Kids and a Catholic Growth Mindset: How to Change this Pagan World

"Kids and a Catholic Growth Mindset" by Ginny Kochis (

Image credit: (2008), CC0/PD

Every few years, secular culture seems to choose a humanist darling: a theory or ideology that as Catholics we can see is grasping for God.

The KonMari craze? A need for detachment from material wealth and belongings.

Mindfulness? A desire to be one with the heart of God.

This is kind of how I feel about the ever-present drive to develop a growth mindset: a way of thinking that turns obstacles into stepping stones. Popular in schools and corporate offices across the nation since 2007, the theory seeks to reframe the way we think about mistakes and our ability to learn things.

Once we begin to accept mistakes as part of the learning process, our unlimited potential is untapped.

Or something.

I first heard of the growth mindset philosophy a few years ago via the mother of a student I used to teach. She asked me if I had any knowledge of the theory and subsequently if I could help her son learn to develop it. The concept seemed promising at first blush.

The more I dug into growth mindset, however, the more skeptical I became. There was a clear disconnect between what I understood about truth and goodness and what the mainstream philosophy wanted to tout.

Struggling with a school subject? No worries! You can learn anything!

Positive thinking is the key to who you will become!

Challenges and failures lead to success in your personal achievements!

It was like biting into a Boston Creme donut only to discover the filling was left out.

You know: hollow. Disappointing. Everything our Catholic faith is not.

Some would say I’m a little biased and that my Catholic faith colors everything. But why shouldn’t it, especially when we’re faced with an onslaught of secular humanism aimed precisely at our kids?

Our children deserve the Truth of Church teaching, not a watered-down version that misses the proverbial mark. Fortunately, as with most things, the Church in her wisdom cornered the market on growth mindset in the days of antiquity.

Our kids need to know what a Catholic growth mindset is all about.

A Catholic growth mindset doesn’t just teach kids they can do anything, but that they can do anything through Christ.

A Catholic growth mindset teaches the value of redemptive suffering, not personal achievement for achievement’s sake.

A Catholic growth mindset doesn’t just encourage growth in abilities; it encourages our children to become the individual God designed.

How do you help your child develop a growth mindset rooted in Catholic teaching?

You can find an extensive discussion at, but for the short version:

  • Start with Scripture, especially those verses which encourage growth through Christ’s graces. Philippians 1:6 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 come to mind.
  • Dive into the Cardinal and Theological virtues. Fortitude is a great place to start.
  • Study the lives of the saints and other holy men and women — especially those who faced great struggle and strife.
  • Live out the Works of Mercy to give your kids hands-on service experience. Doing hard things for the benefit of others helps us to develop a growth mindset naturally.

Secular culture longs for a lot of things, but most especially the heart of God.

While we’re raising saints and building cathedrals so our children fulfill God’s will for their humanity, we might as well fit them with the armor of Christ. After all, if we’re really going to develop a Catholic growth mindset, we’ve got some tough examples to follow:

The Lord God has no one but you. You’d better get off your lead bottoms and go out and change this pagan world. (Mother Angelica)

How do you help your children do anything through Christ?

Copyright 2019 Ginny Kochis


About Author

Ginny Kochis is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom to three differently-wired children. She founded the Not So Formulaic community to support Catholic moms raising out-of-the-box kids. Ginny believes God gives curious, creative, intense children the exact mother they need to thrive.


  1. Ginny, unfortunately you have done a very superficial understanding of what growth mindset is. My suggestion is to read Growth Mindset by Caro Dweck,PhD. Her studies are based on research in the field of education. It is not positive thinking or that you can do anything. It is more about taking neuroscientist approaches to understanding how the brain works in conjunction with environmental influences. Nothing contradicts Catholic faith in a growth mindset approach.

  2. Hi, Lisa. Thank you for your comment. I’ve read Carol Dweck, studied neuroplasticity, and used her principles in the classroom. My argument here is against the secular materials created by individuals other than Dweck in order to teach growth mindset.

  3. As a Catholic theology graduate from Franciscan University and a Special Education Teacher in the public schools. I disagree with your overall viewpoint. As a Catholic, I look at this all through the eyes of faith, and as a Special Education teacher, I look at Growth Mindset through the eyes of children with learning disabilities and emotional behavioral disabilities. When we teach the Growth Mindset to our children or decided to retrain our brain we are using a Catholic viewpoint. As Catholics we don’t know everything, yet, we aren’t holy yet, we are becoming and that’s what the growth mindset is really all about. As a Catholic, I’m thankful for that mindset, because when I fail or commit a sin, I don’t have to look down upon myself but I have to look up to Christ. I don’t have to prove myself to Christ, I can rest in his love and his strength, and then I start again, learning how I need to grow in my personality, my weaknesses, and my failures. I am not a saint “YET” but I hope to be! This helps me and my own five children to not be enslaved in perfection but to be held by God the Father who loves us even in our failure. The Growth Mindset is realizing that we can change, I can learn and that it will take effort on my part. John Paul II didn’t become Pope overnight and he didn’t become a saint overnight, he had to struggle and think, and grow and that is Growth Mindset. I have seen it work over and over again with students that have reading disabilities or math disabilities. They might never take calculus but they will learn what they can learn, it will take effort and time.

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