Thank you to guest blogger, Krista Palo, from Evolve for providing us with the following insight:
As parents we all want the best for our children. We take care to make sure that they have everything they need to be successful: healthy food, shelter, clothing, toys to play with, books to read, experiences to grow, and most of all lots and lots of love!
As a mom, I also wanted to make sure that my kids had as much joy in their lives as possible. I hate when they are hurting or when they are sad and I even went out of my way to make sure that my boys didn’t have to feel the same hurts or suffer the same failures that I did. I wanted them to avoid as much pain and failure as possible.
Was that really the best thing?
Maybe you can relate to how I was feeling. Maybe you too wanted to take all the hurt and pain away from your children so that they could have the easiest and most joyful life possible.
But you know, I’ve come to realize that what I was doing with great intentions, wasn’t really the best thing for my children. Those hurts, and failures, and hard experiences are the very thing that have helped me become who I am today. And by me trying to save my children heartache, I was willing to deprive them of the very thing that helped me be successful.
Take for example trophies in sports. Instead of letting our children play sports for the sheer joy of playing the game and learning invaluable lessons of hard work, perseverance, and team work, we reward everyone with a trophy just for showing up. Regardless if their performance was praise worthy.
Not only do I think this is unnecessary, especially at a young age, I firmly believe we are doing our children a disservice with this practice. Most young kids are excited just for the chance to play! Many times, they have watched an older sibling or even professionals on TV and they really are happy just with the opportunity to do what they have only previously watched others do.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there can be tears and hurt feelings when they don’t win a trophy at the end of the season, or when they realize that they aren’t as good as someone else, and it’s hard to watch your child be sad. But when we give everyone a trophy we are essentially telling them that they are entitled to a trophy simply for showing up, and generally speaking, we are nullifying the hard work of those who did rightfully win.
We are essentially taking away any incentive our kids may have had to work harder next time. If they get a trophy regardless of how hard they work or whether their team really won or not, why would they put in the time and effort to actually be the winners? By default, their brains are going to take the path of least resistance.
This is a scary thought. That by taking away all the potential pain from our children, we are creating an entitled generation who doesn’t know the value of hard work, who can’t see failure as opportunities for growth, and who expect to be the “best” without doing what’s required to get there.
King of the Hill
Did you ever play “King of the Hill” when you were growing up? Essentially, a group of kids would find a hill and fight each other for the right to be “the king”. They would push and shove each other off because there was only room for one person at the top. There could only be one “king/queen.”
This simple children’s game teaches our kids an interesting mindset. “There is only room at the top for one.” Not only that, but that it’s perfectly acceptable to push and shove and do whatever is necessary to ensure your position at the top, regardless of what your actions do to other people.
Mindset is how you look at the world, and there are essentially two types of mindsets, fixed (scarcity) mindsets or growth (abundance) mindsets.
A fixed mindset believes that the qualities you have are carved in stone and that you can’t really change. People with a fixed mindset have the need to prove them selves over and over again because only one person can be “the best.” They have no problem pushing other people out of the way to get to where they want to go.
A growth mindset instead believes that who you are today is simply the starting point for development. Qualities can be cultivated and that everyone can change and grow through effort and experience. These people have a passion for learning and realize that someone else being successful doesn’t prevent them from also being successful. They are willing to work hard and to what it takes to get better, often helping others grow along the way too.
You choose your mindset
The good news is that we can choose what mindset we have. We have the ability to look at life however we want to. We can feel entitled to be “the best,” and have no problem pushing others out of the way to get there. Or we can work hard and learn and grow and build others along the way.
Mindsets are really just beliefs. They are the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us and they are the beliefs that we pass to our children.
What happens is a direct measure of competence and worth
Can’t be wrong
Mistakes are horrible
Worry about being judged
Don’t label themselves & don’t give up
Confront challenges & take risks
Convert setbacks into future successes
Oriented toward learning & improving
Perseverance & resilience
When you think about yourself, do feel like you have fixed abilities that need to be proven over and over again, or do you believe that you can change and that abilities can be developed through learning?
Differences in Mindsets
The two mindsets differ mostly in two factors: failure and effort.
Growth mindsets view failure as a setback whereas a fixed mindset views failure as a direct reflection of themselves… not smart enough or talented enough.
Growth mindsets view effort as the thing that makes them smart and talented, and fixed mindsets view effort as bad.
“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures. . . . I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.” – Benjamin Barber
Promote a growth mindset
The first step of helping your kids to have a growth mindset is for you to adopt one yourself. If you don’t currently have a growth mindset the good news is that you can choose to have one!
Cultivating a growth mindset was a conscious and intentional choice that I made in my own life. I was tired of fighting the battle of perfectionism, worrying about what others thought, and feeling like I was never good enough.
The change didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. The more I practiced the easier it got, and when I failed, guess what? It didn’t mean that I was a bad person, that I wasn’t smart enough, or that I was never going to get it (I had previously believed all those things about myself). It simply meant I didn’t get it yet. But I could try again, and again, and again until I did.
Let your kids fail
This part is the hard one. The biggest help I found in promoting a growth mindset was to let myself fail and to look at that failure with non-judgement. This was super hard coming from a former perfectionist. And our kids need this lesson too. For them to develop a growth mindset, they need the opportunity to fail.
Even just last year I remember staying up late and working on weekends the last few weeks of the term trying to get my oldest son all caught up on his missing work because I didn’t want him to get a bad grade. I won’t do that this year. I would much rather have him get a bad grade now and learn the lesson of hard work and persistence while he is young than to have him as an adult have to learn that lesson for the first time.
Failure is not bad. Being sad is not bad. Being disappointed is not bad.
True winners (successes) use “adversity as fuel” – Don Yaeger.
Now, I’m not saying we should camp out and wallow in our self-depreciating thoughts, believe me I’ve done my fair share of that too, but failing at something does not label you or your child as a failure. Failure is the opportunity to learn and to grow.
Love instead of remove. Teach instead of make better. From my own experience developing a growth mindset and trying to teach my children to adopt one too, the greatest advice I have for helping you and your kids have success is simply to love.
When we fail, love ourselves, don’t beat up on ourselves. Instead of removing all of the obstacles from our children, let them try. Cheer them on when they overcome, and love them even when they don’t, especially when they don’t. Encourage them to try again, help them know what to do so they can get better and stronger for next time. Teach them how to improve instead of making the situation better for them.
Our results are not the measure of our potential, they are only a measure of who we are at a certain point in time. There is always room to grow.
History is full of examples of so-called failures who ended up being extraordinary: Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell, Abraham Lincoln…
How can we possibly know where effort and time will take someone?
Opposition in all things
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is failure. Because it is failure that will help them develop the strength of character they will need to persevere when life gets hard later on. I’m not saying we set our children up to fail, I’m simply suggesting that instead of taking away every hurt, every pain, and every potential failure that we give our children the opportunity to grow from failure.
It is opposition that brings appreciation. If we never lose can we truly appreciate winning? If we are never sad can we have a full measure of joy? If we never hurt can we rejoice in being pain free? If we are never weak can we embrace our strength? If we never lack how can we appreciate abundance?
Krista Palo is the owner of Evolve and a John Maxwell certified speaker, teacher, and coach. She has a BA in Management and Human Resources and a Masters in Business Administration. She is also a single mom of two amazing young men ages 11 and 13. She helps individuals and organizations make lasting, positive change. Her mission is to help others reach their goals by actively living, continually growing, and finding joy through living principles of servant leadership.