This simple shift not only improves how you feel about yourself as a parent but it actually helps to improve your child’s resilience, intelligence and shot at success too.

 

We all have bad days.

We all mess up.

And it’s perfectly normal for those bad days and mess ups to get to us.

Especially if you’re trying to juggle being the perfect mom, loving partner, good best friend and employee of the month – at the same time!

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt to appreciate whilst working with teens and young adults…

It’s that being a parent is hard.

The responsibility of nurturing, protecting, guiding and supporting a child – never mind a resistant teen who’s forming their own identity – can feel relentless, overwhelming and exhausting.

If there’s another thing I’ve learnt along the way, it’s that being a perfect parent is impossible. It doesn’t matter how many books and blogs you’ve read or what you did or did not study…

Mistakes will be made. Fights will be had. Feelings will be hurt.

But some exciting and groundbreaking research is showing that there is something that can make the naturally imperfect and messy parenting journey a lot easier and much more rewarding – mistakes and all.

Particularly if you struggle with a harsh inner-critic that can’t wait to point out every little “failure” that leaves you doubting your worth and adequacy as a parent.

It also has the added benefit of trickling down to your teen, protecting their mental health, improving their academic performance, boosting their motivation levels and equipping them to lead successful lives.

Personally, I think it’s the closest thing to rigging the game of life in your favour.

The secret?

A small, seemingly inconsequential shift in how you view yourself and your abilities.

Or a shift in mindset.

Stay with me on this one…

 

What’s All The Hype Around Mindset?

 

If you’re anything like me, you may have developed a slight allergic reaction to this word after the way it’s been cheaply tossed around on social media.

 

And used in a way that is aimed at making us feel like we aren’t good enough in one way or another.

 

“Want to change your life? Just change your mindset.”

 

As my dear partner said to me, “It makes me want to hurt people when I see that.”

 

But as irksome as some of these Insta posts are, there is an element of truth in them. A small shift made to the way you see yourself and your abilities can have a profound effect on the outcome of your life and that of your children.

 

It just doesn’t help when it’s communicated with a smug, obviously filtered selfie that makes you want to roll your eyes harder than your teen does the second you try to impart some wisdom on them.

Carol Dweck popularised the term, mindset, with the publishing of her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In it, she writes:

“For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?”

This question led her to identify two distinct types of mindset that can deeply impact the direction of our lives: fixed vs. growth mindset.

 

Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset

 

With a fixed mindset we assume that our character, intelligence and creative ability are fixed givens, which we can’t change in any meaningful way. We have an “either you have it or you don’t” attitude when it comes to abilities and talents.

 

And as a result, everything becomes about avoiding failure, proving our intelligence and skills and seeking approval from others.

Whereas if we have a growth mindset we believe that we can develop our character, improve intelligence and become more creative with deliberate practice.

We thrive on challenges and see failure as an opportunity for growth and for stretching our existing abilities instead of a sign of us being inadequate.

The problem with a fixed mindset is that it often brings about feelings of powerlessness and helplessness to some of the challenges in our lives. In contrast, a growth mindset promotes feelings of empowerment and drives motivation and achievement. As Dweck explains:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

 

Here’s why…

 

 

Growth Mindset, Stress & The Challenges of Parenting

Our mindset acts as our internal framework for how we deal with the world, including setbacks and problems.

It therefore plays a significant role in how well we cope with stress and life’s challenges – including the countless ones that come with being a parent.

The beauty of further developing a growth mindset is that it takes the pressure off having to look like the “perfect” mom who’s got absolutely everything together all the time.

It loosens the grip of perfectionism and it allows you the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them and grow as a result.

Imagine if, instead of constantly comparing yourself to picture-perfect moms online or the other moms at school and feeling like you’re not doing enough for your kids, you’re free of that anxiety. Imagine if you knew that you’re a unique, gifted mom who has the very best intentions for her family, knowing that your best is enough.

With that peace of mind, you could confidently and joyfully embrace your own parenting journey and explore what works best for you and your family – regardless of what the others are doing.

