As a parent, I bet there are certain phrases you hate to hear. “Mom, I’m bored,” was the one that would push my mother over the edge. As a teacher, there were two phrases I would not accept in my classroom. “It’s too hard” and “I can’t do it.” They are words of defeat and reflect a resistance to trying new things. You may have heard your children use similar phrases signaling frustration or fear of failure and wondered how to change their mindset to one of determination and perseverance.
Studies show that student mindsets can be changed!
Step one is to replace words of defeat with words of success. Practice saying, “You can’t do it yet” when your child says they don’t know how to do something. “Yet” signals they are learning and growing and getting closer to success each time they try. Tell them “you can do hard things” when they complain things are hard. Help them look back at things they can do now that were hard once upon a time. Change their words to change their attitude!
Step two is to provide experiences where your children have to struggle to accomplish the task. For a young child, it might be learning how to do their own buckles in their car seat or spreading their own jelly on their sandwich. For an older child, it might be learning how to put clean sheets on a bed or following a multistep recipe. Help as needed, but give them a chance first to struggle and make mistakes and try.
The teachers of Grace are working on changing mindsets with Think It Through Thursdays. Once a month, our elementary students will be given a STEM styled challenge to conqueror. Sometimes they will work in groups. Sometimes they will work alone. Always they will work on a task that requires them to believe they can do hard things.
Building a mindset of perseverance takes….well, perseverance. Together, we can help our students learn to say, “That is hard for me now, but I can do it!”