Mindset… it’s the buzz word of all professionals who deal with children and adolescents. If you break the term down literally, you can think of it as what framework your mind is or can be in to prepare for what you are currently thinking or doing. The term gained popularity by contrasting different beliefs about where our abilities come from.
In the world of children and adolescents, this is often seen as struggling with their inner critic, comparing our abilities to those of others. Everyone is guilty of this, both young and old. It has been phrased many ways over the years: stealing someone’s thunder, why didn’t I get that?, jealousy, etc. In other words, the power of our competitive side begins to manifest and drive what we do and more importantly, how our thoughts can affect how we do or act.
One of the greatest quotes I took away from author Carol S. Dweck’s book Mindset is “no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment “. The key to any great mindset is connecting the feelings and actions, the shoulds into shall, and the wishes into wills.
The question then becomes what will I do to change my hopes into happenings? Mindset is a matter of setting your minds thoughts from negativity into positivity.
I came across this article in The New York Times which mentioned the term neontocracy, the downward spiral of parents putting their kids needs above your own, even above your parent-to-parent relationship. In other words, you do everything for your son or daughter that you fail, perhaps forget, to think about your own. This same rationale can be said about emotions, or what I like to call emotional rescuing.
We’ve all been there, feeling the immense guilt as you glance or even walk away from the sandbox on the playground. Will your child suffer harm if you leave them for a few seconds, probably not? Will they make a new friend or perhaps get their feelings hurt on their own? Perhaps, but by allowing them the chance to feel these emotions, to experience how to work through different feelings is a process that will not only help them recognize how their body is related to how they are feeling, but how to work through them as well.
In my class of fights, we often work through feelings that we get stuck on by playing in a sensory box full of letter tiles, beans, and sand (I know, I know the irony ). Often it times it helps to create a heart journal, where students can write senselessly, free of grammar or sentences, about how they are feeling about anything.
I guess my point is sometimes the rescuing we, as parents or adults who work with children, need to be doing is our own, just like the flight attendants tell us, put your oxygen mask on first. In the end, truly what good are we as parents or teachers to our children if we don’t have any wind or sails left?
Not just any muscle, but the most important one of all. Like any muscle it needs conditioning, active practice to make it healthy, strong, even grow.
There was a recent spurge in the media around 50 days of kindness, continous acts of kindness that are done by the simple act of wanting to do better, kinder acts for others. Pushing a chair in, buying someone else’s coffee in line, even telling someone hello in the hall who may be having a bad day. Although these are acts that are kind in merit, shouldn’t they be done on a continuum and not continously for a shortened period of 40 days?
In Dr Peter Feruci’s book The Power of Kindness, he argues that those who practice kindness, truly acts of good toward others, will thrive in this world, later empowering others through these acts away from a world of self-centeredness and narcissism.So how does this affect how you feel, how your child may feel about how they learn? That’s simple, how the world sees them is often a reflection of their feeling, their thoughts about not only who they are and who the world sees, but who the world projects they may become.
Kindness is a beautiful thing ; a simple act has the power, potential to spiral into altruistic, loving acts towards others. Now think of it as a muscle and use the muscle towards how you or your child feel about learning, not just academically and emotionally. Simply put, this is an area that we need to condition and strengthen.
If we all invested this much energy we gear towards acts of kindness in 40 days, think of the impact we could do towards not just ourselves but how we feel about how we learn and potentially become?
This week has been a whirlwind, with the death of two screen icons and the start of school back in the new year. My heart was heavy with loss as I grew up watching Debbie Reynolds in Singing In The Rain on the couch with my grandmother as well as the loss of her talented daughter, Carrie Fisher. I will admit I am not the most epic fan of Star Wars, but the awareness that she has brought to both the image and identity of addiction and mental heath is astounding.
So, back the my classroom of first grade fidgets…
As with the new year, just when all the ebbs and flows are settling in, I get a new student (which I will admit comes in perfect timing as it merits a review of rules and procedures for us all). One day as my fidgets were working, he came up to my table and said “Ms. Kohl, I have the hookups”. I tried to contain the giggles growing within myself, and responded “You mean the hiccups, don’t you?”. His response is one I will never forget, “Nope, they are heavier than the hiccups and they hook me up in my thinking”.
