We can’t always protect our children from all the horrid things in life, but there are things we can do to help them face difficulties with a growth mindset – you know that little voice in your mind that says: “Yes, you can do it” rather than “No, you can’t do it”.
Resilience and having a growth mindset are the two most important things you can teach your children, because there will be times when YOU or their dad won’t be there, and they will need to cope by themselves. I remember when we moved to Spain when my daughter was only five and I was really worried how she was going to cope going to a Spanish school, where she obviously wouldn’t know a soul – couldn’t speak the lingo – and probably would hate the Spanish food! However, the first day she came home absolutely bubbling with enthusiasm saying
“Guess what mummy, I’ve made a new friend called Transi, and she can speak a weeny bit of English and she’s going to sit next to me in class so she can help me! AND I had some funny weird looking soup for lunch, and I thought it was going to taste yukky, but I really liked it, I did what you told me, and I just closed my eyes and told myself I would probably like it – and it worked!”
So, what can we do to help our children?
- Obstacles: Think of all obstacles as opportunities to learn! When we need to move past a challenge, whether big or small, the ability to persist and get through it is so important. If your child comes running to you every single time he meets an obstacle, and you do it for him, how is he ever going to learn? So, use all obstacles as opportunities to teach your child how to cope by himself. For example, something very simple as putting a boy’s tie on or putting your daughter’s hair in bunches, let THEM do it, let THEM make mistakes, let THEM then do it correctly and see the look of pride and happiness on their little faces when they eventually get it right.
- Be on Stand -By: We can’t always be there for our children, but whilst they are still very young, just be there whilst they are doing things that they are finding challenging – I always found that the best thing to say was “Oh I’m not even sure if I know how to do it either, shall we do it together?”
In other words, let your child flounder a little, then step in and do it together if he struggles, but let him be aware that sometimes things ARE just hard, and we have to persevere until we get it right.
- Help but DON’T DO IT! Your goal here is to offer what we call in the psychological world, – “scaffolding”. We need to make sure that there is a good framework in place so that your child can succeed.
Imagine a child helping you to make a cake –make sure she can actually reach the worktop and make sure she can handle the equipment ok. ALLOW her to get messy with the flour – then help her to clean up the mess!
- Build a Growth mindset: Explain to children a little bit about how the brain works – that it’s a muscle and it grows stronger the more you use it! I always think it’s a great idea to improvise a lot – for example – if your child wants pancakes for their tea and you have run out of flour – get her to either think about something else she might like or go through the cupboard with her to see if there is something you could use instead of flour. By learning how to improvise and use other items or being flexible will also stand your child in good stead for the future. We all learn by our mistakes. I remember talking to a pilot one day about how difficult it must be to fly a plane in a thunderstorm when there is all that turbulence! He said, “Yes, but we all have to learn every aspect of the job, so being prepared for things NOT to go as planned is always good as then you are half prepared on what measures you need to take to control the aircraft!”
- Be Creative! Get your children to think out of the box. Get them to be creative because when something DOES go wrong, they will have a mindset that is used to creating new ideas. I was talking to my grown up daughter one day about things like this and she said “ the best thing you ever taught me mum, was to think outside the box – and if I ever came up against a problem and you weren’t there I would sit calmly for a minute and think ok what would mum do if she was here, then I would usually get the answer in my head and I was able to sort whatever it was – out!
I’ve always found that being light – hearted about things and making things FUN always helps most situations. When a child is resilient, he will cope with the bully at school or the teacher telling him off for not handing his homework in on time. He will make friends, but he will also stick up for his friends when they are being bullied.
Resilience – Growth Mindset – Confidence – these are all so important in a child’s development. If you need help with instilling these into your child, do contact me as I run several different programmes to help children develop these skills.