Try to estimate how often these or similar words are spoken in your household: I will never manage that. I am not clever enough. That’s good enough, I can’t make it any better anyway. Does it happen quite often? Then your family has likely adopted a fixed mindset and it’s probably time you made some changes.
People with this type of thinking tend to be more pessimistic. They think everything should stay as it is, or that things can’t change (e.g. we are born either clever or stupid and can’t do anything about it). In the past, one of the first primitive men with a fixed mindset may have grumbled that this new “fire” is a strange nuisance that will just burn our skin off, and why would anyone throw your precious meat over it? The opposite type of thinking is called a Growth Mindset. Its theory is based on neuroscience research which shows that our intelligence is not fixed. On the contrary, we can and should keep expanding it by exercising our brain and striving for improvement.
Let’s rephrase the above stated sentences, so they sound for example like this: Practice makes perfect. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I won’t give up. A bit of brain stretching won’t go amiss. They sound better, don’t they? If you agree, you should make sure that they are spoken in your household so children can hear them often enough. In case you decide to practice writing with your children as well, you can write some motivational statements on a notice-board and put it on the wall where you can see them every day. Invite children to help you and get creative by adding a few nice pictures. You can teach them about the brain in the process and have a bit of fun. What would an exercising Mr. Brain look like on a picture? Would he be doing weight lifting or yoga?
Tell or read children stories about people who became successful thanks to their strong will. You can use both real or fictional characters. In case your children are crazy about computers, you can tell them the story about the guys who developed Google, or about Steve Jobs. Children may be surprised by the fact that these great people started their quest for glory by setting up their workspace in a garage! Walt Disney is also a good example of a fighter. Despite his tough beginnings, his fairy-tales are now loved by children all over the world. Talking about fairy-tales, many of them hide positive messages that inspires us to overcome obstacles with our strong will. If you like the role of a story-teller, you can even make up your own fairy-tale. Or you can adapt an existing one. Having golden hair and a beautiful face may come handy, but wouldn’t it be better if a princess won her happiness by trying really hard?
We often give up in advance because we're afraid of mistakes. From the stories depicting lives of famous people we can learn that mistakes can be a great source of inspiration. We should teach our kids that it is ok to make mistakes as we can learn from them. Next time you do something wrong, try to say something like this instead of swearing: I didn’t assemble this shelf correctly because I didn’t read the manual. Well, at least I learned that next time I need to study the manual beforehand.
Positive people celebrate the successes of the people around them. Next time your child whines that she or he will never draw as pretty a pony as her friend Alice, tell her something like this: It’s great that Alice is good at it. She can show you the ropes if you ask her nicely. You are good at building cube towers, which is something you can teach Alice next time.
Written by Ladislava Whitcroft, Educational Specialist at Lipa
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