Category Archives: mindset

Motivating Students

At a recent elementary school training, a teacher began asking me about strategies for a student who has no motivation.  He refuses to do any work at all and she has tried numerous strategies already.  “I’ve tried everything and nothing works,” she said.  As a school counselor for 20 years, I often heard similar concerns.

I understand the frustrating and difficult job of teaching students in today’s society.  Many students come to the classroom with little preparation in the way of academic skills, positive encouragement or mental preparedness.  However, I often think that we begin at the wrong end of the continuum in our attempts to change behavior.  We begin with rewards and consequences.  We test for deficits and disabilities.  What if instead we began teaching and regularly encouraging a growth mindset?  What if we believed in the effectiveness of a growth mindset ourselves?

What is a growth mindset? Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking work, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success defined it this way: The growth mindset is one where a student believes that their personality, intelligence, ability or skill is changeable and with focused effort and training they can change the outcome.

What if you set the stage every day for a growth mindset and success?

What would it look like?

Begin with  brain facts-What we know about the brain is that thoughts and beliefs that we repeat regularly become a familiar neural pathway.  Neurons that fire together, wire together and become dominant.  This is important to know if you are an educator trying to motivate a student who is determined to spend the day distracted and unfocused rather than learning and growing.  It means that even if a student has already created a negative set of thought patterns that the possibility exists to replace that mindset with a more positive, motivating one that will ensure success not only in the classroom but in everyday life. Teach students that the brain is plastic and changeable.  Teach students that the brain is like a muscle that when used repeatedly grows stronger and stronger in the areas where it is used.

Develop positive mental messages or mindsets: It’s not necessary to be creative or unique.  There are already plenty of inspirational mantras or quotes available to choose from.  Pick something that resonates with you and with your style of teaching. Here are a few examples that illustrate the growth mindset:

  • Every day in every way I’m getting better and better through practice and persistence
  • Love challenges, learn from mistakes, give your best, and always keep growing
  • Learn, grow and help others
  • Great effort and frequent failure is the recipe for great success

Repeat the message regularly:  This isn’t a matter of putting up an inspirational poster that becomes a piece of the woodwork.  Instead, this is a message to begin the day, to end the day and to repeat throughout the day. It is a message to work into academics, physical activities and social occasions. Make it visual. Make it auditory. Have students memorize and repeat it.

Changing fixed mindsets isn’t easy.  We all have stories and messages that we’ve learned and incorporated into the fabric of our lives.  However, helping students develop a mindset that spurs them on to be life long learners and persistent in the face of failure and mistakes will serve them well throughout their lives.

Related Posts:

The growth mindset and success

Creating a growth mindset in kids

Doubtbusters for Kids

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

teaching kids to handle rejection

You don’t make the team

Your friend doesn’t invite you to to the party

Your essay, performance, or art work doesn’t win first place

Rejection is a part of life, for kids a well as for adults.  I bet we all know adults who never learned to handle rejection or obstacles well.  (Think John McEnroe and his famous temper tantrums on the tennis court.)  No one wants to raise a kid with similar outbursts.  So what’s the answer?  Teaching kids to control their mindset and to re-frame failure.

Here are some ideas:

Teach kids the power of not yet— When a child doesn’t win the trophy or make the team, don’t gloss over it and don’t get them a participation trophy so they fit in.  Instead teach kids that just because they didn’t make it this time there is always a chance to make it next time.  Teach them that persistence and effort make a difference.

Teach kids to be a learner, not a loser--Help kids understand that every failure has the seeds for growth in it.  An evaluated experience makes for an improved and better performance next time.  Teach them to ask:  What have I learned that I can do differently next time?

Teach kids positive self-talk–Often kids feel rejected, worthless and inadequate in the face of failure.  Teach them to identity the stories or messages they are telling themselves, to challenge those messages and replace them with a positive statement.  Instead of, “I always lose,” they can say “I’ll work hard and do better next time.”

Teach kids how to measure progress–Often we measure progress from how far we are from the goal; “I didn’t make a 100 on my test.”  Instead, teach them to measure progress from how far they are from where they started;  “On my last test, I made a C.  On this test I made a B.”

Teach kids that rejection can sometimes be redirection–And sometimes that is a good thing.  We aren’t meant to win at everything and sometimes it can be a sign that our strengths and talents lay in another area.  Evaluating whether or not to continue along the same path is part of the message that rejection can clarify.

 

Related posts:

The power of not yet in changing behavior

Four steps to change failure to success

Teach kids problem solving skills

 New!!  

Wyatt the Wonder Dog

Learns about Teamwork

Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.

Wyatt Learns about Teamwork

four steps to change failure into success

I’ve written a lot of posts on how to handle failure.  There are several of reasons for this.   As a kid, I don’t know that anyone ever helped me understand the role that failure plays in growing, improving and becoming your best self. I just figured out on my own that failure was something to be avoided at all costs and that misguided perception would rule my life until well into recent years.

