Category Archives: mindset

Kids and risk-taking

Babies and toddlers naturally take risks.   Watch any toddler navigate through a room and every step is an invitation to connect with the ground.  They wobble. They stumble. They totter here and there while the adults excitedly cheer them on.  We instinctively know that they have to make mistakes and learn how to get up when they fall in order to master the challenge of walking.

Learning to walk is a good analogy for the many skills that children must master to step into the adult arena.  What if we had the same positive and encouraging attitude when students failed a test or missed a catch in a baseball game or were rejected by a friend? Learning anything new requires taking the risk of failing and it also requires learning from those mistakes.

Two things you can learn from mistakes

There are two parts to learning from mistakes.  The first and obvious part is  learning what to do differently so that you don’t make the same mistake again.  Toddlers correct their balance.  They learn to avoid that obstacle that tripped them up. Students can learn to study more effectively.  They can practice their catches or learn how to communicate better with a friend.

The second part is dealing with the feelings surrounding making a mistake. Falling can hurt but once the tears are dried,  it doesn’t keep toddlers from trying to walk again. Helping children recognize and accept negative feelings while moving past them after a mistake is just as important as learning how to avoid making the same mistake again. Children who learn coping strategies  can quickly recover and take the  risks necessary to continue learning.

Some of the new brain research shows that our brain is hardwired to naturally retain negative experiences and to pay less attention to positive ones.  For this reason, it’s important to be intentional about learning from mistakes while focusing on and celebrating positivism and success. There was great wisdom in the old technique of getting right back on a horse once you fell off.  The quick action overcomes the anxiety that can develop and fester the longer you wait to get back in the game.

When we don’t allow students to experience taking risks as young children, when we try to program every experience for success, we short circuit their learning.  Later in life if they haven’t developed the emotional strategies to  cope with failure, they either avoid anything that involves risks or take inappropriate and dangerous risks because they haven’t learn how to differentiate.

Just as falling is a necessary part of learning to walk, learning to cope with failure is a necessary part of learning. Allow  kids to take risks  and fail when they are young and the stakes are lower.  Teach kids to replace “I failed” with “I learned.”

 

Related Posts:

Four leadership lessons for kids

What is your child’s super power?

5 steps to growing up a confident kid

 

 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

 

How effective is your school’s ISS?

Last week I was at a school doing some staff training on developing positive behavior systems based on understanding personality style.  I had a conversation with the principal about the role of ISS (in school suspension) and how effective it is as a deterrent to misbehavior. Most school personnel would agree that it is not very effective.  Sure it gets a child out of the classroom for a period of time and hopefully impresses the child with the fact that the behavior has consequences that are undesirable… but does it really teach a child how to behave differently?  So if it’s ineffective and difficult to staff (no one really wants this duty)… why don’t we do something else?

What if it were possible to use ISS time to teach better behavior skills?

Here are some ideas:

  • Create a worksheet that even the youngest child can complete about the behavior that landed them in ISS.  Use a comic strip layout with a box for each of the following questions:
    • What happened first?
    • What did I do?
    • What have I learned?
    • What do I plan to do in the future?
  • Young children can draw a picture in answer to the questions.  Older children can write about the experience.
  • The teacher in attendance reviews the sheet with the child.  This is a time for learning from mistakes, not a time for scolding for bad behavior.  Challenge perceptions and pat answers.  Encourage creative thinking and personal responsibility for feelings and actions.
  • Make the child a copy of the sheet for them to review later perhaps with their parents.  Keep a copy in the ISS room.  If the child is back in ISS for a similar behavior, have them complete a new worksheet, then compare it to the old one. Discuss what happened and why the old plan didn’t work.  How will the new plan make a difference?  What do they need to do differently?  How do they need to think differently?
  • Use a growth mindset and frame the entire experience as an opportunity to learn from mistakes rather than as a punishment to teach a child a lesson.
  • Before the child leaves, have them role play or act out how they will handle a similar situation in the future based on their answers on the worksheet.
  • Anticipate with the child what they will do when they encounter a similar situation again.  Frame it as a test of the plan that they have come up with.  Have them set an intention or a goal as to how they will handle it better.  Discuss how they will feel after they successfully handle the next challenge.
  • Rather than have children do busy work during any remaining ISS time,  have them read books on positive behavior.  For example, an excellent series on bullying is the Weird Series which has great suggestions for bullies, bystanders and victims of bullying.  Trudy Ludwig and Julia Cook write a number of books on improving behavior.  And of course, I also recommend the Wyatt the Wonder Dog books:)

Good behavior is often something we just expect that a child should understand.  After all, we told them the rules, right? Why can’t they just follow them?

