How Can Parents Encourage a Mindset of a Champion?

by SwimSwam 4

July 17th, 2018 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

What is the mindset of a champion? “It goes by different names, but it’s the same thing. It’s what makes you practice, and it’s what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you most need it,” wrote Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Stanford University. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success she explains two belief systems—fixed versus growth mindsets.

“In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself,” she said.

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.”

Mindset is packed full of studies, research and entertaining stories about fixed and growth mindset athletes, coaches, teachers and parents. I learned about the attitudes of great athletes like Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee and coaches who had opposing mindsets—John Wooden and Bob Knight.

According to Dweck, kids abilities may start at different levels with varying talent, but those with a growth mindset most often exceed those with a fixed mindset. Kids with a fixed mindset may not try as hard, because they believe it makes them look less talented. People have a mixture of both mindsets—and because mindsets are beliefs—they can be changed. We should encourage our kids to have growth mindsets because they will learn to work harder and smarter, how to persevere and achieve more than they would with a fixed mindset. Sending a child a fixed mindset message “makes their confidence and motivation more fragile,” Dweck wrote.

Here are a few tips about encouraging a growth mindset in our kids:

Be careful how we praise. If we praise our children for their gifts, such as brains or athletic talent, they may believe those qualities are fixed and cannot be changed. According to Dweck, when parents praised their kids’ intelligence, their IQ scores actually went down! Instead, we need to praise effort and connect that to success. We need to practice praising the process.


Watch our own mindset. If we approach life with a fixed mindset, we may transfer that outlook to our kids. A fixed mindset can make us believe we can’t learn new things or we have no way to improve our work. This outlook leads people to give up. That’s definitely not what parents want for our kids—or for ourselves.


Set goals about expanding skills. According to Dweck, “Remember that innate talent isn’t a goal. Expanding skills and knowledge is.” Are we sending a message that we are judging our kids for their talent? Or, are we telling them that they are a developing person and we’re interested in helping them grow?

How do you encourage your kids to have the mindset of a champion?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Parents – please be parents. Follow this advice for success:


by Rose Snyder, Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming (adapted from Ed Clendaniel’s 10 Commandments for Little League Parents)

1. Thou shalt not impose your ambitions on thy child.

Remember that swimming is your child’s activity. Improvements and progress occur at different rates for each individual. Try not to judge your child’s progress based on the performance of other athletes and don’t push them based on what you think they should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person can strive to do their personal best and benefit from the process.

2. Thou shalt be supportive no… Read more »

Northern SwimParent
Reply to  gator
3 years ago

“3. Thou shalt not coach thy child.”

You are assuming all parents are ignorant. Further, even with ignorant parents, a child responds when a parent is involved/interested. All that said, if you want to be an involved parent you need to be educated and you need to quickly know your limits.

Reply to  gator
3 years ago

How about: Thou shalt not encourage your kid to walk away from a relay while team mates are still swimming because you are pissed that your kid is on the B relay?

3 years ago

If kids with fixed mindsets don’t always try hard because they believe it makes them look less talented, then maybe parents need to stop making kids feel self-conscious.