055: How Kids Look at Challenges: A Your Child Explained Episode

3D-bookshot-wo-borderIn this Your Child Explained episode, where we always try to get into the heads of our young kids, we look more closely at how kids face challenges. Today’s show digs more deeply into one aspect of episode 54, which dropped Tuesday and features mom and New York Times best-selling author Jessica Lahey. While episode 54 is not a prerequisite to today’s show, take a listen back if you get the chance because our conversation will really help you wrap your mind around the idea of what works – and what doesn’t – in helping your kids overcome setbacks and challenges.

For the full notes to today’s episode, click here click here to go to weturnedoutokay.com/055… If you’re listening on your iPhone and that link is not clickable, here’s what you do: tap the three little dots on the right, opposite the title of this episode, which pulls up a very useful menu. In that menu, click View Full Description, and that will make the links clickable. Enjoy!

Our young children face challenges every day. Learning how to walk is a challenge, as is learning to talk, creating an epic Lego scene, or cooking pancakes on the stove; all challenges, all opportunities for our kids to fail. At least, before they finally succeed! As Jessica and I talked about on Tuesday, humans must fail in order to learn and eventually succeed.

The first question we need to ask as we look at challenges from the perspective of our children is: is the challenge intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? When it’s a child-driven motivation, like learning to walk or talk, kids will take that challenge and run with it… Failures won’t feel like failures to them, they’ll feel like opportunities for learning.

When the challenge is extrinsically motivated – when, for example, we say to them “it’s time for you to learn to use the potty” and they are not ready – it’s much more difficult for them to find the motivation.

Our second question, once we’ve figured out if the current challenge is an intrinsic or extrinsic one, is: how do we see that challenge from their perspective? And if we can see that… How can we help?

We dig into Carol Dweck’s research here, on growth versus fixed mindset. We want to encourage the growth mindset rather than the fixed, and it’s in our everyday interactions with our children that we can make this happen.

A fixed mindset does not set our children up for success; it sets them up instead to try to be perfect. When you’re trying to be perfect, every challenge is an insurmountable obstacle because you can’t keep up perfection.

A growth mindset sets them up for success because, when we emphasize how impressed we are by the work they are doing (rather than by the outcome of that work), we communicate to them that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to fall down. Challenges become interesting and fun because, instead of trying to avoid mistakes, our kids are learning from them.

So, it’s much better for our kids when we say to them “wow, I can see you worked really hard on this drawing,” rather than “wow, what a perfect drawing!”

Key links:

My conversation with Jessica Lahey can be heard here.

Click here to check out Jessica’s book, The Gift of Failure.

My book, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics, launches April 3! Click here to get on the prelaunch list, so you’ll know immediately when it goes live in Amazon (where for limited time you’ll be able to get it for free!)