The Joy in Saying “YET!” What a 3 Year Old Can Teach Us About Having a Growth Mindset

The other day I took my 3 and 5 year olds to a playground at a local park prior to watching my wife play her slo-pitch game. My 5 year old easily crossed a chain bridge and then my 3 year old attempted to cross and fell a couple seconds after grabbing hold of the chains with her hands.

She was about to give up when she told me, “I can’t do it.”

I replied, “You can’t do it… YET!”

She happily said, “Oh yeah… YET!”

She then proceeded joyfully to attempt to cross the bridge a 2nd/3rd/4th/5th time in quick succession.  She fell each time a few seconds after starting. On the 6th attempt she finally figured out the one step at a time strategy we were talking about previously and completed it.

She was so proud of herself, and she asked if I could video her doing it, “so I can show Mommy.”

The video above is the 7th attempt, and she couldn’t be more happy with herself!  This is the power of YET in action, and I was in tears when she high-fived me.  I only wished I videotaped all her attempts, so she can see what joy and perseverance looked like to her when she was 3.

I can’t help but constantly question myself on how I can inspire myself, family, students, and colleagues to continuously find the joy in saying yet, and enjoying the learning journey along the way.  Using the word yet changes a fixed-mindset to a growth mindset and a growth mindset brings  joy in the hard work when we face challenges.  Thank you to Carol Dweck and her book Mindset to contributing to my awareness about the power of a growth mindset.

Hugh McDonald


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9 Responses to The Joy in Saying “YET!” What a 3 Year Old Can Teach Us About Having a Growth Mindset

  1. Anne-Marie Middleton says:

    Such a great example of perseverance, Hugh. This is an area of focus for me in the coming year. Understanding the mindsets of my students, helping them use ‘yet’ instead of ‘can’t’, and shifting the give up to keep trying are so important. I was at a conference this week in Portland and one of the video clips that Jan Chappuis shared was a teacher who has helped her calculus students understand and embrace ‘productive struggle’. I love this term and will use it again and again. I am trying to remember it even for myself as I continue on my own learning journey.
    Thanks so much for sharing this story – it will be shared in my classroom this fall.

    • Thank you Anne-Marie! I feel the same way. After reading Carol Dweck’s book Mindset my lens as an educator, parent, and learner has changed. I look for any and all opportunity to embrace a growth mindset.

  2. Iram says:

    Love this, Hugh. Thanks for the reminder. It’s so easy to just let it go and even just do things for our kids, this simple statement puts control back in their hands!

    • Thank you Iram! Carol’s work has helped me way beyond the classroom. It has really made me conscious of the words I choose in guiding my kids & how I am praising them for their efforts & strategies used.

  3. Reblogged this on So. Consider and commented:
    Yet. A small word with such power. Here is why:

  4. Hey Pal,

    This is an awesome reminder of the power of a growth mindset. Love it times ten.

    But what it MOSTLY has me wondering is where does “yet” thinking go as kids get older? Why is it that so many of the sixth graders in my classroom — especially those that struggle — have given up on yet thinking?

    And what can I do to reignite the “yet” in every kid.

    You’ve challenged me — and I’m grateful!

    • It is something I have struggled with too as a teacher Bill. Carol’s research on this topic has pushed my thinking to continue to find ways to tell the entire learning story & using the word “yet” a lot. One strategy that I am going to adopt more frequently with my students is having them present their learning part way through a project/unit. This way students can continue practice giving & using descriptive feedback from their peers & teacher. Thus embracing the “YET” rather than the result.

  5. jonharper70 says:

    Hugh this is beautiful. I absolutely learn more and am inspired more by watching my children than anyone over the the age of twenty. It is so cool that you got video of this! I look forward to learning from/with you. Thank you so much for sharing this priceless moment!

    • I am constantly learning from my children too John. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore about the lessons I learn. One thing I have learned is to have my camera ready to get these moments. My kids love reliving them. Thank you for your kind words, and I look forward to learning with you too.

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