Parent Magazine Flagler December 2019 - Page 13

They display an increased motivation to persist in the face of a disappointing grade or a difficult task. As Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania concurs, this kind of stick-to- itiveness spurs children to achieve success, in and out of school. So how can we teach our kids to have a growth mindset? Research shows that children at any level can be taught to adopt a growth mindset. Specifically, parents should emphasize the effort and strategies their child uses to achieve a desired outcome rather than focus on the child’s intelligence or talent. This emphasis on process gives the child a sense of control, in that she sees that good results often come from increased effort and not necessarily innate ability. This sense of control boosts the child’s confidence to keep working at a problem with the understanding that, if one way of solving the problem didn’t work, then tackling the problem in a different way might. While encouraging your child to value the process of learning rather than just the outcome itself, Dweck cautions parents to use praise effectively. Parents should be mindful to use words that praise a child’s efforts in accomplishing a desired result (“You studied hard and did great!”) versus words that praise the child’s intelligence (“You got an A because you’re so smart!”). 2. Make learning fun To help foster motivated learning, parents can turn lessons into fun activities. Add excitement to your child’s learning experience by encouraging him to explore his interests. If your child is interested in music, sign him up to play a musical instrument of his choosing or take him to children’s concerts, many of which are free at parks and community centers. Music in particular is a great teaching tool because it stirs enthusiasm while sharpening the child’s understanding of mathematics, which has a strong connection to music, according to the American Mathematical Society. Musical concepts such as rhythm, scales, intervals, harmonies, and pitch are all rooted in math. If your child is interested in history or dinosaurs, take her to a museum or head to your local library to peruse books on the subject. For a younger learner, use puzzles and board games to make mastering concepts connected to her interests colorful and fun. To have fun with learning, use external rewards, such as stickers, candy, and money sparingly. The overuse of external rewards can undercut motivation over time by implying to the child that he can choose to do the task only if he wants the reward, not for the inherent value in learning something new. 3. Respect frustrations and need for downtime It’s unreasonable to expect children to be motivated all the time. When parents don’t acknowledge a child’s frustration with learning a particular skill, children are more likely to disengage from the learning process. But exploring your child’s hesitation to do a task can give her the reassurance she needs to keep striving. If you aren’t making progress in talking to your child about her frustrations, seek out a teacher or coach who may have better success. Likewise, be respectful of your child’s need for downtime. While parents want to give their children every opportunity to learn, this well-intentioned goal has to be balanced with the equally-important goal of letting a child enjoy being a kid, notes child psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld, co-author of “The Overscheduled Child”. Allowing children to have unstructured downtime to play outdoors or simply hang around the house lets them recharge and process what they learned during the structured part of their day. This boosts creativity as children dream up ways to fill their time and builds character as they play with – and resolve conflicts with – other children their own age. 4. Allow your children to fail Although it seems counterintuitive at first, part of helping children learn not to become discouraged when faced with difficult tasks is to let them fail and learn how to bounce back from that failure. Letting children fail teaches them resilience and how to take responsibility for the natural consequences of their actions. With that goal in mind, a child is better served when parents resist the urge to rescue him from failure if the source of the failure is the child’s own lack of effort. When a child experiences how poor effort can lead to a poor result, the child is incentivized to refocus his efforts at succeeding. This redirection can bolster the child’s perseverance, self-reliance, and motivation. In some children, the fear of failure can be especially daunting. Try lessening these children’s fears by explaining that innovators they may admire – from Thomas Edison to Walt Disney to J. K. Rowling – experienced numerous obstacles and failures before succeeding through sustained motivation and perseverance. 5. Lead by example One of the most effective ways parents can teach their children to embrace learning is to immerse them in a household where the parents are enthusiastic about learning as well. Show your child your commitment to learning by reading avidly, taking a class, or engaging enthusiastically in a hobby of your interest. Not only will your child see that working hard doesn’t have to be a solitary undertaking, but she will also witness firsthand the personal satisfaction that comes from relishing a challenge. F L A G L E R parent M A G A Z I N E | 11