When developing a growth mindset, we as parents have to be conscious of not only how we think, but also how we think and say things out loud. There are times when we have to talk about ourselves around our children, so we have to keep in mind that what we say can and will affect how our kids think of themselves. As we go through our growth mindset journey as a family, we get asked by our kids whether we can do certain things that require skill, like drawing a sports car or building a life-size Pac-Man. Instead of saying “I’m not good at it” here are a few ways we approach these types of questions:
“I have never learned how to ..., but I would love to learn with you!" When our kids are younger, in their eyes we are superheroes that are capable of anything. As the kids grow older, this perception can create an unnecessary pressure on them when they encounter challenges. We have to show them that it is ok not to know something, and teach them that anyone has to start somewhere to become good at something.
“I don’t know much about ... yet. Let’s figure it out together. What do you think we should start with?” Admitting our weaknesses to our kids can also serve as a confidence builder for them. Putting them in charge of a task by asking them their opinion can turn the task into a child-led activity and might be what’s needed for them to feel confident enough to try an idea they may have.
“I haven’t practiced this skill very much because I have invested my energy in learning other skills.” Our kids must know that it is ok not to be good at everything as long as they realize that they should never be afraid to try something they’re not good at if that something is what they like. When talking about an underdeveloped skill, we as parents can show our kids how to be brave and try a new skill even if we know that we will suck. For example, when trying drawing for the first time, we can use this opportunity to laugh at our own drawings in a lighthearted way, just to invite the kids to simply try. It is, of course, important that when we make fun of our own work, we aim attention at our lack of practice and not inherent lack of skill.
The famous engineer and entrepreneur, Peter Diamandis has said “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.” That statement is applicable to kids as well as adults in terms of how our brain is wired. So, no matter what the skills are, we as parents should always aim for the “can do” attitude. We have to remember that it starts with us and how we project. Our goal as parents should be becoming a role model for our kids by not showing fear to take risks, to face challenges, and to make mistakes. If we expect our kids to develop growth mindset then we have to have the same expectations from ourselves and lead by example.