Growth Mindset for Children with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, and Other Challenges– Part 3
In this series of articles on growth mindset we are exploring ways to help children with developmental and mental health challenges have a healthy view of themselves and their abilities. As we covered in part 1 and part 2 of this series, feelings of failure and difficulty seeing more than one solution lead to rigid thinking and behavior. Getting stuck in a “fear of failure” cycle reduces ability to grow and learn. It stifles our creativity and reduces our child’s chance of success, both of which are needed to establish a growth mindset. In this final article in the series we will discuss ways to encourage creativity and success in your child.
- Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas, and then use those ideas in a productive way. People often think of creativity in relation to artistic work, but creativity goes beyond that. Any time a person is able to develop a new way of thinking about something or a novel way to solve a problem he is using creativity. Children who struggle with creativity have a difficult time seeing beyond one way of thinking about or doing something, and often become stuck and frustrated. Working on flexibility and problem solving can have a big impact on improving creativity.
- Create a problem that your child can help you solve. One of my favorite ways to work on this with kids is to do a simple cooking project. For example, we make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but all of the knives are dirty. I have the kids help me think of what we can use instead of a knife. With a little nudge they can come up with some really great ideas. One of my personal favorites was a coffee stir stick (not the most efficient, but it worked). Setting up simple problems like this, or pretending you are incompetent and need help can go a long way in helping kids to start thinking creatively.
- Be flexible in routines or activities. Start by making very small changes to some of your routines or common activities. An example is brushing teeth before putting on pjs instead of the other way around, or reading bedtime books in the rocking chair instead of in bed. You could also make changes to activities, such as walking backward up the driveway when you return from you nightly walk or going in a different entrance at the store. By changing up routines and activities in small ways you are helping your child to feel more comfortable with changes, with the goal of him being able to suggest or make some of those changes on his own. These changes may not be overly creative initially, but can evolve over time.
- Success comes from accomplishing goals. Most people would agree that it feels good to be successful, and it doesn’t feel good to fail. Kids with fixed mindsets are so afraid they will fail that they don’t even try, which prevents them from experiencing success. The great news is that by working on the other aspects of a growth mindset, success is inevitable! When we feel that we are meeting our goals, we begin to feel successful, which leads to establishing and working toward more goals. The first step is to determine the goal and get started.
- Set small goals – Set your child up for success by setting small goals for her to accomplish. If she struggles to get started with cleaning up her toys, set a small goal of picking up just 5 things or just the dolls. When she is successful with this goal, you can make the goal bigger. Sometimes tasks seem so overwhelming a child feels doomed to fail, by setting a smaller goal she feels more willing to try.
- Celebrate your child’s success. For some children the celebration might include clapping and cheering, while others might prefer the celebration to be more subtle. Whether your child likes a party or a simple high five, celebrating success is important for encouraging future efforts. If your child has a goal of carrying his plate to the sink after meals and he is successful with this you could celebrate by giving a high five or saying, “You did a great job taking your plate to the sink.”
Recently I was having a discussion with one of my clients about creativity, and he said that he thought his brother was creative because he was able to come up with many different ways to pick on his siblings! While this may not be the type of creativity we want to foster, it does prove the point that we can all be creative in some way. Pointing out ways that your child is creative can lead not only to more creativity, but also to feelings of success. Highlight those moments of creativity and success, no matter how small. The more successful you feel the more motivated you are to keep trying and the more you try the more you move away from a fixed mindset into one of growth!