’ll take you through what core beliefs are associated with a growth mindset for teens, and why it can be so helpful for your teen in all aspects of their life.

Here’s a practical guide for you to encourage a growth mindset.

teen girl reflective, serious

Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

Over 30 years ago, Psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students’ attitudes about fear of failure.  After decades of research, the concepts of fixed and growth mindset were popularised.

These mindsets are particularly relevant when considering the mindset of teenagers.

A fixed mindset refers to the belief that abilities and intelligence are innate and unchangeable. 

This can lead to a tendency of a lack of effort and avoidance of challenges or for fear of failure.  People with a fixed mindset can ignore useful feedback and constructive criticism and feel threatened by the success of others.

Explaining how the brain works and how it learns can be a really helpful way to demonstrate to teens that their abilities and skills are not static, they can change, grow and improve.

A growth mentality refers to the belief that abilities and intelligence are not necessarily innate but can be developed through dedication, hard work, application and learning. 

An attitude or approach which builds skills in resilience and persistence can help your teen through life’s inevitable challenges and obstacles.

serious teen boy playing guitar

Growth Mindset in Teens: The power of YET

I love this reference in my counselling work.  I use it in all sorts of scenarios and it’s particularly relevant for teenagers.  It can remind them that with patience, effort and a positive attitude, they can overcome anything to reach their goals.

The next time your teenager says that they simply can’t do something, try adding the word YET on the end, and see how they respond!

I’m no good at tennis …..YET

I haven’t got any friends ….YET

I can’t play the guitar ….YET

Positive Mindset vs Growth Mindset

There is a distinction between these two mindsets. A positive mindset typically features positive self-talk with an emphasis on optimism and confidence. 

In contrast, a growth mindset is how we approach challenges and hurdles and how we use learning and experience to overcome them.

Carol Dweck said that mindsets can change the meaning of failure.  A challenging task can help teenagers to develop a wide set of life skills.

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Why is Growth Mindset in Teens So Important?

A growth mindset is important to encourage as it can give your teen an overall empowered and positive attitude towards anything they might tackle.

Setbacks and failures happen to all of us. Talk to your child about the power of reflection and using a setback as a learning opportunity, build resilience and belief in themselves.

You can help by encouraging them to try new things. Get your teenager to explore new ways to approach challenges or conflicts and find meaningful ways of developing through their activities and challenging problems.

How about showing them how to do it?  Maybe you could challenge your own beliefs about something scary by stepping outside your comfort zone. Show them the fun of trying something new.

a mother and son on a rollercoaster laughing

Growth mindset For High School Students: Parent Guide

Young people’s pathways to success are as unique as they are themselves. 

The reality is that academic performance is constantly assessed through high school. So they will need to work on their coping and resilience skills as well as their attitude to learning. 

Sometimes, it’s no easy task to keep on track of everything that’s required of a teenager through high school, so how can you support the development of a growth mindset in your child? 

Here are some things to consider.

  • Take the opportunity through the primary/elementary and middle school years to instil a love of learning and reading wherever possible. Fiction and non-fiction stories can illustrate growth mentality in action.
  • Be present for homework sessions when they are younger so you can keep the positive narrative going, especially when they feel lost or unable to complete tasks.
  • Support your child in the development of refined study skills through the teaching of time planning and task prioritisation.
  • Be aware of your child overly seeking approval. Instead teach them to trust themselves and their judgment and to see what happens.
  • Encourage older students to work independently, but to know when and where to seek support.
  • Teach the power of passion. Build confidence in areas or subjects that they feel engaged or passionate about learning.
  • Let your teenager take on challenges. Try to put your own anxieties or concerns aside.
  • Show how proud you are when your child approaches challenging problems with a ‘can do’ attitude. 
  • Even if they feel like giving up, encourage your teen to keep going and reach their full potential.
  • Praise your teen’s efforts and the route they take. It doesn’t need to be about the result.  This will teach them to look at every process as a learning opportunity.

Growth Mindset in Teens and Social Interaction

Developing a growth mindset for teens can significantly influence how they approach social interactions.

Here are some of the best ways you can help a young person have positive interactions.

  • Teach empathy and encourage your teenager to be aware of other people’s feelings and perspectives. Encourage them to question their own responses and beliefs.
  • Discuss the importance of having good listening skills, making eye contact if they can, and responding positively in verbal and non-verbal ways.
  • Support your teen to learn, build and practice social skills including effective communication. This could include assertiveness and conflict resolution, expression of thoughts and beliefs and knowing how and when to communicate, especially through social media platforms.
  • Teach emotional intelligence – by learning how to manage their own emotions, responses and behaviour and how to read and respond to others, social interactions and relationships will become more rewarding and fulfilling.
  • Encourage them to surround themselves with a tribe of people who value and accept them but to also recognise and avoid toxic relationships.
two teenagers chatting in a school canteen

Growth Mindset in Teens: Independent Living skills

As teenagers transition into adulthood and start to think about life beyond school, some may need to prepare themselves to live, work or study away from home.

Setting long-term SMART goals is an excellent way to approach new challenges that come with independent living.  

For example:

  • Learning how to budget their money.
  • Organising household chores.
  • Arranging their own transportation.
  • Caring for themselves.
  • Planning meals, cooking and shopping.
  • Job seeking.
  • Problem solving.

