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How do two people raise their kids with a growth mindset? That was a question my husband and I struggled with while our kids were young. One of the reasons we had a difficult time finding an effective strategy was because I had a growth mindset and my husband had a fixed mindset. Our conflicting mindsets made it more difficult for us to find a balance for our kids.
Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
So, what are growth mindsets and fixed mindsets?
A person who has a growth mindset believes they can improve their skills through effort and practice. They are much more likely to embrace challenges, not be discouraged by failure, and welcome constructive criticism.
Those with a fixed mindset believe intelligence is fixed — they either know something or they do not, and there is no room for growth — regardless of effort or practice. They avoid challenges, fear failure, and give up easily. People with a fixed mindset often feel threatened by the success of others, and they do not welcome constructive criticism.
Our Early Years
When my husband was growing up, his family moved frequently. He doesn’t remember ever completing a full school year in the same school. He fell behind and was held back so often that when he finally graduated eighth grade, he was sixteen. He was bullied by the other kids because he was older and bigger than the students in his grade. Afterwards, my husband did not have a chance to attend high school because he had to work instead to help support his family (His mom worked two jobs to provide for her five kids; I have so much respect for my mother-in-law). College felt out of reach for him even after earning his GED.
Because of his childhood, my husband has a fixed mindset as an adult. He didn’t realize his full potential then, and struggles to accept it now. Even now, he doesn’t always believe me when I tell him he is a wonderful father and husband.
I had a more positive experience with school. I attended a private school and I had almost perfect attendance. I graduated as Salutatorian of my senior class (Okay, don’t be too impressed with the title of “Salutatorian”. It was a small school and we had nine students in our senior class, we were all in the top ten!). I was the first in my family to graduate high school and college. Because of my successful school experience and the support of my parents, I had a growth mindset when I grew up. I felt like I could conquer the world.
Challenges of Parenting
My husband and I were often at odds for what we thought was the best way to parent; he thought I pushed the kids too hard, and I thought he did not push them enough. Eventually, we compromised and used our strengths to help the kids with their homework. He helped with Science and Math, I helped with English and Spelling. Our different backgrounds and our own childhood experiences made it a challenge to raise our kids, but we learned through trial and error.
Our son had the intelligence and drive to do well in school, but due to his behavioral problems he didn’t apply himself. However, as an adult, he has demonstrated his growth mindset by learning a trade and being successful in his career.
Our daughter is a combination of growth and fixed mindset. In math class she often shut down and gave up. She didn’t believe she could learn math. But in the classes she enjoyed, such as culinary and science, she applied herself and did well. In high school, her culinary teacher recognized my daughter’s abilities. He met with my daughter’s math teacher to review the curriculum and worked with my daughter to teach her math in a way she would understand; it helped my daughter’s social emotional learning and gave her confidence in her abilities.
Our kids had problems in school, and my husband and I didn’t always know how to solve them. But if SEL had been taught when my kids were in school, I know that they would have had an easier time. And maybe my husband and I would have learned something too.
Looking Towards The Future
The good news is that we can learn how to develop a growth mindset through Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
SEL was not part of the curriculum when my husband and I were younger, it also wasn’t around when we were raising our kids. We cannot change the past, but we can look toward the future. By making SEL part of today’s curriculum, students can learn to have a growth mindset, maintain self-confidence, and recognize their strengths. When students possess these qualities, they will believe in themselves more and be more willing to learn — even in the skills they struggle with the most.
The five core topics of SEL teach:
- Social Awareness
- Relationship Management
- Goal Setting & Effective Decision Making
From a Grandparent’s Perspective
My granddaughter is four years old. My hope is when she starts school, SEL will be a part of her curriculum. But in the meantime, her parents teach her SEL themselves. She was so shy when she was younger, but because of her SEL lessons she has gotten so much braver. Her level of confidence is impressive, and we want her to continue to believe in herself when she grows up. Right now my granddaughter wants to be an astronaut — although I believe yesterday she wanted to be a unicorn. But the beauty of it is that because of SEL, she has the confidence to believe that she can be an astronaut, or a unicorn, or anything she wants to be!
From a Parent’s Perspective
Parenting is hard. We only want what is best for our kids and we always worry about making mistakes. But at the end of the day, we can only do our best. Emotional support is what our kids need, whether it be from parents, teachers, guardians, or friends. And, if I am being completely honest, becoming a grandparent has made me a better parent. I have learned when to take a step back and allow my kids to make mistakes. There are times when I have to hold my breath, bite my lip and walk away, but it is about growth and learning for all of us.
One Last Question
So how do parents from opposite backgrounds, one with a fixed mindset and the other with a growth mindset raise their kids to be healthy adults? I still don’t have an answer! There are times when my husband and I look at each other and wonder how we managed it! Parenting is a learning experience; if we learn and grow with our kids, they will feel our support and love. We have taught our children that regardless of what they choose to do, we want them to be happy.
Meanwhile, we are remarkably busy helping raise a future astronaut (or a unicorn named cupcake!!). The future looks bright.