9 tested ways to boost your child's self-esteem

This article summarises all my research and personal notes about growth mindset. It explains what is a growth mindset, why is it important, how to lear it and most of all gives you ready phrases to use with your kids.

Where to start?

  1. Set realistically high expectations.
  2. Praise the effort not the result.
  3. Say what you see, describe the effort and the progress.
  4. Learn form mistakes.
  5. Acknowledge feelings with words -"It can be frustrating when we can't get the answer right".
  6. Instead of criticising, point out what needs to be done. "Ok, I see some flying letters here" (they are not set on lines).
  7. Try not to praise by comparison - " Wow, you are better then John at phonics!"
  8. Give in fantasy what you cannot in reality - "Oh, I wish we were all born super clever and we didn't have to learn anything."
  9. Don't comfort your child after they got something wrong or got a low score on a test. Give them different strategies to get better next time.

"Easier said than done", right?

Ok, here are some ready phrases that you can use:

  • You can't do it "YET"
  • I am here to help you to learn how to...
  • When you learn this you can be so proud because it isn't easy!
  • I saw you using different resources to tackle this problem. That's a way to go!
  • This is a great challenge! Your brain is going to get stronger!
  • I see that you have tried 3 times. I admire your persistence.
  • You finished so quickly! Let's find something more challenging so we can add strength to your brain.

When the task is quite difficult:

  • Ok, let's think about a new way to do it.
  • Let's discuss some strategies to tackle this.
  • Why won't we have a little brake and come back to this with a fresh brain and new ideas.
  • Learning time tables sounds boring. Let's think/ or can you think of a way to make it more interesting?

Oh, and don't forget to acknowledge the efforts when the task is completed. Refrain from saying "Good boy!" say " You've done it!" Focus on the achievement and say "Look how different it is for you to do that now."

How do I know it?

It's not me, it's Carol Dweck! The power of our mindset has been discovered by Dr. Carol Dweck following decades of research. She found two categories of mindsets: growth and fixed.

Adults and children with growth mindset believe that intelligence and abilities can be develop through hard work and perseverance. They learn from mistakes and try different strategies for success.

On the other side we find people that are convinced that we are born with a certain amount of intelligence, that cannot be changed. This group of people sees the mistakes as failure and are helpless when faced difficulties.

Which group do you think does better at school and in life?

Which mindset do you have?

What do you say, or your child says after failure? Are these statements familiar: "I can't do it! This is too difficult for me.", "I am so rubbish at reverse parking" , "I will never be good at maths!", "The teacher just doesn't like me!", "Reading is stupid!", " I don't like this new teacher, she just gives me hard work!", "Oh, you are so clever!", "You are a clever cookie, aren't you?"

Remember, there is absolutely no judgment here (the parking example is mine). Learning growth mindset is difficult, and like everything else takes practice and time.

Here is something to give you strength:

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.“ CAROL DWECK

Good luck!

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C. Dweck. Mindset. Robinson, 2012.

Adele Faber, and Elaine Mazlish, How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk. Piccadily Press, 2012.


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