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Words of Encouragement for Kids to Support a Growth Mindset


Discover powerful words of encouragement to cultivate a growth mindset in kids. Learn phrases that foster resilience, curiosity, and a love for learning.

“I love you.” “You are doing so great.” “I believe in you.” 

Sometimes, all it takes is a few encouraging words for kids to blossom into curious, resilient, and confident learners. And really, could a caregiver want anything more? 

Science agrees: such positive words of encouragement for kids are crucial to developing a growth mindset. Kind words can foster communication, validate their feelings, and help little voices navigate big emotions.

Still, it can be hard to know exactly what to say day in and day out. That’s why we’ve compiled some actionable and encouraging phrases you can apply to any scenario. Join us as we explore the power of thoughtful encouragement—a journey that begins with just a few well-chosen words.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Psychologist Carol Dweck pioneered research on growth mindset versus fixed mindset. The difference can be summarized by how children view their own accomplishments and failures1:

  • Children with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are set in stone. They are more likely to avoid challenges that may reveal areas they need to improve in. 
  • Kids with a growth mindset understand they can develop their abilities through hard work and positive affirmations. They are more resilient when facing obstacles and setbacks.

Dweck’s research shows that encouragement plays a key role in shaping mindsets—in either direction. Complimenting a child’s innate intelligence, for example, promotes a fixed mindset, whereas praising effort and perseverance develops a growth mindset. 

Studies have linked growth mindsets to greater academic achievement and emotional well-being.2 Kids who believe they can grow become more motivated learners, have a more positive attitude, and cope better with anxiety and adversity. 

In other words, with thoughtfully crafted words of encouragement for kids, caregivers can teach growth mindset principles from an early age—setting them up for future success.

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The Power of Words in Shaping Mindset

Our words have immense potential to shape young minds. Verbal encouragement and positive reinforcement activate certain neural pathways that reinforce helpful thought patterns. Knowing how to talk to kids to encourage a positive mindset is important. Phrases focused on effort and improvement especially strengthen growth mindset neural connections.

Research also shows that different types of motivation spark different brain responses3:

  • Intrinsic motivation comes from within—the inherent satisfaction of learning something new or overcoming a challenge. 
  • Extrinsic motivation is fueled purely by external rewards and praise, be that compliments or cookies.

The words we use when praising children impact their source of motivation. Compliments focused on effort, progress, and problem-solving promote intrinsic motivation. But conversations about speed, innate talent, and rewards shift motivation externally for a young child. 

Studies show intrinsic motivation is more powerful for sustaining student engagement and achievement long term. Keeping this in mind can help us craft encouragement that feeds an intrinsic growth mindset.

Words to Avoid

Certain common phrases may promote a fixed mindset in children. 

Telling a young child “You are so smart!” implies that intelligence is innate. This could put pressure on them to live up to a label, undermining the value of effort. Similarly, praising good grades or easy wins instead of progress sends the message that success should just come naturally.

Other phrases may unintentionally minimize or dismiss a child’s feelings. Saying “Don’t worry” or “Shake it off” could convey that their emotions are unimportant. This shuts down opportunities for problem-solving big feelings together. 

Children also might interpret dramatic praise like “incredible job!” as meant for much bigger accomplishments. So using such phrases too freely can quickly dilute their positive impact.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating our kids’ successes. However, focusing encouragement on the process behind the success is what builds resilience. 

Constructive Words of Encouragement for Kids

Some of the most encouraging words for kids are ones that validate their feelings while spotlighting their ability to learn and grow. 

Here are 12 helpful phrases caregivers can use to cultivate growth mindsets across different scenarios:

Words that Reinforce Effort

Children benefit from knowing that effort fuels success—rather than innate talent. Using phrases that praise hard work over results teaches the power of perseverance. Some examples include:

  1. “I see how focused you were drawing that picture. Your effort shows!”
  2. “I love how you kept trying different solutions until you solved that puzzle.”
  3. “You put in so much practice—no wonder you’re getting better at reading.”
  4. “I know that assignment was tough, but you stuck with it. Great job not giving up!”

Emphasizing the learning process over grades or other subjective measures breeds motivation from within. Celebrate small wins that come from diligence and teamwork. Encourage revision over rushing to finish easy tasks quickly. 

Words that Highlight Potential

Children benefit from feeling like they have the potential to grow and succeed. Encouraging words for kids in this scenario might include:

  1. “I believe in you. I know you can handle this challenge.”
  2. “You’re at the starting line of learning this. I’m excited to see your progress.”
  3. “When something is hard, it just means your brain is growing!”
  4. “You might not know how yet—and that’s OK. You’ll figure it out, I’m sure of it.”

Urge kids to embrace uncertainty as a path for growth, not something to fear. Try highlighting “yet” thinking, as in: “You can’t do multiplication yet, but I know you’ll get there with practice.” 

Words that Foster Curiosity and Learning

A true growth mindset develops an innate love of learning through asking questions. Nurturing such natural curiosity is especially key for younger children. 

In this context, words of encouragement for kids should aim to celebrate their exploration, questions, and even mistakes. Some examples could include:

  1. “I love how curious you are about how things work.”
  2. “Asking questions helps us learn. What else are you wondering about?”
  3. “Making mistakes just means you’re learning. You’ll do even better next time.”
  4. “Look at how much you’re learning by trying new things!”

Prompt children to come up with their own solutions before jumping in. Let them learn through hands-on exploration. Embrace mistakes as opportunities to improve. Above all, let your child lead—following their interests to fan the flames of curiosity.

Tips for Implementing Words of Encouragement Daily

Weaving words of encouragement into your daily life is a great idea, as it is an investment in your child’s emotional intelligence. But coming up with thoughtful, encouraging phrases for everyday situations takes practice. Here are a few tips to keep in mind: 

  • Meet frustration with validation – Try saying something like, “I know this is tough. I’m here to help you figure it out.” Teach self-encouragement with positive affirmations like “I’m getting better every day.”
  • Praise the process over the end result – Focus on effort, improvement, and teamwork. “I loved your creativity in how you solved that problem.”
  • Celebrate milestones and wins related to the effort invested – “Great job reaching your reading goal through all that practice this month!”
  • Embrace mistakes openly – Put a positive spin on setbacks, like: “Making mistakes just means your brain is growing. Let’s talk about what you learned.”

The balance shifts as kids get older. Teenagers may require less overt praise and more space for self-reflection. Tweaking your approach to fit your child’s age and needs can help ensure the encouragement really resonates. Creating a list of morning affirmations for kids is a great start!

Encouraging Play and Imagination

Playtime is the perfect space to reinforce growth mindset lessons. Fantastical toys—even homemade or improvised ones—can allow children to think beyond perceived limits. 

Some great growth mindset-promoting toys and games might include:

  • Cooperative board games to cultivate teamwork and trying your best
  • Building toys that allow free form creation
  • Art supplies like crayons, paint, and clay that foster creativity
  • Puzzles and brainteasers that challenge problem-solving skills
  • Dress-up clothes and props that inspire imaginative role-play

While electronic devices have their place, it’s also helpful to set aside screen-free time, teaching your child to direct their own play and learning. 

Nurture Growth Together with Slumberkins

As we can see, encouraging praise has power. And with a little effort of our own, caretakers can wield it to cultivate a growth mindset that instills a love of learning, the resilience to face challenges, and the confidence to grow into their best selves.

For a treasure trove of delightful companions that echo this sentiment, we invite you to venture into the enchanting realm of Slumberkins. A whole world of educational and emotional learning resources awaits—ready to help caretakers create an atmosphere of understanding and free expression.


Sources: 

  1. "Carol Dweck: A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets." Farnam Street.  https://fs.blog/carol-dweck-mindset/
  2. Yeager, David. "Mindsets That Promote Resilience." ResearchGate. October, 2012. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262908828_Mindsets_That_Promote_Resilience_When_Students_Believe_That_Personal_Characteristics_Can_Be_Developed
  3. Wen, Tiffanie. "The things that do – and don't – motivate kids to succeed." BBC. 5 December, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20191203-the-things-that-do-and-dont-motivate-kids-to-succeed

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