Inside: Learn how to foster a growth mindset in kids that will take them from “I can’t” to “I can!”
The other day, my son spent his hard-earned $1.50 on a pack of bubblegum and was happily chomping away. Every now and then, he’d blow a gigantic bubble.
My eldest watched him with wide eyes.
“I don’t even know how to blow a bubble and I’m older than him,” she pouted.
So, I offered to teach her.
Her brother was kind enough to share some pieces of gum with us and we went to work.
I had to slowly blow a bubble myself so I could stop and break down the steps it takes to actually blow one.
After ten minutes of practice, my daughter had not mastered bubble blowing.
Because, well, it had only been ten minutes.
But she threw her arms up in the air and announced, “I can’t do it.”
“Yet,” I said, finishing her sentence for her. “You can’t do it yet. It takes practice. A lot of practice and determination.”
So we kept at it for another ten minutes.
But by now her little brother stood over her shoulder, happily blowing his bubbles.
“See? It’s easy,” he declared. Pop. Pop. Pop.
I saw the look of defeat in my daughter’s eyes. And, I saw a flash of anger, frustration, and embarrassment.
Her younger brother could easily do something she couldn’t.
She was on the verge of giving up-again-because then she wouldn’t have to try, or admit she didn’t know how to do something well.
She could ignore bubble blowing and move on with her life rather than pushing through the frustration. But then she still wouldn’t know how to blow a bubble.
So I couldn’t let her give up over her brother’s words.
I had to encourage and facilitate a growth mindset in her.
And both my kids needed to know the “It’s so easy” comment when someone tries to learn a new skill has no place in our home.
The Importance of a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is the belief you can get smarter and learn new things by putting in effort and practice.
It’s understanding we all can grow and learn throughout our lives and if you don’t know how to do something, you just don’t know how to do something yet.
It’s focusing on progress and growth and the process of learning, rather than focusing on the end result or the finished outcome only.
And it’s helping our kids become lifelong learners, lovers of books, and people who want to constantly and continuously improve themselves.
Help your kids with their growth mindset using this Growth Mindset Journal for Kids —> The Big Life Journal
A growth mindset starts with how we talk to our kids at home and how we let them talk to themselves.
It starts with whether we allow them to quit after trying only one time or whether we encourage them to keep practicing tough things.
And a growth mindset applies to learning all kinds of different things:
- Academic skills: learning to read, or memorizing multiplication facts, or mastering calculus.
- The arts: learning a musical instrument, figuring out how to draw a 5-point star, or how to do the new fortnight dance (insert small eye roll here).
- Athletic skills: learning to dribble a basketball, or do a cartwheel, or learning to slide into second base without hurting yourself.
- Everyday life skills: tying their shoes, making their own sandwich, or riding a bicycle.
- And it also applies to the silly, don’t-really-have-to-learn-it-skills: whistling a song, snapping their fingers, and blowing bubbles with bubble gum.
All of these skills are hard. Until you learn how to do them.
But we can’t learn them overnight.
Because learning new skills takes persistence and determination.
And it requires the mindset, a growth mindset, that we can all learn how to do something if we:
2) Try with a positive attitude
3) and assume we’ll learn it or master it eventually.
What We Say Instead of “It’s So Easy”
So after my son’s comment of “See, it’s so easy,” I took a page out my childhood and told him what my mom always reminded every kid who said it:
It’s only easy when you know how.
When I ride a bike, it feels super easy to me now. I hop on and go without thinking much about it.
But it wasn’t easy before I learned how to do it. Keeping my balance, pedaling, steering, and then managing to do it all at the same time while also looking for cars…was quite hard at first.
Just like blowing a bubble.
I blow bubbles mindlessly now that I know how to to do it.
But for someone who has no clue where to start, it can feel intimidating, overwhelming and frustrating.
And a comment like “it’s so easy” diminishes and belittles feelings which can be quite hurtful. So it’s one of the 15 surprising things we ban in our home to raise kinder kids.
Because as with all new skills, it’s only easy when you know how to do it.
So I encourage my kids to replace the phrase with something more helpful and more encouraging:
- “Keep practicing and you’ll get it.”
- “It’s hard when you don’t know how, but you’ll figure it out.”
- “It was hard for me too at first but now it feels easy because I practiced.”
- “I know you can do it! Keep trying!”
- “Practice makes progress.” (A gem of a phrase from one of my favorite preschool teachers, Mrs. Johnson).
And with this simple shift in phrasing, my daughter’s frustration subsided.
The anger and embarrassment left her expression.
And she willingly practiced blowing more bubbles.
She still hasn’t blown her first bubble. Yet.
But with more practice sessions and more pieces of bubble gum from her brother, I know we’ll have another bubble blower soon enough.
And one day, it will feel easy for her too.
And then we can move on to learning our next skill, like how to whistle.