Maybe you didn’t grow up with a growth mindset, but there’s no reason why your kids can’t have one. These five hacks will help you help your kids foster a growth mindset so they can accomplish more with confidence.
With all the bruhaha over whether schools should open or close this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it might surprise you to find out that setting goals for YOUR intellectual domain is important, too! Why? Because when we take care of ourselves, we can’t forget our brains. Healthy self-care includes making sure we learn new things all. the. time. This month’s Self-Care Sunday posts will focus on setting goals for our intellectual domain.
A Disagreement Amongst Friends
“Where are your girls?” my mom friend asked as we settled around the kitchen table at a farm house in the San Juan Islands.
“They went to bed,”
“In the tent? By themselves?” another mom friend asked in astonishment.
“Sure,” I said. “The tent is only 100 feet from the door, and the girls know where to find us if they need us.”
“There’s no way I’d let my kids sleep in a tent outside if I weren’t in the tent with them,” my first friend announced.
“We are on an island with little traffic and the tent and house are a down a half-mile long driveway,” I reminded her.
“Still, I can’t believe you let them sleep in a tent alone. How old are they?”
“Five and six,” I told her. “They’re pretty responsible kids. They do their own laundry—”
“Their own laundry!” my second mom friend broke in. “Can Sarah even reach the controls?”
“Yep, with the help of a stool,” I said with a grin. The shocked faces of my friends told me they didn’t share the same pride and enthusiasm I did for our girls’ accomplishments.
“But, but, what about their self-esteem?” my first friend asked.
Dropping the Bomb
“Self-esteem is overrated,” I said.
Now my friends’ mouths hung open in shock. “Kids don’t need self-esteem, they need self-confidence.”
“There’s a difference?”
“Absolutely. Self-esteem just means that kids think a lot of themselves. It grows when we tell them how wonderful they are for every little thing they do, whether it’s wonderful or not.”
“How do you define self-confidence, then?”
“Self-confidence means kids have confidence in themselves to solve problems and face obstacles. It grows when we praise the product and encourage the child.”
“I guess,” my first mom friend said, “but I still think self-esteem is really important.”
“I didn’t make this stuff up,” I assured her. “I learned the whole ‘praise the product, encourage the child’ thing from an educator named Harry Wong.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“Sure. When your kid scribbles a picture of something on a piece of paper and brings it to you, do you tell him how beautiful it is?”
“Of course!” they said in unison.
“What if you said something like, ‘Tell me more about your picture.’ Once your kid explains a bit, you say, ‘I can tell you put a lot of thought into choosing the colors. You really like to draw, don’t you? I hope you draw more pictures to share with me.’”
“Ok, that makes sense.” They nodded in agreement.
Truth in Parenting
“How do you think your kid will feel if you tell him for 10 years that he’s an exceptional artist and he goes to school and realizes he can’t draw worth beans?”
“They’ll feel like we lied about their art abilities,” one of the spouses who’d come into the room during our discussion said.
“Exactly. We don’t have to say mean things like, ‘You drew a dog? It just looks like a squiggly line!’ But we can ask questions like, ‘What do you think you’ll do differently the next time you draw a dog?’”
“But how do your kids know what you think of them?”
“We tell them all the time,” I exclaimed. “We just don’t attach our ‘You’re so wonderfuls’ and our ‘I love you so muches’ to anything they do.”
“We’ll see how that works for you in 20 years,” one of the women mumbled in disbelief.
Hacks to Help Your Kids Have a Growth Mindset
1. Praise the Right Thing
It turns out that more than one smart person believes in the importance of choosing our words carefully. Carol Dweck, PhD, agrees with Harry Wong.
“Praising intelligence and talent makes kids vulnerable, but praising effort, strategy, and process of problem-solving makes them grow.”Carol Dweck
If we want our kids to have a growth mindset, we need to help them separate who they are from what they do. Making bad choices doesn’t make us bad people. Likewise, making good choices doesn’t make us good people. Good people can make bad choices. What we do with our decisions do matter, though. We should love and regard our children unconditionally.
