I have watched my sister, Candi, very closely over the years and have wanted to be just like her since I can remember. Celebrating her birthday this week prompted me to reflect on all the lessons she has taught me. The most recent is to persevere despite stressful situations. She is currently pursuing a doctorate level degree in education while working full time and taking care of her daughter. I have noticed the way her language has changed to support the numerous responsibilities assigned to her; she is a problem solver and tries to operate from a growth mindset.
A growth mindset realizes that achievements are based on effort and learning as opposed to natural abilities. This perspective encourages problem solving because you are not boxed in by fixed traits. For example if I don’t believe I am smart, then why would I try in math class? If I believe my grade is based on effort, then I am free to try different ways of studying to learn material instead of thinking I just don’t have “what it takes.” This perspective has helped my sister and my niece overcome challenges and become change makers.
Being 4 y.o. is hard y’all. My niece is constantly told what she can’t do and how to do what she can. Talk about barriers! That has got to be frustrating! BUT… the way my sister encourages her to problem solve and use each situation as a learning opportunity is beautiful. Candi is teaching her to not get mad but to make choices.
My niece is what I would refer to as a “strong willed child.” She is not as challenging as some, but she definitely has clear opinions. The trick to parenting a strong willed child is to allow them to learn by experiences – allowing them growth opportunities instead of fixed ideas. This can be seen in the following example. Imagine you tell your child to put on their jacket because it will be chilly outside. If your child decides they do not want to wear it, suggest they take it with them just in case. When they get outside and realize it is cold they will most likely decide they need their coat. What just happened is your child learned the importance of keeping warm, made a decision independently, and built mastery over their world. The child doesn’t feel confined and trusts that you will allow them to explore in a secure way while respecting their wishes. Instead of feeling suffocated by fixed rules, they will learn to problem solve and think critically about their decisions. There are some rules that are needed to keep your child safe (ex: wearing a seat belt) but unless it is that situation it may be better to create growth opportunities. You have had your chance to learn and through those lessons you have developed skills to navigate your world; do not rob your children of those same opportunities just because you know you are right or it’s easier if they just do what you say.
This is so important because kids grow up to be adults. Strong willed adults struggle with the same issues as strong willed kids. They have so many strengths but can feel discouraged in a world with so many rules. They perceive themselves to have little ability to make changes in their world, thus, operating from concrete thinking. “I am not as talented as others so why ask for a promotion. I am a black man so no one will take me seriously. I can’t do statistics so I can’t graduate from a graduate school program.”
This week take a page from my sister’s play book. Look at your life and evaluate what challenges you have to overcome to become the best version of yourself. Commit to that and look at each challenge as a growth opportunity. Your life is not determined solely by innate qualities. Your ability to problem solve can make all the difference. Practice growth minded self-talk such as, “It seems like I’m having difficulty with this. It is time to try a new strategy.”
Enjoy practicing language that promotes actions for growth! I’ll keep watching my sister and moving like she moves; it has helped me do things I previously thought were impossible.
Candi, thanks for always encouraging me and allowing me to be your first kid to mentor. You’re doing great work out here. Love, sister.
NEED HELP APPLYING THESE PRINCIPLES IN YOUR LIFE? MEET WITH ME PRIVATELY.
Sometimes we can “therapize” ourselves and other times we can not seem to figure out why things are so difficult. If you would like to meet with me to explore ways to become your best self, feel free to contact me (http://www.elisedaviscounseling.com). I offer individual therapy in private, comfortable spaces in Raleigh, NC and Durham, NC. Information about cost of services, insurance options, and availability can be found on the website.
If you are interested in integrating movement through yoga into your therapy process or personalized workshops please contact me via the same website.
E.N.D. Pain. Let go. Live,
Elise Nicole Davis