Parents have an important role to play in keeping their children’s emotional and mental health in balance.
As parents, we purposefully focus on ensuring that our children remain physically healthy. However, sometimes, we overlook the matters that concern their emotional and mental health.
We unwittingly allow the propagation and development of mindsets that are not in our children’s best interest.
How important are mindsets?
Mindsets are important factors that determine more than just our children’s success, it impacts their health and happiness, and contributes to greater outcomes in life.
As parents, we play a central role in influencing the development of a mindset in our children. How we behave and think today will influence our children’s attitude towards life tomorrow.
Insights into the understanding of mindsets come from Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s body of research. Her work helps us understand why we need to create a shift in the way we educate and parent our children.
What we often view as aspects of our personality are more appropriately understood and addressed as considerations of our mindset. These considerations culminate in a perspective that influences our interaction with people and the world around us.
Adversities a fixed mindset can bring
When we promote a ‘fixed mindset’, our children will assume that their character, creative ability and intelligence are fixed, and that success is an attestation of their inherent intelligence. They will see success as the outcome of avoiding failure, not learning from it.
On the other hand, if we promote a ‘growth mindset’, children will see that failure is not evidence of unintelligence, but a springboard for growth and expanding their potential.
They will thrive on challenges and learn to see failure as a stepping stone to success.
These two mindsets, which begin to manifest from an early age, will determine their relationship with success and failure and influence their behaviour, relationships and capacity for happiness.
Which perspective do you want your children to have?
“I do not do well on tests” or “I did not do well on this test. I need to spend more time practicing.”
“Cooking is not for me” or “Cooking has been challenging, but I’m improving.”
Does your child see improvement as a measure of success or do outcomes define your child? The way we look at outcomes is an indication of our mindsets.
In the examples above, the first sentence is representative of a fixed mindset and the second represents a growth mindset. Which one do you and your children fit in?
The good news, however, is that parents can help their children change the mindset they employ, primarily through mindfully changing the language both we and our children use, and through enabling certain perspectives.
The first aspect to consider is that failure and success begin in the mind. How we look at circumstances and how we help our children look at them can influence them to either feel powerless or powerful.
See failure as an opportunity for growth
A change in perspective, where failure is seen as an opportunity for growth, helps drive our emotions, decisions and actions to achieve success.
When we reiterate the belief that something is impossible for someone, we promote a fixed mindset. This child, due to his fixed mindset, internalized the belief that he was not ‘destined’ to be good at maths.
He could not recognize that mastery of mathematics requires effort and understanding, not talent. Had he been left to continue thinking this way, he would have eventually felt powerless and completely given up.
For us parents, the capacity to acknowledge our children’s potential and encourage the development of skills is critical to helping our children believe that they can achieve success.
How we can help our children develop a growth mindset:
1. Praise the effort and process
Praising effort, strategy and action encourage children to try while praising the outcome is the same as admonishing failure. The idea behind a growth mindset is to promote the belief that success can exist even beyond failure. So, emphasize the importance of the process instead of the result.
2. Expand your child’s capabilities
To help your children overcome defeat and develop resilience, make use of every opportunity to improve their skills and capabilities. Help your children explore new methods to resolve issues and adopt new strategies, this will enable the potential for fluid intelligence.
3. Be honest with your feedback
Learning from failure is aided by honest feedback, which provides perspective and insights for reflection. It teaches children that failure enables improvement and that setbacks can help them move forward.