2. Encourage Your Kids
Never stop encouraging your kids. When they find something difficult, help them to re-frame their negative self-talk. When you hear a child say, “I can’t do this!” Encourage them with “You can’t do this yet!”
Some skills take minutes to master, others years. When you encourage your children with the power of yet, they learn this valuable lesson. The power of yet helps children develop a growth mindset. They learn about life as a journey with failures and successes along the way instead of life as a destination with terminal points caging them in.
3. Exchange Limiting Beliefs for Launching Beliefs
Bob Goff, in his latest book Dream Big, tells a story about his grandparents, who lived nearby and had a room set aside for little Bob. Every time they entered ‘Bob’s bedroom’ they would leave a nickel in ‘room rent.’ Bob says,
“This delighted me. It wasn’t the cash that lit me up; it was about honor and acknowledgment. The thought that I mattered so much my grandparents would keep track of the times when they were in my room made me feel loved and valued. To them, I was amazing, smart, talented—and did I mention amazing? I was these things in their minds, so I was these things in my mind.”
Goff believes his grandparents’ unconditional love and regard for him created what he calls ‘launching beliefs.’ When someone believes in us, it makes it easier to believe in ourselves. Instead of listening to limiting beliefs, we feel capable to take on any project.
Notice that Goff’s grandparents didn’t attach their launching beliefs to any actions on Goff’s part. They just believed in him, told him they loved him, and thought he was amazing.
You can be that person for your children. Don’t let your own limiting beliefs beat the aspirations out of your children.Don't let your own limiting beliefs beat the asiprations out of your kids. #limitingbeliefs #parenting #growthmindset Click To Tweet
4. Teach Your Kids How to Set Goals
Model goal-setting with your children or other young people in your life. Our kids have left the nest, but I share some of my personal goals with my students. Let your kids know why and how you choose certain goals. Explain the difference between habit goals and achievement goals.
Let them in on the planning when you set SMART or SMARTER goals. Better yet, call together a family meeting and set family goals. Kids need to see that you value change and learning in order for them to value it, too.
5. Celebrate Progress
Most people don’t go from zero to 60 in an instant. Our kids don’t either. But we can help them develop a growth mindset if we celebrate progress along the way.
If your kid wants to learn to tie her own shoelaces, celebrate her ability to make bunny ears first. Making those tiny laces form into two loops at the same time takes practice. Acknowledge the progress with a celebration.
Give out high-fives like they don’t cost anything.Give out high-fives like they don't cost anything #celebrateprogress #growthmindset #parenting Click To Tweet
Some of us (um, me) worry too much about perfection and forget to enjoy the journey—in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Blow up balloons, have a party, do something, anything, to let your kids know that you see and acknowledge their progress.
Likewise, celebrate your own progress towards your goals with your family. When you model encouragement, even the littlest ones pick up on it. This summer our almost-four-year-old grandson would shout, “Good job, Abula!” when I did something that he thought looked difficult for me.
If everyone made a habit of encouraging and celebrating each other, the world would look a whole lot different. We can start at home with our own kids.
How DID Our Girls Turn Out?
Twenty years have passed since that conversation in the kitchen. Although our girls (and us) made many mistakes along the way, I can say with certainty that I have great pride in our daughters’ accomplishments. Not to mention that I love them even more now than when they entered the world.
At 17 and 18 they set a goal of saving up money and traveling around Europe for a month. They worked as hotel maids, rode their bikes instead of driving their cars (cars they had purchased with their own money), and saved every penny. The following summer they bought their own plane tickets and spent a month visiting places they’d dreamed about. We didn’t help them with a single penny. They did this while paying their portion of high-school and college tuition, too.
My two best friends (aka, our daughters) married, have great jobs, and have come through personal hardships along the way. In answer to the challenge in the farmhouse on the San Juan Islands: It worked out well. Worrying more about instilling self-confidence rather than self-esteem in our girls really did work out for us 20 years later. Nowadays, they call the process fostering a growth mindset. Anyone can do it, but you may have to start with yourself.