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Want to instill love of learning and commitment to 

overcoming challenges? Emphasize Growth Mindset.

WHIPPANY, NJ (Feb. 6, 2024) – It’s about rewarding effort and perseverance, rather than a fixed ability or final product. It’s a way to teach children to embrace learning and overcome challenges.


We’re talking about growth mindset, a psychological concept that’s been explored in multiple bestselling books and is embraced by a range of business leaders and top athletes.


“We’ll see kids who can do a particular thing extremely well, and the inclination may be to say ‘you’re so talented’ or ‘you’re so smart,’” explains Trish O’Brien, owner of Springboard Pediatric Therapy in Whippany, NJ. “But with growth mindset, rather than applauding an accomplishment that’s entirely based on a particular ‘splinter skill,’ we’ll say, ‘oh, that’s not a challenge for you.’ Then, we’ll move on to something that will require patience and hard work.”


O’Brien notes that by embracing a growth mindset perspective – which centers on the understanding that intelligence and abilities are starting points to be developed through consistent effort – educators and therapists can help a young person develop a broad range of new skills. In addition, such instruction can also lead children to recognize, accept, and overcome challenges.


In fact, growth mindset is part of the overarching philosophy at Springboard Pediatric Therapy. The concept dates back half a century, to the 1970s, when psychologist Carol Dweck began observing the differences in how various children reacted to challenges. In direct contrast to growth mindset is fixed mindset, which essentially views an individual’s intelligence and capabilities as unchanging.


“With fixed mindset, a child can become confused by encountering a challenge,” explains Jordan Masterleo, Springboard’s lead speech-language pathologist. “In fact, they can view experiencing a challenge as evidence of a limitation.”


Masterleo acknowledges that while nearly all therapists embrace the growth mindset concept, not all are appropriately thoughtful about how they approach it.


“You have to walk the walk,” she says. “You need to communicate appropriately. For example, instead of praising a child for accomplishing a task, you focus on how they got there. You might say, ‘Wow, that was very clever. You tried doing it three different ways.”


What Masterleo is articulating has been referred to as the “Power of Yet.”


“’Yet’ is a tremendously potent and important word,” says O’Brien. “We’ll say, ‘You don’t know how to do that … yet.’ Or, ‘You can’t do that … yet.’ It’s about developing confidence in hard work eventually paying off.”


For parents, the concept of growth mindset – of “rewarding the try” – makes sense once it’s explained to them and they see it in action. When parents watch a therapy session, O’Brien notes, they quickly grasp that the focus is on working hard, rather than on basking in praise related to some fixed capability.


Masterleo adds that, even as a therapist with years of professional experience, she regularly reminds herself to maintain a growth mindset when working with children.


“If it’s something I must work at being aware of, then I know it’s a challenge for parents,” she says. “I’m happy to help them learn the concept, understand its nuances, and put it into action. The goal is for the type of feedback a child receives during therapy to be mirrored at home.”


Because the growth mindset concept may sound easier than it actually is, Masterleo is always engaged in learning a new ability or skill. This way, she remains aware of how the children she works with may feel.


And what new skill is Masterleo currently attempting to learn?


“It’s quite difficult, but I won’t give up,” she says with a grin. “I’m teaching myself to juggle.”


About Springboard Pediatric Therapy

Based in the Morristown, NJ area, Springboard Pediatric Therapy utilizes individualized, evidence-based, outcomes-oriented treatment plans – combined with parent- and patient-advocacy – to address a wide range of developmental, social-emotional, physical, feeding, and language concerns. Additional information is available by calling 973-971-0770 or visiting


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