As a school counselor for 20 years, I also spent a lot of time consoling kids who felt devastated when life didn’t go as they planned.  They failed a test. Their work didn’t win the prize.  They weren’t chosen for the team or club.  I want to help kids learn to handle failure because it so often involves learning to handle losing, making mistakes and criticism. Each one of these experiences can either provide needed helpful information for our future or it can crush our spirit.  It is all in how we perceive the information as well as how it is delivered.

Most of the time when someone feels crushed by failure, the problem is the message or the story that the individual is telling themselves about the situation.  This is obviously true for adults as well as kids so the steps that I’m going to suggest below might be something that you will find helpful in your own life as well as kids that you teach, parent or counsel.   Here’s the secret sauce for turning failure into research and development.

  • Become aware of the message or story that you are telling yourself or repeating in your brain.  Here are some examples that I’ve heard:
    • How could I be so stupid?
    • I’m a loser and now everyone will know
    • What’s the point of trying?  I can’t do anything right.
  • Change the message to change the feeling:
    • It’s okay to make mistakes.  That’s how I learn.
    • I’m not a loser, I’m a learner.  Everyone makes mistakes and those who don’t understand don’t need to be in my circle of friends.
    • I haven’t learned the best way to succeed yet.  There are lessons to be learned from this experience.
  • Ask the question:
    • What have I learned from this experience?
    • How can I apply what I have learned?
    • Where is the opportunity in this experience?
  • Set a new goal to apply what you have learned
    • Create a new goal with a timeline- I will study differently for the next test by reviewing the material nightly.
    • Create an opportunity for constructive feedback:  I will ask my teacher for suggestions for the best way to learn the material.
    • Evaluate how the action steps are working:  I will take a practice test before the final exam.

Related posts:

What if failure is really a gift?

The growth mindset and success

Teach girls bravery not perfection

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Lesson Plan on Winning/Failure on Teachers Pay Teachers

 

 

 

 

Kids and anxiety

I was recently talking with a teenager that I volunteer with at Mostly Mutts, a local shelter for dogs.  In the course of our conversation, she told me that she is home schooled because she “has anxiety.”  What does it mean when we think and talk about anxiety this way?

When we talk about anxiety as something that we “have”, much like we might say we have blond hair or blue eyes, we are saying that it is something we have little control over.  At best it becomes something that we somehow caught like a cold or the chickenpox. And the trouble with that view of anxiety is that it becomes a condition that we just need to live with or treat until it goes away as mysteriously as it appeared.

In actuality all of our emotions are feelings in our body that we create based on our thoughts.  This is true of positive and negative feelings.  Sometimes these thoughts are so ingrained that they are practically unconscious.  Sometimes  they are either so common in society or in our minds that we accept them without question as the truth or  the  only way to believe or think.

But the good news is that with enough effort and insight we can unearth the message that is creating any feeling.  Once we understand the message or thought process we can change that process so that we can change the feeling.  I think you would agree that this is not only worth the effort, but also a much better plan than learning to live with fear or anxiety through various coping strategies or medication that numbs our feelings.

Here’s how to teach kids to challenge and change feelings:

  • Become an observer— Take the time to evaluate a situation where the response is anxiety or fear.  Ask the questions:
    • What happened?  “The teacher announced a test on Friday.”
    • What did you tell yourself about the situation? “I don’t understand the material.  I always do badly on tests.  I’m not ready.  I’ll probably fail…”
    • How did you feel?  “Worried, nervous, afraid, anxious…”
  • Challenge your thoughts– argue with them, make them prove themselves, be the devils’ advocate, don’t accept thoughts as the truth
    • “I understand a lot of the material and I can learn the rest by Friday.”
    • “I don’t always do badly on tests.  I have made some really good grades on tests.”
    • “I’m not ready… yet.  I know how to study and prepare for a test and and I can do it.  I have the time and the ability.”
    • “I won’t fail if I put forth enough effort.”
  • Create a plan— don’t just change your thoughts, change your actions based on your thoughts.  Plan to do what is necessary to be your best self and put forth your best effort.
    • “I’ll study 30 minutes every night”
    • “I’ll finish reading the assignment and doing the extra work.”
    • “I’ll ask for help on the things I don’t understand.”
  • Be vigilant and stay in control of your thoughts and your actions in order to stay in control of your feelings— It’s hard to stay anxious when we are occupied with other things.  Stay on track with the plan.  Keep working on it and reminding yourself that you are in charge of your thoughts.
  • Be patient and give yourself time–The thoughts that create anxiety have had a lot of practice and repetition.  It will take some time to replace them but eventually the new way of thinking will become the new habit.

 

Related Posts:

Teaching kids to manage feelings

3 ways to teach kids to tackle anxiety

Is your child a people pleaser?

