Yes, I’ve gone all sweary. I’m not apologising.
Let’s get something out of the way. I’m a huge fan of having a growth mindset. It’s amazing. (I don’t actually have one, but I’m working on it.)
What it is: resilience. It’s picking yourself up, dusting yourself down, looking at what just happened and learning from it. It’s analysing what you’ve done to shape what you try next. It’s appreciating what you’ve achieved without comparing yourself to others. It’s building on that achievement, using that knowledge to go the next step.
What it isn’t: believing that you can do anything you set your mind to.
It doesn’t matter how hard I try, how focused and single-minded I am, I am never going to be an astronaut. I’m 50, I have menopausal brain-fog, I don’t have the qualifications and I get horribly travel sick unless I’m driving.
Yet I see our kids being told that if they only work harder, they can be THE BEST. They can be ANYTHING they WANT to be.
That ain’t necessarily so, to quote the song. And so we have lots of malleable minds that can react to this in a variety of ways:
- Some become high achievers but fall apart the first time they don’t get top marks in a test.
- Some don’t try at all because the focus is all about comparing their achievements to others.
- Some blame themselves and develop rather nasty self-esteem issues if they don’t come top however hard they try.
What can we do to encourage our kids to try their best, without emphasising achievement?
- Praise the effort. Think about saying “I’m proud of you for reading your book tonight/starting your homework/cleaning your plate/tidying your room.” Even when they’ve come top in a test – “I’m proud of you for working hard.”
- Avoid talking about next time – so don’t say “Oh well, next time you’ll do better/read more/do your homework in one go/keep your room tidy.” Keep the focus on the effort that has happened THIS TIME.
- Lead by example (this is the one I find difficult!) Instead of seeing (and saying) how much you haven’t done – “I’ve still got all this work/washing/decorating/gardening/cleaning to do, ” say “I’m really proud of myself – I’ve got this, this and this done today!”
- Encourage their interests – whether it’s coding, like The Teen, drawing (The Tween), sports, music etc, they probably have far more of a growth mindset around things they love to do. Praise them for all the practice they do and their effort in JUST THE SAME WAY as you praise the effort for the things they might not be as keen on – homework, for example!
- Aiming high is fantastic – but keeping lots of options open is even better. They might not end up being a Premier League footballer, but they might use their skills in teaching others their favourite sport.
- Show them that failure isn’t the end – I burnt a batch of cookies this week and resisted getting cross – I just made sure I put the timer on for the next batch!
Keep growing, lovelies!