The focus becomes less about “proving” you’re a good mom (to yourself and maybe others too) and treating every mistake along the way as evidence of your inadequacy as a parent and a person.

Instead, genuine growth becomes the priority. As a result, we naturally improve in all the areas that matter and rocket along our own paths of maturation. And this will ultimately reflect in the quality of your relationship with your darling one.

 

How Modelling A Growth Mindset Will Help Your Child

Whilst you’re developing a growth mindset, you’re also modelling an incredibly powerful way of being for your child.

By seeing you make mistakes, owning them, learning and growing from them it tells teens that it’s safe for them to “fail-forward” too. Research shows that this can develop in them a passion for learning instead of a hunger for approval.

If there’s anything that’s going to further fuel the flourishing of your teen and their resilience, it’s that. To add to this, a study found that developing a growth mindset in school students can decrease the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.1

Another study found that university students who had a fixed mindset about their personality traits struggled with higher levels of mental health problems. And that those with a growth mindset showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, and perfectionism.2 As Dweck puts it:

“We found that students’ mindsets – how they perceive their abilities – played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. Students who believed their intelligence could be developed (growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (fixed mindset).”

In other words, the simple decision to shift how you view yourself and your abilities will not only improve the quality of your life but it will do the same for your child as they learn it from you.

Knowing that you’re modelling a way of thinking that’s a big promoter of wellbeing and one of the greatest predictors of future success, you too can fail-forward with confidence and a bit more kindness towards yourself.

And when your inner critic so diligently points out any “failings”…

You can thank it and assure it that you’re treating it as the learning opportunity it is instead of beating yourself up for being a bad parent or ruining your child’s life.

Freeeeedoooooom!

 

7 ways to develop a growth mindset

Now for the truly important part – the how.

The most promising thing about our minds is that they’re malleable and a growth mindset is something we can certainly develop.

So here are 7 principles and techniques I’ve found to be incredibly valuable that you can begin implementing into your life and modelling for your teen right now.

1. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections. Hiding from our weaknesses and mistakes means we’ll never overcome them. The first step? Having the courage to acknowledge them.

2. View challenges as opportunities. Challenges are not signs that we’re failing or not smart enough but opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

3. Place effort before talent. Hard work should always be rewarded before inherent skill. As the leading researcher in grit, Angela Duckworth, says, “As much as talent counts; effort counts twice as much.”

4. Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning.” When we make a mistake or fall short of a goal, we haven’t failed; we’ve learned. And if need be, we’ll do it better next time around.

5. Stop seeking approval. When we prioritise approval over learning, we sacrifice our own potential for growth.

6. Value the process over the end result. When we learn to focus more on the journey and not just the destination, it makes it much easier to enjoy the learning process – even when it continues beyond an expected time frame.

7. Use the word “yet.” Dweck says “not yet” has become one of her favourite phrases. Our clients love it too! Whenever you find yourself struggling with a task, just tell yourself you haven’t mastered it yet.

 

 

Wrapping Up

This isn’t something that happens over night. If you struggle with a particularly strong fixed mindset, like I once did and still do in some areas, a few of these suggestions will take time and practice.

But the return on investment is priceless. With its host of benefits, it’s the closest thing I’ve come across to rigging the game of life in your favour.

I’m alive and well today because of the decision to make this shift after struggling for years with debilitating depression. I’ve also seen it work wonders for many of the teens and young adults I’ve coached too.

Just know you will make mistakes along the way and when you do, remind yourself that it’s about progress, not perfection.

 

References

1. Jessica L. Schleider, Madelaine R. Abel, John R. Weisz, Implicit theories and youth mental health problems: A random-effects meta-analysis, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 35, 2015, Pages 1-9, ISSN 0272-7358, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2014.11.001. (Source)

 

2. Hans S. Schroder, Matthew M. Yalch, Sindes Dawood, Courtney P. Callahan, M. Brent Donnellan, Jason S. Moser, Growth mindset of anxiety buffers the link between stressful life events and psychological distress and coping strategies, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 110, 2017, Pages 23-26, ISSN 0191-8869, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.01.016. (source)