Other tips for mentors to support growth mindset
Although this toolkit has stressed the importance of growth mindset, please keep in mind that delivering messages and advice around mindsets will likely be just one part of what you talk about and do with your mentee. Your relationship will grow and evolve in countless ways as you engage in meaningful activities, talk about serious topics, learn new skills, solve problems, and just have fun together. But do try to be intentional, in those meaningful moments where your mentee doubts themselves or feels like they don’t have it in them to get better at something, about reinforcing a growth mindset. It shouldn't get in the way of your conversations and interactions, but it can reinforce exactly the right way of thinking at just the right time. Those are the moments that make the long-term impact of a mentor truly special.
There are other things to keep in mind as you go on this growth mindset journey with your mentee:
- Challenges aren’t overcome all at once — As noted in The Importance of Reframing Mistakes, patience is an important principle when it comes to adopting and applying a growth mindset. It takes practice to know when and how to apply these ways of thinking. And even if you have a strong growth mindset, we all think in a fixed mindset sometimes. A desire for instant results can lead to disappointments when confronted with a big challenge, such as a complicated algebra lesson or a difficult hobby. One effective strategy is to remember that problems are best solved by breaking them up into smaller discrete goals. Similarly, your mentee may find the most success by focusing on a few aspects of a problem or challenge at a time.
- Be authentic — One of the keys to getting youth to reflect on, and improve, their mindset is to weave these messages about growth mindset into your relationship and conversations in organic ways that don’t feel forced or unnatural. Do your best to be genuine with your mentee and say things in the way you tend to speak, not in some canned or pre-rehearsed way. Kids will know when you are simply parroting some talking point or going through the motions of things you are “supposed” to say. So always make sure you are listening to what your mentee is truly saying and approach these mindset strategies from a genuine place.
- Be honest about the limits of what you know — Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something, especially related to growth mindset, which you are just learning about yourself. A student might say something like “Why is it so much harder for me than other people?” A mentor’s first instinct might be to negate that premise and deny that it is much harder for their mentee in an effort to protect them. But a better approach might be to say, “I don’t know why… Maybe other students have had more practice at home that you don’t see. But it doesn’t matter where they are at because you are in control of how much you improve.”
- Lean on your program staff for support — One of the benefits of mentoring through a program is that the staff of the organization has your back. They are there to make you the most effective mentor you can be, so make sure to ask for their support. Early in the relationship, ask program staff about your mentee’s attitudes and behaviors that might indicate where they sit on the fixed-growth spectrum. And as you encounter all those specific scenarios talked about in One Powerful Word for Growth Mindset, turn to the staff with questions to make sure that you are reinforcing the right messages around growth mindset.
- Help your mentee feel a sense of belonging when they are with you — There is compelling research about the value of belonging in supporting academic success for youth, and how grades and relationships can suffer when that feeling of belonging is absent. While growth mindset has been found to promote belonging, mentors can also help youth feel like they belong through small and large actions that help youth feel respected and valued. For example, mentors can make eye contact with youth and can work to correctly pronounce their names. Mentors can also respond to youths’ challenges or behavior struggles with empathy. For example, if a student has gotten in trouble at school, instead of saying, “You shouldn’t have done that,” you can ask them for their side of the story and then discuss how they might be able to do something differently next time. You can learn more about strategies that promote belonging in the Belonging for Educators Course.
- Try to get parents involved in this effort too — While mentors can be a powerful voice in orienting youth toward a growth mindset, those messages may not have their ultimate impact if they are not being reinforced at home. Both mentors and program staff (depending on the program) should try and include parents and guardians in the information and strategies being promoted around growth mindset. The PERTS Mindset Kit website has a whole toolkit designed specifically for parents, emphasizing the key role they play in helping their child build a growth mindset.
- Keep learning about growth mindset — We’ve only scratched the surface here about mindsets and all the ways that they impact learning and behavior. The downloadable Planning and Activity Guide that follows offers a list of additional reading and resources that you may find helpful in deepening your understanding or directly teaching your mentee about growth mindset.
Thank you for completing this toolkit! Remember that promoting a growth mindset goes hand-in-hand with just being a caring, attentive, and positive mentor and role model. Just be mindful about how you give praise, how you reframe mistakes, and how you help your mentees view themselves.