Three Things to Remind Children Before School, Classes, Lessons, Practices, and Games to Focus Their Minds on Process, Learning, and Growth

Today’s post comes to you from my husband! While I am the one with two degrees in children and ten years of classroom experience, he is by far the more natural parent when it comes to many things… Especially fostering growth mindset. Read on to learn about the routine he created to set our children up for learning and perseverance when they go to classes, school, lessons, etc.

“This point is also crucial. In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.”

(Dweck, Carol. (2006). Mindset:The New Psychology of Success (Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets)

Like many kids, our older daughter is competitive. And not the “you-win-some-you-lose-some” competitive. She’s the “I’ll-only-play-if-I-know-I’ll-win” type. At least she used to be. And as any parent of this type of kid knows, there’s no snapping her out of this behavior. There is an irrational fear and intense displeasure of losing. We’ve tried explaining to her that it’s ok to lose. We’ve tried showing her the things she might have learned from each loss (hello, growth mindset!). But no. Just… no. Not happening.

But losing is a part of life. (Hopefully a small part. Like, really small. Ok, I’m competitive too. So’s my wife. We’re fighting a double-dose our own genes here.) Losing gracefully keeps friends. And wins friends. Losing is like making a mistake — it’s an opportunity to learn for next time. There’s so much to win from losing.

So how do you teach a kid to be at least OK with losing? Learning to win and lose takes time. Kids need to experience both feelings many times before they can cope with either outcome. They need to know what emotions to expect before the feeling sets in, otherwise it’s too startling. The shock that can come with a loss used to cause our daughter to never want to try again.

Knowing this, we chose to focus on the process (and hopefully foster a tiny bit of a growth mindset). And, luckily, most sports leagues at her age don’t keep score (but there is at least one person there secretly keeping it in his head). And while I resonate with the thinking that we’re setting our kids up for failure by giving everyone a trophy, I’ve come to appreciate scoreless games. For now.

While our kids are young, we want them to enjoy the process and not worry about the outcome. To enjoy hard work. To learn to give respect to those helping them. And, most importantly, to have fun. So we came up with three things that we repeat to our girls before every practice, game, or activity with any semblance of competition: “Work hard, listen to your coach (or teacher), and have fun.” We’ve said it so many times that they often tell us to do it too.

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Eventually, our daughter started keeping score. She learned to compete. She learned to win and lose. But we never acknowledge it. We praise her when she works hard, listens to her coaches, and appears to have fun.

I can’t wait for the day where I’ll celebrate her wins with her and hold her after a loss. And, presumably, she’ll get over the emotion of the outcome, learn from what happened, and focus back on the process for the next game. That’s the plan. And that would be a win.

For more growth mindset inspiration, check out these posts:

3 thoughts on “Three Things to Remind Children Before School, Classes, Lessons, Practices, and Games to Focus Their Minds on Process, Learning, and Growth

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