The newest member of the fidgets had renamed his hiccups based on how they made him feel, scrambling and interrupting his learning process. As the day progressed, I reflected on the role that perspective can play on a child’s own role in their learning. How much of their learning is fully comprehending and applying and how much is it a response or reaction to what they perceive to be happening?
There are many things we cannot control in life of a child especially how they perceive the events in their life, but we can adjust the quality of what we present to them. Think back to my new fidgeter, he fully believed he had renamed a mundane annoyance because of the role that it played in his learning. What else do children rename simply because they get pulled down by what they perceive? Self worth, love, success.
I know that the road blocks are heavy and hard to adjust or maneuver in the lives of our children (both taught or raised), but with a little prior preparation aren’t we able to replace their perception with a reality that is full of hopes and dreams, rainbows and butterflies?
Boredom. By definition it is the state of being restless due to a lack of interest. From a child’s perspective, they to be overcome by a sense of impending doom with absolutely nothing to do at all. Often adults, we seem to misunderstand that boredom means something entirely different to them. As a parent, you think “pick from one thing that you have surrounding you and do it,” and yet it’s often not that simple.
Psychologically, boredom as a phrase has taken the place of words like frustrating or depressing. In a child’s case, their sense of doom could be a mirror of what they are feeling both within themselves and in interacting with others. External boredom is a simple cause and effect to solve by adjusting the external stimuli. If they are bored with academics, give them a brain break and let them rest for a bit. I have seen yoga or using mint chap stick as an aromatherapy to lower the toxic run of emotions that often coincides with boredom. Internal boredom can be a more serious indicator that something’s going on.
Children live in such a world of inner thoughts and silence and yet listening to their stream of thoughts can be both empowering and toxic. If a child’s self-efficacy is high, then they they are the superheroes of their own world. They will try and attempt almost anything they set their minds too. However, if a child’s inner thoughts are toxic, they may prevent or hinder them from being the best version of themselves. Whatever a child’s age, even if they are in embarking on their teen-hood, teach them how to listen to themselves, and let their silence be your words.
With the end of a year coming to a close, the new year begins with potential and promise. And so, as adults, the common tradition of creating a resolution begins: what can I accomplish this year and what steps must I take to see it happen? And as a parent, this often becomes the million dollar question of how do I explain setting a goal for new years to my child?
Children often see parents creating their new year’s resolutions and although it’s incredibly productive and progressive to allow your child to do so, let them be a child. Studies have shown that the increased role of play with children not only increases their sense of self, but has a neurological benefit as well. Although the function of the amygdala’s responsibility for emotion in the brain is well-documented, during childhood it begins to associate cues and responses with both positive and negative events. In other words, by letting your child explore their own world and more importantly, at their own pace , as a parent you are not only cultivating a better relationship with your child, but you are providing them with the greatest goal of all that is already accomplished: learning.
Over the Thanksgiving break, a fellow mom and I were talking about the politics of mommy hood. She had a birthday party for her seven year old, and only invited a few of the girls from school. My friend pulled this off swimmingly like a true professional. However, when another mom heard she wasn’t inviting her daughter, she snubbed her by saying that she would no longer to business with her via text message.
The thought of mirrors and mirroring comes to mind when I heard this story. As parents, we have the responsibility of showing our children how they should act. If we are behaving and treating each other like we should, then this should and never is a challenge. However, when we let the stress stay within then that is what becomes mirrored and in turn, what our children mimic as normal.
The question then remains, what we can do to change our mirrors?
I had the pleasure of presenting at The Texas Girls Conference put on by GENAustin two weekends ago on finding your personal crown. While working with the girls and talking with their parents, the most common question I was asked was why this behavior? So many times, we as parents get fixated on that one behavior that seems out of place or that is affecting our children’s lives academically. What we have to remember is this behavior may seem out of the ordinary for you, but it is their normal. Your child may simply be at an impasse of finding the words to mirror their emotions. The next time you find yourself looking at that behavior, try asking questions that help your child communicate with words and not actions in getting what they want.