The Secret of Building Resilient Kids: Growth Mindset

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  • Learn to teach kids that failure is a process and never a final state.
  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn, to fail forward, and keep growing.
  • Use picture books to teach resilience and grit.

Growth Mindset: No More Giving Up!

So often, kids say, “I can’t” or “It’s too hard.” So how do we instill the notion that failure is a process and never final?

It all begins with you, your values, and what you model. My class has a large and prominent motto on the wall: Mistakes are for learning. 

Mistakes Are for Learning

Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

I love that quote. Authentic experience is learning to do better and moving forward from mistakes. An aged adage sums it up: The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Therefore, authentic experience is reflecting and learning from mistakes to move forward. Moving forward involves changing what didn’t work.

Students savor progress over perfection. Students learn to fail forward and keep growing. Click To Tweet

Leo the Late Bloomer

Using the story of Leo the Late Bloomer as a model, my students discover that learning is a process. We all develop in our own time. Students work collaboratively, giving kind, specific, and helpful feedback, which helps them improve. Students set goals and record their progress. We celebrate progress. When students make progress, the class applauds their effort, propelling them to learn more. Do more. It’s positive peer pressure. We treat everyone with equal care and respect. Still, it’s essential to provide equity in education. Hence, each child gets what they need emotionally and academically to develop and master standards. Students savor progress over perfection. Students learn to fail forward and keep growing.

I’m a role model making mistakes and refining my work so students don’t complain about refining their work. Some days, I make mistakes without even trying, and my students gently remind me that “mistakes are for learning.” If we continue to make mistakes but don’t grow from them, then we’re not learning. It’s the same for our students too. So when they make mistakes, we’ve got to provide precise feedback (one of my colleagues calls it “feed-it-forward”) for our students to learn and grow.  

Additionally, emphasize the importance of students doing their best and not comparing them to others. Their best isn’t someone else’s best. My best looks different from their best too. The goal is to progress. 

Teach Kids to Rebound

My friend Helen Stanphil, an author of young adult novels, died from a brain tumor but left a legacy through writing. She shared with my students how to grow as writers. She told them writing was similar to rebounding in basketball. How many times is the first shot missed, but rebounds save the day? Lots! What wonderful advice. I think we all need to remember to rebound in all areas of our life because mistakes are for learning. Learn from them, and rebound. Lots!

Incorporate STEM Challenges

Provide lessons that teach kids how to learn from failure. I purposefully plan lessons about overcoming failure. These lessons help students discover that it’s okay to fail. In fact, all significant inventions come from failure. For example, I love to teach that the following inventions were a mistake: microwave ovens, Post-It notes, and potato chips. Then, I have students work in teams to create their inventions. I find STEM challenges lend to multiple lessons in learning to fail and try again in a new and better way. For example, part of the engineering process is testing and improving a design. I teach students to keep improving until it works. They learn to love the process more than the outcome. One of my students’ favorite lessons is from Mystery Science. In this mini-lesson, students learn the surprisingly important role of “failure” in developing solutions to problems.

Growth Mindset Matters

Carol Dweck’s growth mindset is valid and popular. You can incorporate growth mindset lessons into your morning meetings. Also, I love to teach lessons through literature, such as through the picture book Bubblegum Brain. (I’ve found older kids still like picture books too.) Growth mindset stories help kids realize our learning is a lifelong journey, and it’s genuinely okay to make mistakes as long as we grow and progress.

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When you create a safe learning environment, your learners take risks. They’ll be brave. They won’t be afraid to fail. The word fail sums it up: 





I stole that acronym from somewhere along my educational journey, but it’s true. Failure isn’t final. To fail is just a first attempt at learning. When you create a culture of failing forward, your learners will seek assistance and try again.

12 Encouraging Phrases to Build Resilience in Kids

Source: Educate2Empower

  1. I love the way you always try so hard. 
  2. Keep going. You’re nearly there. 
  3. I’m so proud of how you always give things your best try. 
  4. I know this is hard, but I also know you will get there in the end.
  5. What other ways could you approach this? 
  6. Is there a way I can help you without doing the task for you? 
  7. I believe in you. You’ve got this. 
  8. Take a few deep breaths and try again/another way. 
  9. Believing in yourself takes lots of practice. 
  10. Sometimes, we have to fail and then try again, and maybe even fail and try again in order to succeed. 
  11. You’ve done it once. I know you can do it again. 
  12. You are very brave. 

The secret to resilient kids is allowing plenty of opportunities to fail and make mistakes. With your guidance, resilient attitude, and lessons on the importance of “failing forward,” your students will exclaim, “Yes, I can!” They will rebound and be resilient.


Be Their Warrior by Pamela Hall


About Pamela Hall

Pamela Hall is a multi-national award-winning teacher, speaker, and author dedicated to helping educators establish work-life balance and create inclusive environments to reach all kids–even the challenging ones. Pamela’s a lifelong learner who leads & inspires thousands of students and educators. Pamela has appeared on P.B.S., local news, and many magazines such as Educator Insights. She encourages educators to stay S T R O N G to make a more significant impact in their workplace, community, & home. She’s an ordinary cappuccino drinking, chocolate-eating mom & wife from Virginia with an extraordinary passion for making a positive difference.