What if we thought of behavior the same way that we think about math or reading?  We’d never give a child a book, explain briefly how words and sentences work together and expect them to pick it up and start reading.  We’d never tell a child how to add and subtract and expect that they could answer math problems right away.   Yet we expect that all children should understand and follow behavior rules.  Some children do manage to pick up how to behave without a lot of guidance just as some children seem to be born reading.  But most of us could benefit from some intentional teaching of behavior skills. By applying the growth mindset concept to behavior challenges, we can frame misbehavior as a chance to learn from mistakes and an opportunity develop better behavior skills.

Related posts:

How to create a better behavior plan

How do you change a child’s behavior?

Creating a growth mindset in kids

 

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)

Developing self-esteem in kids

Back in my early counseling days we called it developing self-esteem in children.

While developing self-esteem is certainly important, turns out we might have gone about it the wrong way.

We told kids that they were special… everyone is.  We told them they were smart–geniuses really and so talented.  We told kids they were doing a good job and set up the environment so that failure was unlikely.  When failure and difficulties loomed on the horizon, we quickly intervened.  We gave everyone a trophy and a ribbon, just for showing up. We retrieved forgotten homework and lunch boxes, making the necessary extra trips. Unfortunately, we created such a rosy effortless world that kids grew up expecting life to be easy and problem free.  Who knew that making life too easy for our kids was actually creating a fixed mindset that would create problems as an adult?

I’m not pointing any fingers here. Every generation does the best it can with the information that it has.  I believe educators and parents alike truly try to create the best world for their kids. So how can we  learn from the past and apply the message of the growth mindset( found in Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success) to our current work with kids?

What can we learn from the self esteem predicament of the past?

  • Self-esteem develops best from effort and achievement–We don’t feel good about ourselves just because someone tells us that we are special or that we are smart.  We feel good about ourselves  because we learn to achieve goals, to measure our progress and overcome obstacles.  It’s hard work.  Certainly the environment helps. Certainly having caring, encouraging adults in our lives helps. Role models point the way. I’m not discounting these things.  But self-esteem develops from a lot of factors and it takes effort on the part of the child.
  • Achievement is the end result of taking risks and putting forth effort– We all have different abilities and strengths but achievement comes from accepting challenges, working through failure and looking for the opportunity for growth in all we do.  Achievement often involves taking risks and not knowing the outcome ahead of time.
  • Feelings, both good and bad are part of life–Trying to make everyone happy all the time results in kids who don’t know what to do when things go wrong.  We’d do better to teach kids how to navigate through feelings rather than how to ignore them and stuff them.  Not to mention it’s not working.  The percentage of kids who report being depressed and/or anxious much of the time has skyrocketed.

What can we do today to help kids develop self-esteem?

  • Praise effort not ability–When we say, “Look how smart you are-you made an A!”  we set kids up to think they don’t have to work for the good grade.  We also set them up to think they must be dumb if they don’t make an A on the next test.  Instead, recognize the effort they put into the  result. When we say, “You studied hard for that grade.  I’m proud of you.”  we help them understand what is working and how to continue being successful.
  • Encourage kids to be kids and make mistakes–Childhood is the time to learn and we learn by making mistakes.  Certainly we don’t want kids to make dangerous mistakes but learning by falling down is how we learned to walk.  Sometimes mistakes hurt; physically, mentally and emotionally.  But that’s the point.  We not only learn from the mistake itself but from how to handle the consequences.  Take the opportunity presented to teach but not to preach.
  • Teach kids how to handle emotions— Stay with the feeling.  Think about the mindset that created it.  Talk through them.  Listen.  Listen some more.  Share your experience.  Model healthy ways to cope with feelings.  Sad and unhappy feelings don’t require a new toy or a piece of candy to cheer them up and make them go away (it doesn’t anyway).   By the same token, every win doesn’t have to be celebrated with cake and a party.  Just having someone to share a feeling, good or bad, can be enough.

