For most children and teens, back-to-school means a return to being measured by a report card. It also means heightened expectations from parents who want their child to succeed in classwork, sports, and after-school activities.
Success comes in many forms. While grades and soccer trophies may be traditional measures of success, back-to-school is a great time for parents to reflect on the internal drivers of success and achievement rather than the outcomes. Parents play a huge role in nurturing their children’s motivation and belief in themselves. With a parent’s love and encouragement, children normally do the rest.
One of the greatest ways parents nurture success at school is to walk alongside as opposed to doing for a child. The first relies on love, respect, and encouragement. The second involves the mistaken belief that kids are bundles of behaviors that must be managed, manipulated, or problem-solved.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term, “growth mindset” after decades of scientific research on how children and teens become successful. She suggests that success and achievement extend beyond children’s abilities or test scores—to their attitudes about learning. When children develop growth mindsets, they see themselves as creative works in progress.
Another Stanford University psychologist, Albert Bandura, discovered the importance of believing in yourself, or self-efficacy, and how this ability helps young people accomplish their goals. This belief in self and in the core abilities that evolve from being human helps children and teens learn to chart their own successful paths toward young adulthood and throughout life.
How do parents encourage their children to develop growth mindsets and believe in themselves? By walking alongside children in their learning process, parents foster a child’s ever-expanding perspective of the world, an ability to see connections and generate new ideas, and the value of learning from mistakes. When parents praise children for their efforts rather than the end game, they instill a love of the learning process and reinforce the idea that success takes hard work and perseverance.