From breast is best to immunisation debates, gender identity and gluten intolerance, parents nowadays are often in danger of drowning in a sea of information.
And now there’s growth mindsets to factor in.
Or is there?
Recently, I blogged about Dr Carol S Dweck’s research into fixed and growth mindsets. There has been plenty of debate over whether the science behind this cognitive thinking theory is sound. Is it wise to encourage so much aspiration among the young, who are inherently more prone to heartache when they don’t reach goals despite being told they can “be whoever they want to be.”
In short, are we setting them up to fail?
But after reading Mindset, I see a lot of merit in this approach for parents. It’s certainly a counter to recent criticism that we are a generation of helicopter parents raising cotton wool kids. The biggest take away for me from Dweck’s work is not so much the power of positive thinking aspect but the effort = achievement focus.
Dweck proposes we encourage our children to strive for self-improvement and for some parents, that might mean dialling back the praise factor a smidgen. Or two. We’ve all heard them in playgrounds “Oh well done Sophie! You walked to the swing on your own!” Dweck’s not suggesting we ignore our children but rather that we give credit where credit’s due.
Was the achievement the result of a lot of effort, striving or preparation? Did the child have to overcome challenges or a fear to reach their goal? That’s praiseworthy. This approach encourages risk taking, persistence and self-esteem. In other words, it’s a way to raise resilient children.
Parents born in the 80s and earlier may well laugh at the abundance of participation certificates doled out by well-meaning educators and coaches these days but it does seem to have created a sense of entitlement among some children who develop an inflated sense of self and don’t equate effort with achievement.
It’s tough watching your kids struggle. It’s hard as a Mum not to leap in and make everything perfect, to prevent potential harms like we used to when our kids were toddlers and we were the centre of their universe. But as their universe expands, it’s our job to be frank with our kids about when things don’t pan out they way they hoped. Because as we know, they don’t always. “Did you actually do any study?” “Have you been to training lately?” Tough conversations but if kids want to improve, we can’t do the effort bit for them. As much as we’d like to.