Growth Mindset in Parenting

Parenting undoubtedly shapes our lives to paramount effect. Be it the full immersion (and sometimes tunnel vision) of full-time parenthood or a more modern take on family life with kids, there will be change, for better and for worse. I find it helps to remember that we can all grow and change, much like the child developing before our eyes.

Growing when you’re sleep-deprived

It ain’t easy. Not when you are housebound by nap routines or cold weather at the extremes for super young kids or rounds of viruses attacking family member after family member in a sadistic game of tag. Oh, and you haven’t slept through the night in six years.

And, somewhere throughout it all you cling to your former sense of self, lose it completely, or throw up your hands, do some deep breathing, and commit to a growth mindset. Or, really, a combination of all of these things because we are human, after all, and you can only learn from yourself if you accept some tumbles. That’s what we tell our kids, anyway – isn’t it?

Yes, environment plus genetics equals phenotype, but – ultimately – ability can be developed and isn’t necessarily inherent. In fact, it seems rarely so, in my opinion.

Toddlers and a growth mindset

We recently flew to Vancouver Island for some green to rest my eyes, a taste of spring, and a healthy dose of friends and family for good company. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful trip and I was proud with how our kids dealt with all of the changes and sleeping in three different homes over the course of just over a week. Upon return, the toddler has revolted and is readjusting. Napping at 10h30, give or take, going to bed at 18h30-19h, and at those points (and many in between, especially the first day home), there has been some seriously quick escalation into some healthy tantrums. Developmentally appropriate? Sure. Exhausting. Huzzah…

There is a way to figure this out! Teeth brushing, for example. She has crapped out so fast after dinner the past few nights that she’s gone to bed with dirty teeth (because, as we all know, there is no way possible that you can get a kid to brush their teeth if they set their mind to not wanting to). Silver lining, she’s fallen asleep in two sucks or less. (Victory! Empathizes the nursing mother reading this.)

After feeling pretty incompetent and frustrated this afternoon, I got back on the horse and knew there had to be a way to get her teeth brushed. I asked her if she’d like to brush mine. And, it worked. Eventually, we brushed our teeth together and it was hilarious!

A small accomplishment to say the least, but clinging to the very fact that there is a solution to most every problem helps me to grow through these challenging moments and add another trick to my Mary Poppins bag of parenting.

Further thoughts and reading

Perhaps one day I will have the fortitude to read through one of Carol Dweck’s books on “growth mindset” (not that she’s a bad author, but I am a horrendous reader these days. We definitely touched on her work during my Bachelor of Education, but that feels like a lifetime ago now…

In short, here are some great links to peruse, or google it yourself, or search on your own library’s app and request a book!

Other than the positive effects of a growth mindset applied to parenting, helping to foster a laissez-faire attitude and fuel pushing through tricky situations, it can also help us to operate with less of a defensive attitude where we can be consumed with all of the ‘mistakes’ being made. Parents can be their own worst enemies, but I really do think that living under a cloud of fear about making mistakes isn’t the best condition to learn and parent on.

Consolation prize

When none of this works, hopefully we can look forward to a debrief with your favourite beverage, let it go, and unwind, because “after all, tomorrow is another day!” (My current favourite is the new liquor store down the street selling a drinkable Peller Estates Shiraz for a mere $7.50!)

What have you gleaned from this? Questions? Comments? Please reply here: