For years, many people have viewed intelligence as something that kids are born with instead of a mindset that can be developed through hard work. You probably know someone who talks about how intelligent parents have intelligent children. Is this because that child inherited brain power from his parents? Or is it more likely that the parents spent more time encouraging and helping their child problem solve? Taking the time to help young people to think and utilize their brain power to analyze things, determine possible choices, and identifying the best options for solutions are key elements to cultivating growth mindsets in teens and young children.

What is a Growth Mindset?

The pedagogy of a “growth mindset”, a concept developed by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, has been around for about twenty years. In an article that Dweck composed, she provided the following description of the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset:

More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. – Carol Dweck

View Carol Dweck’s TedTalk on “The Power of Believing You Can Improve”

Many educators today are moving towards helping students understand that hard work equals success. As a mentor, you can also help to offer teenagers a different perspective on the ability to learn and succeed academically and in life. Everyone has experienced ups and downs in life and even our mistakes and failures in life provide lessons that can be built upon.

When mentors share stories of how they personally had to work hard to overcome a challenge in life as an adult or when they were younger, it helps the mentee understand not everyone is successful on the first try. Through effective mentoring focused on cultivating growth mindsets, teens recognize that people achieve their goals by working hard, using their brains to come up with possible strategies for solutions, and learning new things from the experience along the way.

Whether it is a challenging math problem or another situation in life, here’s an infographic with examples of how your verbal responses can help to cultivate a growth mindset in a child:


Mentors Can Help Teens Develop A Growth Mindset

Mentoring can help develop a commitment to learning in a child. Think back to your own teenage years and try to remember what it was like when you were in school. Did you struggle with certain subjects? Do you have siblings who were able to get all A’s without studying? Did you have parents or teachers tell you that you were not very smart? It’s important to teach teens that the brain is flexible and adaptable; thus, with effort and determination, anything is possible. Practice and hard work are the keys to mastery. With the right type of support from their parents and other adults, including a mentor, a young person can learn new ways of thinking, adapt their study skills, and successfully plan for the future goals and dreams they want to pursue.

Becoming a mentor to a young person gives you the opportunity to motivate your mentee to do well in school by setting realistic and attainable goals. With positive reinforcement from you to your mentee, you can point out how school participation is important and taking time to study and complete homework assignments will help them achieve future success. As a mentor, you can be a champion for the effort a student makes no matter the outcome, and brainstorm solutions together with them when things don’t go as planned. Here are four growth mindset oriented steps to have your mentee consider:

Cultivating Growth Mindsets in U.S. Dream Academy DreamKids

As a mentor at one of our U.S. Dream Academy learning centers, you’ll learn to model the skills needed to transform a child’s fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It’s important for mentors to take inventory of their own mindset, understand that all people (adults and children) are all a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets, and commit to cultivating growth mindsets in youth. Our Mentor Coordinators provide mentors with group training sessions to support mentors in building trusting relationships with their mentees and provide tips on how mentors can provide guidance and support to youth.

The U.S. Dream Academy youth mentoring program is uniquely different from other after-school and mentoring programs. Our foundational principle is: Beyond school, every young person we serve must spend 11 to 15 hours each week in a stimulating learning environment. In addition, weekly, 1-hour, one-on-one or group sessions with carefully matched mentors complement after-school activities that combine academic fundamentals with the three core pillars of our program: skill-building, character-building, and dream-building. At each of our learning centers across the country, our overall goal is to nurture the whole child while altering attitudes, enhancing self-esteem, supporting emotional and intellectual growth, and sparking dreams.

Help Transform a Child’s Mindset & Ignite Their Dreams – BECOME A MENTOR

There is a growing need for mentors to provide support and encouragement to teens and young children. There is a huge mentoring gap – – only 1 in 3 children in the U.S. have a mentor. Join the U.S. Dream Academy as a Dream Mentor to help us fill that gap. – SIGN UP TODAY!

We have a goal of getting an additional 300 men and women across the country to sign-up to become mentors at one of our Dream Academy Learning Centers located in Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Bernardino and Washington, D.C.

From college students and young professionals to caring adults and senior citizens / retirees, we encourage you to sign-up to become a Dream Mentor. We’re looking for everyday, awesome people just like yourself – no superheroes are required!

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