Related Posts:

Positive Storytelling

How many positive comments does it take?

What if failure is really a gift?

 

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)

Some other great books to develop the growth mindset

What do you do with an idea?  Kobi Yamada

Truly a fabulous book that you could create a zillion lessons from.  Besides creativity, it could also fall in the category of peer pressure or comparison, confidence, problem solving and growth mindset.  It is inspirational for kids and adults.  When the main character comes up with a unique idea, he at first doesn’t know what to do with it and tries to leave it behind.  But the idea follows him.  Once he begins to feed and nurture it, he begins to worry what others will think about the idea.  Will they make fun of it?  Some do but he persists in carrying the idea around until it finally not only changes his world but the world around him as well.

 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

This book could come under the category of creativity, problem solving, failure and teamwork.  The main character is determined to create a most magnificent thing and tries lots of different options.  Frustrated she eventually explodes (not her finest hour) and takes a walk to calm down.  While walking she reviews what she has already created and not only gains new insight but other people discover her failures to be useful for them.  Lots to discuss here…

Motivation: Helping children find their why

He has the potential to do so much more…

She daydreams all the time and never focuses on the lesson.

He doesn’t care and it shows in his work.

How do you motivate an unmotivated child?

In truth, every child is motivated toward something.  It just doesn’t always line up with what the adults in their life want them to be motivated toward.  How can that be turned around?

I believe that the key to motivating a child is to help them find their why.

It’s hard to be excited about learning to read if you don’t see the advantage of it. But what if you know that being able to read means you will open a world of stories and fantasy? What if you learn it will challenge your imagination and creativity? What if you learn it will expand your world and take you places you may never be able to visit otherwise?

It’s hard to get excited about learning math if you don’t see the point of it.  But what if you learn to see it as a puzzle to be solved?  What if you see it as exercise for the brain?  What if you learn that it will help you make money, count money, budget money and buy things?

I don’t know what the why is that will hook your particular child with any given activity. But I think we need to at least help children see the reason behind learning and develop their why.  We need to present learning as exciting, challenging, mind opening and life changing.  Instead it is often presented it as something a student just has to get through to pass a test and make it to the next grade so they can eventually graduate and do what they really want to do.  That doesn’t motivate me… does it you?

What is your why?

Maybe we ultimately need to ask ourselves what the why is behind the work that we do.  If our why is to share the thrill of learning and becoming the best that we can be every day, then we need to ask ourselves if we are translating that enthusiasm and excitement into the lessons that we teach and the life that we model. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Listen to what Marva Collins, renowned teacher who is quoted in the book Mindset said to an unmotivated second grader in her class on the first day of school, “Come on, peach,” she said to him, cupping his face in her hands, “we have work to do.  You can’t just sit in a seat and grow smart… I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce.  I am not going to let you fail.”

There are lots of strategies that can be put into place to motivate a child.  We can use stickers and candy and treasure boxes of toys.  But in the long run these things lose appeal and research actually shows that they have an adverse effect on the desire to learn and grow.  Instead what if it is possible to nurture a growth mindset that will encourage kids to become life long learners ?  What if the answer is to truly see students as successful, enthusiastic learners and hold that space for them as they grow into it?

Related posts:

Are you accidentally sabotaging student learning with rewards?

Personality style and motivation

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 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

 

 

The growth mindset and success

Which statement describes what you believe:?

  1. You can learn new things but you really can’t change your IQ very much.  It is just something that is just part of your DNA.
  2. You can not only learn new things but substantially change how intelligent you are.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck distinguishes between two very different mindsets that she discovered among students in her research.  She describes them like this:

The fixed mindset is one where the student believes that their personality, their intelligence, ability or skill is unchangeable.  Consequently, if you believe in the fixed mindset and do well in school you were obviously born smart and without too much effort you will ace the next test and ultimately the class.  If you were born with athletic ability, you will be an asset to the team and while you will benefit from training you’ve got what it takes to be a star.  The flip side of this mindset is the belief that if you were born without the necessary intelligence or athletic ability, it doesn’t matter how much effort you put in, you will not be successful or attain your goals.  Students with fixed mindsets tend to avoid challenges and situations that seem too hard.  They tend to avoid failure by sticking to things that they know they can master easily.