 

End of School Year Special

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Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 

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Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)

 


 

teaching kids to manage feelings

A standard lesson that I taught every year as an elementary school counselor was recognizing feelings. It was a fun lesson. I’d bring in large cut outs of children showing mad, sad, happy or scared feelings and ask kids to guess how the child was feeling. We’d talk about body language and how  we know what someone is feeling.  We described feelings and came up with positive ways to show how we feel and negative ways to express the same feeling.  For example. a positive way to handle anger is to talk about it and a negative way is to hit someone.

This approach to teaching feelings is useful and gives kids a common language for expressing their feelings.  However, it is a basic classroom lesson and doesn’t really cover all the bases in helping kids manage feelings, especially negative ones.   What can we teach the child who needs anger management strategies or the child who is anxious and fearful, beyond how to recognize these feelings and positive ways to act them out?

Typical lessons on managing emotions teach kids to do things that redirect their attention or to do something that helps them calm down so they can regain control.  An example of redirecting is when you are angry, read a book or watch a movie and the feeling will go away.  An example of a calming technique is to count to 10 or take deep breaths.  These are good ideas but they don’t really get to the root of the problem and for some kids they simply won’t be effective.

What if we also taught kids to use self-talk to manage feelings that are uncomfortable, feelings that create problems for them or that ultimately interfere with living their best life?  Here’s what it would look like:

  • Recognize and observe the feeling-“I’m feeling angry because my heart is beating fast, my hands and teeth are clenched and I’m breathing fast.
  • Reflect on the mental message that created the feeling– “I’m thinking… I had the toy first and my sister shouldn’t have taken the toy without asking.”
  • Change the message to change the feeling-“What if I thought instead “It’s okay for someone else to play with the toy.  It’s okay for me to share the toy but I’d like to be asked first.”
  • Determine behavior and actions based on the new calmer feeling– “I can talk to my sister and tell her that I don’t mind sharing the toy but I’d like for her to ask me first.

If you are thinking that takes a lot more time and effort than just telling someone to count to 10 when they are mad… you are right.  On the other hand, you are teaching kids the vital life skill of how to manage feelings rather than letting feelings run the show. Understanding how thoughts create feelings rather than the other way around is empowering because it doesn’t teach a pat response to coping with a negative feeling. Instead it teaches kids how to manage their self-talk in a positive way that is applicable to any situation.  It’s also much more effective.  After all, how often have you seen a kid stop, count to ten and then handle anger appropriately?  How often have you done it?  See what I mean?

Sometimes simple isn’t better.

 

Related Posts:

3 ways to teach kids to handle anxiety

6 steps to manage test anxiety

Stressed out?

 

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

The power of ‘not yet’ in changing behavior

As I visit schools and provide training in DISC personality style to staff and parents, I’m often asked, “Can you change your basic personality style or is it just hard-wired in?”  The exciting news in all areas of human development is that we can change and grow in many ways. Personality style is no different.  We can change our perception.  We can change our behavior.  We can change our personality style.

However, it’s not always necessary to change our personality so much as it is to recognize and work in our strengths. Every personality style has strengths and areas of concern.

A high D personality style can be decisive and determined.  Or they can be bossy and domineering.

A high I personality style can be interactive and inspiring.  Or they can be impulsive and self-centered.

A high S personality style can be supportive and encouraging.  Or they can be passive and too compliant.

A high C  personality style can be conscientious and competent.  Or they can be paralyzed by details and insensitive.

I think you get the picture.  We all have the potential to maximize our strengths and be both a great leader and a great team-player but doing so means recognizing our areas of potential weakness and overcoming them.  There is always room to grow and change for the better.

Although much of Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset is around the area of improving academics, it is also relevant to improving behavior. Just as we can teach kids that their behavior is “not yet” optimal, we can also teach that there is always another chance  for change.  Just as kids can be taught that they can learn and grow academically, they can also be taught that they can learn and grow behaviorally.  Their daily behavior strengthens neural patterns making change and improvement easier and easier to repeat.

This is exciting news because we can help kids understand their potential for success. We can help kids learn to not only accept challenges but look forward to them because they mean growth.  We can help them understand that their behavior now is not yet optimal but that there is opportunity for improvement starting right now.  Notice as well that we aren’t passing out rewards, stickers, candy and toys to improve behavior.  Instead we are focusing on the intrinsic reward of growth and goal achievement. We are creating a positive vision for the future.  Most importantly we are preparing kids for the endless possibilities ahead.

Listen to Carol Dweck talk about the power of “not yet” over the tyranny of “now”.

 

Related posts:

How to create a better behavior plan

How do you change a child’s behavior?

How effective is your school’s ISS?

Parenting with Heart: Understanding your Child’s Personality Style

Do you sometimes feel that your children are speaking a different language?  Do you wonder how to motivate and inspire them?  In this eBook you will D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and how to speak the language of other personality styles to create a winning  environment in all the seasons of your family’s life.

parentingheart

Click on the link below to purchase the ebook:

Parenting with Heart: Understanding Personality Style

 

 Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten