Mindsets – Part I

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Proverbs 13:4 I am teaching Kate and Joey how to play the piano.  Actually, make that just Kate! She listens and practices what I teach her although it is difficult for her tiny fingers to maintain the proper position.  Joey on the other hand wants to be an expert even before he has figured out how little he really knows.  Learning the play the piano takes diligent practice and he prefers to pound away with one finger, pretending that he knows how to play. Joey wants to believe that natural talent will make him successful without the hard work. Like many other kids today, he wants to look smart and talented rather than develop the skills that lead to actually being so.  He is learning to push through however and gaining new skills.  His parents are “wise” to his way of thinking and are training him to take on a growth mindset instead. With a new school year starting, my encouragement to parents is to expect a growth mindset from your kids with regard to their school work and extracurricular activities.  If you don’t know what that is, read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D; a fascinating study on what motivates kids to learn. In her book, which is based on decades of research, “Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.” Grade school students who developed a fixed mindset...

Why Smart Kids Don’t Try

“For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.”  (Po Bronson- NY Times) Continued from last week’s blog Joey, our six year old grandson refuses to try each time he is asked to play a game he is unfamiliar with or practice a skill he has not mastered.  At the beginning of kindergarten this year, he was assessed as exceptional in his math concepts while average in his reading skills.  By February, his reading skills had improved impressively but his math skills had not grown. I am reminded of an academically gifted female high school student who is terrified to speak in class.  She often achieves the highest grade in each course and consistently over-works in order to exceed course expectations.  Her standardized test scores place her among the very elite, yet in the classroom setting she under performs in graded oral discussions. At the same time, across the room an equally  gifted classmate maintains a nonchalant attitude about his school work and participation.  He manages to achieve good grades, seemingly without effort, but he clearly is not working up to his potential. What do these three students have in common? They are all involved in “image maintenance”:  the art of looking smart by not taking risks that could result in mistakes.  Joey has refused to engage in the math activities at school,...

All's Well that Begins AND Ends Well

Are you a procrastinator who habitually struggles to get started?  Or do you start out enthusiastically only to find yourself fading before the finish?  Appallingly, both a slow start and a fading finish describe a growing number of modern day students who find themselves distracted and drifting without any clear purpose. I ran the 800 in high school track.  (Actually, it was the 880 yard run which shows you how long ago that was.) I always shot out fast from the starting blocks.  And, on my best days, I managed to finish strong as well.  To this day, I fondly remember one particular race when I qualified for state as a sophomore, much to the surprise of my coach.  I ran hard from start to finish. I also regretfully remember my next race (the state meet).  I let the fear of not meeting expectations get to me, and I still remember the spot on the track when I decided to fade.   I also remember how exhausted I felt – far more so than in races when I never gave up. I finished dead last at state, with my slowest time of the season. That momentary decision, on the third curve of the second lap, reduced my courage… not just for that particular race but for many races to come. I began to fear running.  My confidence plummeted as I worried about giving up again. The joy I had previously found in running greatly diminished and so did my self-esteem. Without a doubt, the more effort I gave to a race, the more invigorating and rewarding the experience was. Isn’t...

Rewarding Sustained Effort

Essentials  Principles for Kids (Number Two of Five) Hebrews 6:9 And we desire each of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. With their hair tied back in bows and ribbons, black tap shoes on their small feet, the five young girls looked ready to participate when the dance instructor asked them to stand on a star painted on the dance floor. I watched from the door pleased that Kate was listening intently. I understood tap and ballet to be disciplines that required focused attention and the willingness to follow instructions. An hour later, I left the dance studio sad over the events of the class period. One dancer spent the entire hour disrupting the class, listening to instructions only when she wanted to participate.   Another girl cried through the entire class captivating most of the instructor’s time and attention. I was proud of Kate.  Despite the circumstances, and being youngest in the class, she listened and tried hard.  I wondered what lessons she was actually learning though.  She left the class with a sticker and “good job”.  So did every one. Whether it is soccer class or swim lessons, the same scenario is frequently played out as I observe children participate in lessons of any sort today. Parents pay hefty fees for their kids to take lessons but all too often the lesson is cut short and lost in the process of managing inattentive kids who are not interested in...