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.  If you are failing algebra class, you can redouble your efforts, learn the necessary material and pass the class.  If you aren’t the best athlete on your team, you can train and develop the necessary skill you need to become a top notch team player. Students with growth mindsets tend to embrace challenges. Rather than wallow in failure or give up when the going gets tough, they focus instead on the process necessary to attain the goal.

While Dweck distinguishes between the two separate mindsets, she is quick to point out that they frequently overlap.  A student may believe that they are just plain dumb in math and can’t master it, while at the same time believing that with enough effort and practice they can become the next Michael Jordan.  The important piece of the equation is recognizing the mindset and teaching children not just how to cope with failure but how to think about  failure as a learning process and a stepping stone to a goal.

Changing Fixed to Growth

Here’s how we as adults can  help children develop a growth mindset, (yes even our mindset can be changed)…

  • Help children recognize that learning is truly a life long process.  We never arrive at the final destination.  No matter how advanced your knowledge of math, or technology or a sport, there is always more to learn.  That is why the great athletes still have coaches.
  • Help children re-frame failure and disappointing results as an opportunity to learn and grow.  Encourage them to ask “What can I learn from this?” and “Where is the opportunity in this?” rather than focus on comparing themselves to others’ results and abilities.
  • Help children measure growth and success by comparing their current abilities with where they started rather than comparing their current ability with the end result or someone else.  While goals help us chart the course, it is not a good yardstick for achievement.

Finally, one of the best ways to influence the children in your life is by recognizing and if necessary, changing your own mindset from fixed to growth.  Make sure you are modeling and reinforcing a growth mindset in all you do.

Related posts

Creating a growth mindset in kids

Helping kids find their voice

Why failing first leads to success

Check out how Wyatt’s Grandmother helps him develop a growth mindset…

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)

 

Positive Storytelling

We can learn a lot from the Olympics.  As you watched the performance of great athletes, did you wonder how they achieved such high goals?  Was it all practice and persistence?  Or was mindset an important part as well?  What if we applied some of the same mindset practices to the classroom?

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, dissects the athletic performance of Michael Phelps.  One of his most significant habits is the role of visualization or positive storytelling.  Each morning before he gets out of bed, Michael Phelps replays a tape in his head of winning the perfect race.  He imagines every detail from start to finish, the feel of the water against his skin, his body executing the perfect stroke, touching the wall in a victorious finish. Again before going to sleep at night, Michael Phelps retells the story of a great race-in his mind.  When asked what winning felt like after a real race, he responds that it felt natural,  just as he imagined it.  Positive storytelling sets the stage for the real thing.

How to use positive storytelling

As educators, we can use the same imagery to plan and create the best school day.  I’ve written in previous posts about setting an intention for our day.  What if we went beyond intention and using Phelps’s example, we created a positive story for the day and shared it each morning with our students?  It might go something like this:

Good Morning students, it’s a great day at XYZ school.  Sit up straight but relaxed, close your eyes and let me tell you what today has in store.  We will begin with a math lesson and I want you to take a minute and imagine yourself focused and engaged in learning about decimals.  You are going to be great at this.  Next is PE and I want you to see yourself…(create your own script here)  Finally I want you to know that you are smart, you are kind and you are someone with great value.  Find someone today to lift up with a random act of kindness.  Open your heart and your mind to the possibilities ahead in this day.  Open your eyes and let’s get started.

Once you have modeled this positive story telling technique with students, you can ask students to write or draw their own story for a positive day.  Then begin the day with a few moments of quiet reflection where they close their eyes and imagine their own positive story.  Not only will you be teaching students how to plan for the day ahead, but you will be teaching them a mindset skill that will serve them in the future.  Positive storytelling is a powerful habit that can transform students’ lives, one day at a time.

 

Related Posts:

Begin School Year with Intention

Change Manic Mornings to Tranquil Transitions

10 things joyful teachers do differently

 

 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)