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Helping Children Embrace a Growth Mindset: A Therapeutic Story to Help with Perfectionism

We live in a world that often makes children (and adults alike!) feel they need to push for success, and even perfection. We all know perfect is an impossible standard, but it can still be hard to accept. Wanting to achieve and do well can be a positive thing, when its chanelled in the right way. That's why it is so important to help children understand and accept the power of making mistakes, and fostering a growth mindset. This blog post briefly explores the concept of a growth mindset and I share my growth mindset therapeutic story: "A Recipe For Success". This story is a valuable tool in helping children who struggle with perfectionism and have difficulty tolerating frustration and mistakes.

Tiles spelling out: done is better than perfect. A growth mindset phrase.

Understanding the Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, learning, and perseverance. In contrast, a fixed mindset is the belief that traits and abilities are fixed and cannot be changed. You're either good at something, or bad at something. You're talented or you're not.

Cultivating a growth mindset empowers children to view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, and recognize that mistakes are an important and necessary part of the process of learning and getting better at something.

In the story, Toby embarks on a journey to become an award winning chef. However, he struggles to make a perfect pizza and battles with his frustration, eventually giving up. But through the story, Toby learns the importance of embracing mistakes and persevering, which helps him to reframe his perspective.

Toby's story offers a relatable narrative for children who struggle with the fear of making mistakes. By showing Toby's initial frustrations and his subsequent growth, children can begin to see that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. This story shows and encourages them how to approach challenges with resilience and self-compassion.

By highlighting Toby's persistence, children will see what it means to persevere in the face of challenges. The story teaches them that success often comes after a series of setbacks and that progress is made when you just keep going!

After sharing the story with a child, you may want to invite them to create their own 'Mistake Pizza', writing down lots of different mistakes they've made as the pizza toppings. They can then create a 'Party Pizza' and write down all their successes and how they've learnt and grown from mistakes in each of the toppings.

A blank worksheet of a pizza for children to share their mistakes, their learning and success through a growth mindset lens.

Enjoy the story!

A Recipe for Success Toby LOVED food. He loved to eat it, he loved to share it, and he loved to watch other people cook it on the TV. In fact, he loved food so much that he decided to become a chef, just like the famous ones he saw on his favourite shows. So, one day, he signed up to a cookery course so he could become the best chef in the whole country and win first place in the Annual Pizza Awards.

On the first day of his course, Toby was taught how to make a small, cheese and tomato pizza. It should have been simple enough, but Toby kept getting the dough wrong. First it was too sticky, then too dry, and no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to get it quite right. By the end of the day he was so frustrated he threw his dough into the corner of the room.

Boy with dough on his hands. He is smiling, but frustrated, like the boy in the story struggling with making mistakes.

“I can’t do it!” he shouted, before storming out.

On the second day he tried again, making a bigger pizza this time. “I’ll do better today,” he thought.

But this time, he just couldn’t get the sauce quite right. First, he used too much salt, then too little, and then he got the mix all wrong.

“This is too hard!” he shouted, throwing the new pizzas into the corner of the room once again.

Day after day, he went back to the kitchen, and day after day, he made more and more mistakes. No pizza he made was ever quite right. The pile of not-quite-right pizzas in the corner of the room stacked higher and higher, until one day, Toby gave up trying at all.

Children kneading dough. Illustrating the story of Toby trying to make a perfect pizza dough.

He threw the recipe book away and slumped down against the kitchen cabinets, his head in his hands.

The head chef tried to encourage Toby to try again, but it was too late. He decided to leave and never go back. On his way out, he kicked the pile of pizzas in the corner angrily. The tower of pizzas fell over and toppings spread out all over the floor.

He groaned. Now he’d have to clean them all up, his mistakes staring him right in the face as he did. They were all wrong. Some had a great base but terrible toppings, some had the perfect tomato sauce but too much cheese, some had great toppings but a doughy base, the list went on and on.

A pile of pizza boxes, like the ones Toby discards in the story for being imperfect.

But as Toby began cleaning up, an idea came to him...

You see, he had realised something very, very important. There was something he could learn from each pizza he had made. Every single not-quite-right pizza gave him new ideas about what to do (and not to do) next time.

So, Toby figured out what had gone right with each pizza, and did those things again. And he figured out what had gone wrong with each pizza, and he tried to avoid doing those things. He even had some brand-new ideas, and decided to try a new combination of toppings. Then, he put it all together and made a brand-new pizza.

On the morning of the competition Toby was feeling confident. He had learnt to keep trying, and that to keep trying meant to keep making mistakes, but this was OK. Mistakes helped him to learn and do better. He was happy with the pizza he entered into the competition and he really hoped it would win.

As Toby stood nervously among the other contestants, the host of the Annual Pizza Awards approached the stage. "Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to announce the winner of this year's competition!" The room filled with excitement and tension.

"And the winner is..." the host paused for dramatic effect, "Chef Lucy with her superb Margherita pizza!"

The crowd erupted into applause, and Toby's heart sank for a moment. But then he remembered the journey he had been on, how much he had learned, and the pride he felt in what he had created. With a brave smile on his face, he turned to his friends and said, "You know what, I'm still proud of my work. I think this is just the beginning."

His friends cheered, and with his head held high, Toby said, "I may not have won the competition, but I think I've won something even better!"

And so, the pizza party began, full of laughter, friendship, and delicious slices of Toby's best pizzas. That night, Toby decided he would never give up on his dreams, no matter how long it takes. In fact, he’s working on his next big pasta project right now, and is still celebrating every single ‘mistake’ he makes.

Two happy children, wearing chefs hats and cooking. They are embracing imperfection, experimentation and learning.

If you enjoyed this story, and would like to foster your own growth mindset, and learn to create your own therapeutic stories just like this one, you can find out more about my Therapeutic Story Writing course by clicking here.

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