Spoiler Alert: Do you know about fixed and growth mindsets? Which one is more akin to a success mindset? I have one powerful word that I use in situations where my kids feel that they’ve failed. You can use this one powerful positive motivation tip every single day. Over time, this will help kids build self esteem and inspire a growth mindset in kids.
My son was enjoying his play, but then he suddenly slammed a toy on the table and became very angry. Everything had been fine. Then out of nowhere – the screaming started.
He threw a gear across the table.
Then I went in to investigate.
I immediately saw how frustrated he was and put it into words for him.
“Wow! You seem really frustrated! What happened?”
I seriously don’t know why I ask anymore. Just the question itself brings a flood of tears and explanations all at the same time. And I have no idea what he’s saying while he’s wailing. I really should just wait.
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I realized all too soon that he had not been able to do something he wanted to do.
His mind and imagination wanted to put those little blocks and gears together in a way that his tiny fingers weren’t quite ready to achieve.
It was frustration at its worst. I get it! I’ve been there and been really frustrated at trying to do something that I just couldn’t make happen.
As he explained that he wanted to start building the gears vertically but it just wasn’t working, his frustration turned to anger and anxiety.
“I can’t do it!!! Can’t do anything! I can’t build this. It’s useless.”
Hearing your child feel helpless feels like a 2 x 4 to the stomach!
This is when I realized, I need to teach my son about a growth mindset.
What Is A Growth Mindset In Kids?
“In her research at Stanford University, Dr. Carol Dweck identified two different types of mindsets. A growth mindset occurs when we believe our intelligence and abilities can be improved upon with effort and the right strategies.
In contrast, those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and abilities cannot be altered in a meaningful way. As a result, mistakes are often seen as failures rather than opportunities to grow and learn. When stuck in a fixed mindset, we may fear new experiences, avoid risks, and feel the need to repeatedly prove ourselves over and over.” (Growth Mindset Kids Activities)
I’ve learned one word to help these situations. And I love using this word, because it teaches my son he is not a failure – even though he didn’t achieve what he wanted at this time.
In the middle of your child’s frustration and the big ugly cry, the word won’t work unless you do two things first.
First, as encouraging as it may seem, resist the urge to reassure him that he “can” do it. No matter what you say, that is not his reality in this tense moment.
Second, you want to acknowledge his feelings that he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to! Saying something like, “I see you weren’t quite able to make that into a tower.”
This lets your child feel that he is heard and understood.
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Creating a Success Mindset
I’m working with him to turn his perception of the situation around completely. This word encourages self-esteem and a growth mindset in kids.
All children. And here’s the one word that does it.
YET. That one simple word turns the whole thing around and can give children a sense that they can do it. YET.
“I can’t do it, yet.”
“Guess I can’t do anything, yet!”
“I can’t build this, yet.”
Yet. The word holds the promise that children will be able to accomplish their goals with practice – a success mindset.
I can’t do it yet.
But there’s the promise that they will be able to do it eventually. They haven’t failed, they just need to keep trying and then they know that they will accomplish their goal.
Using this one word at this specific time will encourage self-esteem and promote a growth mindset in kids. Your kids. And any kids that you come in contact with.
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Types of Praise
Research shows that ”[p]raising children’s intelligence, far from boosting their self-esteem, encourages them to embrace self-defeating behaviors such as worrying about failure and avoiding risks,” -Dr. Carol Dweck.
Children process praise of this kind as pressure to succeed. And, in turn, pressure to succeed so that they can be loved.
Instead, “when children are taught the value of concentrating, strategizing and working hard when dealing with academic challenges, this encourages them to sustain their motivation, performance and self-esteem.” (source)
I also like that when kids learn to say, “yet,” they understand that we adults value and praise hard work, perseverance, and effort – not only the end result. The word “yet” puts the emphasis on the process of achieving the result and takes the pressure off achieving the result right away.
So after I understood what my son was upset about, I said, “Yes, that’s true. You can’t do it YET. But, I bet we can come up with some ideas to help you get there. What do you think?”
He looked at me, and he still wasn’t happy that he couldn’t do it, but he saw hope. This is what a growth mindset in kids is all about.
My son understood that there was a time when he would be able to do it, a time that we could come up with ideas together.
He had shifted into a success mindset.
The word “yet” allows forgiveness. For both moms and children alike. I frequently use it myself.
I haven’t stopped yelling at my kids sometimes.
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