Growth Mindset and the Power of YET!


By Rachel Wells

There is quite a phenomenon going around schools called Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, wrote a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. Because of this book, schools, parents, and individuals, have begun a shift in their thinking.

This book describes how there are two types of mindsets – fixed or growth. People with a fixed mindset believe their abilities, intelligence, and actions are fixed traits, and that they only have a set amount of abilities. Their goals often revolve around being smart. Individuals with a growth mindset think of challenges as ways to grow. They believe they can improve their abilities by working hard, and by changing the way they look at their mistakes.

The Power of Yet

A simple way to start changing to a growth mindset, is by the use of a little word, yet. In essence the word means a realization that some things are worth waiting for, and those things take work. It’s not always easy, but the power of this small word allows for success. Changing your words can help students begin to make the change from a fixed to a growth mindset.  

What if instead of your students saying “I can’t do this”, they said “I can’t do this yet”?

What if instead of your students saying “I’m not good at this”, they said “I’m not good at this yet”?

What if instead of your students saying “I don’t understand this”, they said “I don’t understand this yet”?

What if instead of your students saying “It doesn’t work”, they said “It doesn’t work yet”?

What if instead of your students saying “this doesn’t make sense”, they said “this doesn’t make sense yet”?

What kind of classroom climate do you feel with the added yet? Do you picture a classroom filled with students that believe in how much they can grow? A classroom filled with confident students willing to take risks and try new things? In my classroom, after adding the word yet, that is exactly what happened. This shift in focus lead to my students behaving differently in the classroom. This tiny word had a huge impact on student’s perseverance, because they realized that they needed to put in effort in order to ‘get it’. It encouraged student’s not to give up when they were wrong, and helped them grow to become more resilient.

Praise Effort Not Attainment

Often times when a child is struggling, an adult responds by telling them that they can accomplish the task because they are “smart”. We need to be careful saying this, as there is actually a lot of risk in using this word too much.  Children who hear how “smart” they are all the time tend to fear doing anything that might go against that notion. They often avoid pushing themselves, shy away from challenges, and fear making mistakes.

We need to praise children for their effort, strategies, progress, hard work, persistence, learning from past mistakes, and rising to the challenge, instead of telling them how smart they are, praising them for being born gifted, or congratulating them for not making mistakes. We need to remind children that mistakes help them improve, that they learn from mistakes, and that if something doesn’t work, they can try another way to solve the problem. It is also imperative to set a good example, and be mindful of our own thinking, words, and actions.

How Do We Make a Shift

No one, your students included, can be expected to change their mindset overnight. We all have fixed mindsets about certain things without even realizing it. Changing your mindset, or your child’s mindset is a process. Be patient, and think of yourself as a coach. Your job is to help children change over time and with lots of practice.

Start by introducing the concept – ask students what it means to grow, and explain what a fixed and growth mindset look like. Take time to talk about the types of things children were not able to do before that they have since learned how to do. Share your own struggles and accompanying feelings. Provide opportunities for children to struggle, and reframe mistakes as examples to the class. The more exposure children have with a growth mindset, the more standard it will become. Remember to lead by example. Talk with a growth mindset, and make sure to use the word yet in frustrating situations.  
Take time at the end of each day to ask some growth mindset questions:

What did you do today that made you think hard?

What new strategies did you try?

What mistakes did you make that taught you something?

What did you try today that was hard?


Books are a wonderful tool for introducing a new concept, and all of these books would make a fabulous addition to your classroom library.

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

The main character in this story never makes mistakes, until one day she does! She learns that life is more fun when you learn to enjoy the process and learn from your mistakes.

What Do You Do With a Problem? By Kobi Yamada

The main character in this story avoids a persistent problem, however it only seems to get bigger. When he finally finds the courage to face the problem he learns that the problem is not what it first appeared, and discovers something amazing in the process.

Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg

Hooray for mistakes! Children who read this book will discover that a mistake is an opportunity for creativity, and sometimes the most beautiful things in life are unexpected.

I Can’t Do That, YET By Esther Pia Cordova

The main character in this story doesn’t believe in herself, and often says “I can’t do that”. When she learns to say “I can’t do that YET”, her whole world changes.

Giraffes Can’t Dance By Giles Andreae

All of the animals tell Giraffe that he can’t possibly dance, until a small friend shows him how to find his own tune.

Making a Splash – Growth Mindset for Kids By Carol E. Reiley

This book discusses why the best way to raise smart children, is to not tell them they’re smart. Instead children should learn that hard work and effort lead to success.


Developing a growth mindset early on will help children become more confident, resilient, empowered, and not afraid to fail. Confident children are willing to put forth more effort, and try hard to accomplish their goals. There is no time like today to start making changes in the way we talk, think, and feel about our abilities.

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