You can be ready to give guidance with the important aspects of independent living, but the best way to learn is for them to do it for themselves.

Growth Mindset in Teens Example: Emma

Emma is a creative 15 year old student who loves English and Drama. 

Other subjects like science and maths have always been more challenging for her. She found them time consuming, and would procrastinate for hours and then hand in homework assignments late.

Emma’s best friend Callie has supported her by demonstrating how she benefits from a growth mindset, encouraging Emma to try to apply it to her more challenging subjects.

Emma could see how well Callie was doing. She tried to apply her strategies, but found that her time management skills were poor. Emma felt that she would never be good at time management and organisation.

After a busy day at school, after school clubs, getting home and walking the dog, Emma ended up trying to complete her science and maths homework and revision late into the night.

Over time, this led to a vicious cycle of tiredness and high stress levels.

Frustrated at her lack of focus and progress, Emma sought help from her year head at school.

The year head described some effective techniques for organising Emma’s tasks and priorities. He also shared some problem-solving strategies tailored to her learning style. 

Callie also encouraged her with words of support and chocolate!

Emma created a structured schedule for her homework and revision and ensured she designated time for other activities and relaxation. Once she started using this structure, she noticed her stress levels reduced and her tasks were being completed on time.

Emma started to believe that she was capable of being organised with her work.

With her new growth mindset, Emma approached her maths homework differently. She looked at problems as opportunities to learn and build confidence. Instead of feeling defeated, she was able to notice positive changes.

Callie played a crucial role in Emma’s transformation by providing emotional support and reminding Emma of how capable she really is. When she was free, they would study together, which helped to keep Emma on track and focussed.

Emma’s effort to manage her time better and adopt a growth mindset helped her achieve better results in her more challenging subjects. It also improved her confidence and self-belief. She developed a resilience mindset which extended out into other aspects of her life.

a teenage student and teacher having a consultation in a classroom

Activities to Develop Growth Mindset in Teens

We’ve talked about the merits of having a powerful growth mindset.

Now let’s have a look at some great activities to develop and support this in teens with challenging tasks that would vary based on their interests, skills and personal goals.

  1. SMART goal setting. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound, allowing you to write goals that are clear attainable and meaningful. Goal setting can help to develop self-belief and self-confidence in your teenager.
  2. Growth mindset journaling. Suggest that your teen writes in a daily journal documenting challenges, goals and reflections about learning. This will encourage introspection and resilience. Looking back at entries can be great fun and show progress and areas for growth!
  3. Volunteering. Engaging in community service or volunteering for a cause with meaning can be both challenging and rewarding. Your teen could help younger children at Scouts, or local drama groups for example.
  4. Learning a new language. This really challenges the brain and opens up opportunities for cultural learning. Some people have a fixed mindset that “I am no good at languages”. However, there is really no such thing. It’s all about regular practice. Duo Lingo is a great app with goals set up for yourself or against others if you choose.
  5. Physical challenges. For example, rock climbing, martial arts or participating in a sponsored walk or run. These can really boost physical and mental resilience and can be a great forum for social interaction and team building.
  6. Leadership role. If your teen wants to develop their skills in this area, school clubs or community projects are really great ways to learn about and try out broadening leadership and interpersonal skills.
  7. Creative projects. Encourage creativity and self-expression through art, music, dancing, digital arts, all whilst building a growth mindset and supporting beliefs such as “I can learn something new” or “I am a creative person”.

Growth Mindset Resources For Teens

Apps to Encourage a Growth Mindset

Reflectly – https://reflectly.app/

Duo Lingo – https://www.duolingo.com/

Quizlet – https://www.quizlet.com/

TED-Ed – https://ed/ted/com/

Great Growth Mindset Videos From YouTube

The Mindset of a Champion

YouTube video

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

YouTube video

The Power of Yet

YouTube video

Growth Mindset Books for Teens

A Growth Mindset For Teens by Sydney Sheppard

Mindset – Updated Edition: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential by Dr Carol S. Dweck

Life Skills for Teens by Robert James Ryan

Life Skills for Teens by Karen Harris

Growth Mindset Journals For Teens

Big Life Journal for Tweens/Teens (aged 11+)

Take a look at the range of PDF printables here too https://biglifejournal.com/collections/printables

Growth Mindset Journal for Tweens and Teens by Iona Yeung

HappySelf The Journal (Junior and Teen versions)

Growth Mindset in Teens: Summary

The development of a growth mindset is an ongoing process. 

It takes time, patience and effort to become a resilient adult.

I recommend encouraging your teenager to embrace changes and challenges, learn from criticism and see how their effort and persistence in the face of problems can broaden their learning experiences. The eventual result will be high self-esteem, pride and joy.

Related Articles

Help Your Child With Negative Self-Talk

How to Help a Teenager With Low Self-Esteem

Signs of an Insecure Teenager: Parent Guide

Your Boundaries Worksheet (Healthy Boundaries for You & Your Child)

Parenting Teenagers Books: A Psychologist’s Top 10 Picks

How To Help Your Teenager Find Their Passion

Hayley Vaughan-Smith is a Person-Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.

Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care for four years.

Hayley is mum to 3 grown up girls, and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy. Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.


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