Raising Kids with a Growth Mindset

Honestly, it's tempting to tell my daughter how smart she is and how special she is to me.  After all, being a father is one of the things that I enjoy most about life. She and I are also extremely close. However, I don't want to look back when she's an adult and wish I had prepared her better for the challenges and successes of life.  

Raising Kids with a Growth Mindset

Our life is not without its challenges, but we have been truly blessed.  My wife and I have great jobs and we have very little debt (that should be paid off within three months of publishing this post).  As a result, there are few material things or experiences we can't provide for our daughter.

Having "made it," our daughter won't have to struggle before adulthood, but that doesn't mean she doesn't need to struggle before adulthood.

While it's easy to frame this challenge of parenting as whether to spend money to make her happy (um, no), it's really a more complicated discussion about how to allow her to have a sufficient amount of challenge and learn to overcome those challenges.  While we could send her to a school where she would be labeled as one of the "smart kids," that wouldn't help her once she failed her first college exam or failed on her first job or business.  I should know, that's what happened to me.

I also grew up a child of privilege.  My parents, having grown up in poverty and segregation, made sure I would never have to endure the pain they went through.  Little did they know, there's pain just waiting for all us out there, but we need tools to overcome that pain when it comes.

I was the kid who won spelling bees and science fairs.  Learning was fun because I was good at it and I had role models that emphasized the importance of getting a good education.  I believed I was destined to become a physician like my uncles.  It was just a matter of time.

To my surprise, I wasn't going to become a physician after all.  As a result, I had no idea what I was going to do for several years afterward.  I could have spent my twenties building a career or a business.  Instead I spent my twenties clinging to what made me feel safe: school.   I found a new motivation in graduate classes.  Then I had career stints as a hospital administrator and graduate student Doug cancer research. Then the best thing sort of salvation happened to me.

I reconnected (another story for another time) with the woman who would later become my wife.  She had no breaks in her work history.  She didn't have a winding career and life path like I did.  She made logical moves from career station A to career station B.  It was clear I had found my Yoda and was in need of some serious Jedi training.

She had not had an easy life.  She, however, had overcome those challenges to become the leader in her field she is today.

Our life stories highlight the difference between the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.  As Carol Dweck described in the book Mindset, people with a fixed mindset believe that people either have intelligence or talent or they don't.  People with the growth mindset believe anyone can get better at anything with effort.  After reading this book, I'm on a mission to become a growth-mindset person, and that means being a growth-mindset parent.

I believe you want to be a growth-mindset parent too.

Why else would you have read this much?

To practice growth-mindset parenting, DO:

  • Praise effort and behavior
  • Reward effort and behavior
  • Provide constructive feedback on effort and behaviors
  • Discuss improvement over time
  • Help your kids learn from their mistakes 

To practice growth-mindset parenting, DON'T:

  • Praise outcomes alone
  • Reward outcomes alone
  • Tell your kid how great they are all the time
  • Tell your kid how bad they are

Part of becoming an adult is realizing that your parents did the best they could in raising you in most  cases.  Like my parents, there are some experiences I don't want my kids to repeat.  However, I don't want to shield my daughter from experiences that will help her better handle life's challenges.

  • How can you practice growth-mindset parenting?
  • How do you practice growth-mindset parenting?
Let me know in the comments!

Also, read Carol Dweck's Mindset for yourself.

Why You Need Grit

At some point in life, things will get tough.  We all face challenges.  How we respond to those challenges separates top performers from the rest of the pack.  Here are some life lessons from Grit
by Angela Duckworth.

Talent is overrated

Our culture is obsessed with talent.  We idolize athletes, singers, and actors.  We celebrate winners and troll losers on social media.  Naturally, when we are looking for someone to join our team, company, or school, we look for the most talented.  However, talent distracts us from the true indicator of success: grit.  Many times the most talented quit or fail.  Sometimes this is because they have been coddled because of their talent and not receptive to the feedback that will help them improve.  Other times they think they don't have to improve because they are so talented.

While grit might sound ambiguous or like a characteristic that some people have and others don't, fortunately, you can grow grit in yourself and others.

Elements of Grit: Interest, practice, purpose, and hope

If you (or someone you know) is going through a challenge, it will help if you can find something about the challenge that's interesting.  You may have to find an area of interest for yourself.

If you're familiar with the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you may know that becoming an expert at anything takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours.  Grit is consistent with this finding, but adds a layer of challenge.  In high school, my coaches used to say "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."  It's not just spending time, it's working to improve during that time.

Put another way, I hope to be able to be able to run a mile and a half in 12 minutes.  I'm not there yet, but my times are improving.  I have to keep practicing, but I also have to celebrate each second by which I improve my time and push myself to shave off additional seconds off my time every day.  Seconds add up to minutes, after all.

Purpose is another important component of grit.  If you find purpose in what you do, you will keep trying when it gets difficult.  As an educator, I find purpose in making a difference in the lives of my students so I don't complain about the challenges that come with that responsibility.  I would think people who serve as soldiers, police officers, pastors, or fire fighters deal with the challenges of those jobs when they could make more money doing other jobs because they find purpose in their work.

Do have hope that things will get better if you keep trying? If you don't, you'll probably quit.  If you do, you're more likely to keep trying until you reach your goal.

Parenting for Grit

As a parent, I obviously want my child to be successful in achieving her life's purpose.  While it's easy to tell her how great she is all the time, I have to remember that doing so isn't really helping her to achieve that goal.  Going back to an earlier point, I need to encourage growth and effort instead of talent.  If she struggles in some area, telling her she's great is dishonest and not helpful.  In addition, I don't want her to learn that if she is not meeting the standard today, that she will always be below standard.  Also, getting her used to receiving positive feedback will help her improve.  I can can be supportive while still providing constructive and honest feedback.  That way she'll know what to do with feedback in the workplace or in school.

I can also help her develop grit by reinforcing the importance of keeping her commitments.  If she wants to join a team or participate in another activity, she will need to continue to do so when times get difficult.  This will teach her how to manage multiple commitments and manage her time effectively.

Build a culture of grit on your team or in your organization

If you supervise others, you can help your team members develop grit by providing effective feedback and a growth plan.  Also create a culture where growth plans aren't viewed as punitive.   You can also develop grit in people you don't lead through your influence by modeling and communicating principles of grit and growth mindset, which I discuss in a related post.

How do you handle life's challenges?

How do you develop grit in others?

Let me know in the comments.

Nine Ways to Use Facebook Groups to Increase Engagement at Your Church

Many social media managers have seen Facebook engagement decrease as the Facebook algorithm began to favor posts from individuals over posts from pages.  How can you turn this challenge into an opportunity for your church?  Answer: Facebook Groups!

Advantages of Using Facebook Groups for Your Church

1. Individuals join Facebook Groups instead of pages so Facebook's algorithm values the posts of group members.
2. Allows your Facebook Page to focus on turning potential visitors into visitors and guests into members while allowing your Facebook Group to focus on turning members into disciples.
3. Group members are notified of all group posts. Even if people follow your Facebook page, many of them will not see your posts.
4. Group members can create posts as well.

Ways Churches Can Use Facebook Groups

1. Distribute church announcements
2. Create Facebook events to allow people to indicate attendance and share with others
3. Post weekly prayer targets
4. Share Facebook page posts inside the group
5. Create Facebook Groups for small groups
6. Create Facebook Groups for ministry teams
7. Create Facebook Groups for church committees
8. Create Facebook Groups for pastors at the church
9. Post successes and celebrations involving church members

How does your church use Facebook Groups or other social media tools to increase engagement and promote discipleship?

Let me know in the comments!