How mentors and growth mindset go hand-in-hand


  • Mentoring relationships are a critical resource for young people.
  • Mentors help youth develop a growth mindset in three distinct ways: 1) cognitively, 2) socially and emotionally, and 3) through identity development.
  • Two overarching strategies to help your mentee develop growth mindset:
    • Be a good mentor. Be caring, trustworthy, and consistent.
    • Model having a growth mindset. Share your own experiences with adapting a growth mindset with your mentee.

To learn additional tips for being an effective mentor, check out this handy list.

We know that mentoring relationships are a critical resource for young people. Each of us can think back on a few adults beyond our immediate family who gave guidance, support, and advice that helped us become who we are today. These caring relationships with other adults expand kids’ sense of self and help them navigate the choppy waters of adolescence. Relationships with caring adults are so important that one researcher famously called them “The oxygen of human development.”

Every person can benefit from mentors throughout life. These special relationships can also be used intentionally, strategically, to help a youth overcome a particular challenge, reach a goal, or change in some meaningful way.

But how do mentors make this impact on youth? Well, research has found that mentors help youth develop in three distinct ways: 1) Cognitively - they literally teach youth how to think about things more clearly and make better decisions; 2) Socially and emotionally - mentors help youth manage their emotions, get along better with peers and adults, and learn how to handle conflict and disappointments; 3) Identity development - mentors can model appropriate behaviors, help youth discover their values and beliefs, and give mentees a glimpse of who they might become when they are an adult in the future.

These three areas of development can all be applied to helping your mentee adopt a growth mindset. Cognitively - You can change their thinking and how they approach problems. Socially and emotionally - You can help youth reframe their emotions when they make a mistake and get support as they work towards a goal. And in terms of identity, a mentor can model a good growth mindset and help youth view themselves as someone whose potential is not set in stone. All mentors can help youth grow, but it’s equally important that they help youth see that it’s possible to grow.

So how can mentors help their mentees adopt a growth mindset? The rest of this toolkit explores specific strategies and activities you can use. But there are two overarching strategies that will really help.

  • Simply be a good mentor - Your mentee will have an easier time working on a growth mindset and achieving goals if you cover the basics of good mentoring: being consistent and trustworthy, expressing care, honoring your commitments, and keeping the needs of the mentee first and foremost in your mind. Being a caring, dependable mentor will make it more likely your mentee will follow your lead when it comes to growth mindset.
  • Model having a growth mindset yourself - You will have opportunities throughout this toolkit to reflect on your own mindset and apply these concepts to goals in your own life. Talk openly with your mentee about how you are dealing with challenges or developing new skills; share examples from your own past and present. You can even talk about applying a growth mindset to being a mentor!

Recent studies have found that mentors just like you can be effective in getting their mentees to adopt a stronger growth mindset and increase their achievement in school and beyond, but only when mentors emphasize mindsets in conversations and reinforce the principles of a growth mindset in their words and actions. So remember that you’ll need to be “mindful about mindsets” if you expect to see your mentee improve.

 Give feedback