What else can I say besides “Keep trying”?

Why did I research this?

My five-year-old son had been learning how to play handball like the big kids on the block and found it extremely frustrating when he missed it. I had already been applying Carol Dweck’s growth mindset talk to other frustrations he’d had like skateboarding, drawing and cartwheeling but when it came to handball, he’d had enough of hearing about practice and patience. Aside from keeping up the teaching of grit, hard work and doing challenging things (when he was feeling calm and ready to listen), what else could I say in the heat of these frustrations?

What did I find out?

I found out that Carol Dweck, (world-renowned Stanford university psychologist) had come across a school in Chicago at the beginning of her long journey of research on achievement and success. The high school, like most schools had a system where students needed to pass a number of courses before graduating. The difference with this school was that students who had not passed the course got the grade “Not Yet” instead of a traditional F or low mark. These two words helped change the mindset of students about how they achieve and succeed.  They were learning that they were on a learning curve as well as on a path to the future instead of feeling worthless and helpless about their results.

Transforming the meaning of effort and difficulty in classrooms means that neurons are making newer and stronger connections.

Here are some examples of how growth mindset classrooms have helped kids achieve:

“In one year, a kindergarten class in Harlem, New York scored in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement Test. Many of those kids could not hold a pencil when they arrived at school. In one year, fourth grade students in the South Bronx, way behind, became the number one fourth grade class in the state of New York on the state math test. In a year to a year and a half, Native American students in a school on a reservation went from the bottom of their district to the top, and that district included affluent sections of Seattle. So the native kids outdid the Microsoft kids.” (Dweck, 2014).

I have since been responding to everyone with “Not Yet” when they tell me that they can’t do something or aren’t good at something, including my own father in law.  My five year old has even started talking to my two year old as he learns how to put his own underpants on.  My five year old responds to my two year old by saying “Your wires will connect and get stronger by doing hard stuff everyday”. He says it very matter of factly as if there is no other option but to keep going and keep struggling through the hard stuff. He has since improved his handball so much that I no longer have to be on my knees as he can beat me and asks for “challenging” handball shots as he knows it’ll make his brain grow stronger.

How is this useful?

“Not Yet” is easy to remember and can be used easily.

“Not Yet” is part of teaching a growth mindset and teaching a growth mindset does this:

  • Creates motivation and productivity
  • Enhances relationships
  • Creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

~ SM

Dweck, C. (2014). The power of believing that you can improve Retrieved from


Dweck, C. (n.d). Retrieved from