The growth mindset for girls

Encouraging our daughters to be brave, to try new things, and to strive to achieve more is not only possible, it is incredibly simple. It begins with the language that we use.

The primary school my daughter went to, and that my youngest still attends, preaches and practices Mindset Theory to children in everything they do - from the language they use to the posters in the classroom.

If you’re not familiar with Mindset Theory, it’s an approach that assumes students are of two mindsets: Fixed or Growth.

If children have a fixed mindset, they will believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, and their talents are just fixed traits and can’t be changed or developed. As a result, their goal becomes to look smart all the time, never look dumb, and never take a risk.

Children with a growth mindset are not afraid to take a risk and fail because they know that it makes them stronger. In fact, growth mindset argues that you don’t ‘fail’ because you are actually learning and developing.

If children have a growth mindset, they believe that their talents and abilities can be developed. They believe everyone can get smarter, faster, and stronger by making an effort and staying persistent. Children with a growth mindset are not afraid to take a risk and fail because they know that it makes them stronger. In fact, growth mindset argues that you don’t ‘fail’ because you are actually learning and developing.

It is thought that children who are given praise such as "Wow, you must be really smart!" are more likely to develop a fixed mindset, whereas those given compliments like "Wow, you must be hard working!" are likely to develop a growth mindset.

In one study, researchers offered four-year-olds a choice: They could either redo an easy jigsaw puzzle or try a harder one. Children who exhibited a “fixed mindset” mentality chose the easier puzzles that would affirm their existing ability. Children with a “growth mindset” mentality thought it was an odd choice to begin with and were perplexed why anyone would want to do the same puzzle over and over if they weren’t learning anything new. In other words, the fixed mindset children wanted to make sure they succeeded in order to seem smart, whereas the growth mindset children wanted to stretch themselves, because their definition of success was about becoming smarter.

Of course this doesn’t just apply to classroom activities, it permeates through our entire lives and especially in sport for girls.

I see my daughter’s growth mindset when I help out with her cross country club. The children are praised for their effort rather than their position or finishing times. It’s not just the teachers doing it; the children are also praising and encouraging their fellow pupils. The sight of five or six nine-year-olds running back down a cross country course they’ve already completed to run with their teammates and encourage them all the way to the finish line is incredibly inspiring.

As parents we can support our daughters by considering the language we use with them. Rather than just praise the results, we should praise the effort and determination our daughters show. Let’s celebrate hard work, bravery, and growth - not just the end result!

Written by SisuGirls Community Ambassador, Kassia Gardner. 


Kassia Gardner loves running. As well as running road marathons she’s also an ultra and trail runner. As an Event Director for junior parkrun Kassia is passionate about getting kids moving and believes that sports can empower girls and teach them skills such as teamwork, determination, focus, goal setting and dealing with failure. Her own personal motto is, ‘I don’t need easy, I just need possible!’


Rachel Jacqueline