Why a Growth Mindset is Crucial for Success

Essentially, encouraging a growth mindset around food is all about creating a positive learning experience –  without pressure.

Spending over nine months last year working with the University of Helsinki, commuting to Finland once a month for week was challenging but it really allowed me to understanding the Finnish world leading food education model. I have a renewed respect for learning principles and theories I was once exposed to in college but didn’t fully get out of context. The Finnish believe in concepts of creative and collaborative learning full of communication and curiosity.

At the core of everything I have done over my 14 years in education I can solemnly say I have always implemented a growth mindset with all my students, little and big.

Growth Mindset is a proven methodology. It is something that has always worked for me.

Essentially, encouraging a growth mindset around food is all about creating a positive learning experience –  without pressure.

Why A Growth Mindset?

Our language around food is incredibly important when working with fussy and picky eaters. The language we use to describe the food and the language we use to describe their actions. Always remember eating is a learned behaviour. (To be honest, the labels of fussy and picky eaters are not something that lie well with us but for now it is how we can all best understand.)

As part of our methodology we are, in most cases, retraining and relearning children how to eat a happy and wholesome diet.

We have all heard that on average we need to try a new food 10 times before we accept or like it. In a lot of cases this figure is really only relevant to the general population. For fussy and picky eaters it can require as many as 30 tasting moments before they will accept a food.

This is why learning language around food is so important.​

It keeps us positive as parents when we offer the foods and it keeps the children more open minded to the fact that it takes a while to learn these new skills. I like to translate a growth mindset approach to be a Food Learning Mindset when we work with children with food aversions. 

It is about being patient, working at the child’s pace, never rushing or forcing, and allowing them to learn that they are capable of change.

We celebrate the small wins, because the small wins are never really small wins, they are huge!

We continually praise and positively reinforce all of the positive actions the child takes. We encourage a curious and non judgemental approach to new and old foods and slowly give the children the confidence to believe they can change. This self belief is something that every child needs to believe with every cell in their bodies.

When they do, they will thrive. There is a powerful way that we, as the adults in their lives, can nurture this belief and set them up to learn, grow and flourish.

They need to know that their brains can grow stronger, they will grow bigger and better—with time and effort. It sounds simple, but the effects of believing this are profound. Some children will have been born believing this, but others will be certain that they are as they are and that nothing will change that.

This is the difference between having a fixed and a growth mindset.

Children generally tend towards one of two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Praise that focuses on intelligence promotes a fixed mindset, which is the belief that intelligence cannot be changed in any meaningful way. Children with a fixed mindset believe they are born with certain character traits and a fixed amount of intelligence and creativity, and that nothing they do will change that in any meaningful way.

In contrast, praise that focuses on effort (‘You’ve worked really hard on that!) promotes a growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence can grow and be strengthened with effort. Children with a growth mindset believe that they are capable of achieving what they want if they put in the time and effort to get there.

A powerful philosophy I engrain in all my work is the Power Of Yet. 

So never “I can’t do it “, but “I can’t do it YET” 

In order to nurture that growth mindset there are a number of things I do when I work with children that you as the parent can take away and implement today: 

  • Remind them that their brain grows, adapts and gets stronger every day
  • Praise their efforts not their results
  • Praise them for being persistent and trying again and not giving up
  • Give very targeted and specific advice
  • Remind children it is not about perfection but about attempts and effort
  • Remind children failure is all part of learning - it's ok to fail
  • I always bring them back to the bigger picture and try to keep our work in context. It can be all encompassing sometimes and we need to have perspective for their sake
  • Use my most favourite sentence with the children: “And that's OK”

I really hope this helps and remember please do sign up for our free webinar here.

With fun and deliciousness,

Aisling Larkin