Use Brain Science to Teach Kids Not to Give Up
Brain science has dramatically changed how we think about the brain. While much of the research has been applied to helping children learn better in an academic setting, growth mindset research has also taught us how to help children develop high self-esteem while at the same time being more resilient and resourceful. This is especially helpful when kids face difficult times and personal challenges. Many of the techniques are not new but now we know why they work so that we can help kids develop healthy habits both mentally and emotionally.
Here are five tips for developing self-esteem and resilient life long learners:
Teach kids that the brain is flexible–In the past we thought that humans were born with a certain intellect, ability or talent. You were lucky if you got the right set of genes that predestined you to be a great mathematician or superstar basketball player. If you weren’t blessed… well you needed to find what your talent was and develop that. And of course there were those who just got left out altogether. Today we know that the brain has infinite possibilities. The ability to learn and excel has much more to do with practice, passion and persistence, than genetics.
Teach kids that practice and persistence counts–Cells that fire together, wire together. This means that repeated practice of anything from shooting baskets to practicing the piano to learning math to beliefs about ourselves, determines the outcome. I know this sounds obvious, but kids often give up the first time they try anything if it doesn’t come easily. They need to learn that practice makes the difference in everything we do because the brain loves routine and established patterns. The more we practice, the more the brain is likely to create a habit that we will eventually develop and default to without even thinking about it.
Teach kids mindfulness techniques— The main benefit of mindfulness or taking the time to experience and focus on the present, is that it teaches us how to be in control of our brain and in charge of our thoughts. When we are in charge of our thoughts, then we are also in charge of our emotions and ultimately our behavior or actions. Children who are mindful, are aware of the director function of the brain and they are able to not only think creatively and problem solve, but also observe and reflect on their own thinking. They learn to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions as they become deliberate planners.
Teach kids to embrace failure–Rather than teaching kids to be perfect, we need to teach kids to anticipate and learn from mistakes. No one learns from doing something perfectly. We learn when we take risks and evaluate what doesn’t work.
Teach kids to measure progress— Goal setting is important but measuring our distance from the goal, it is a poor way to measure our progress. It can even be downright discouraging if we have set a really big long term goal that will take a significant effort to accomplish. Instead teach kids to measure progress from where they began. Could they only make 1 out of 10 shots when they started? Can they now make 4 out of 10? That’s progress. Did they only know a few multiplication facts when they started? Can they now recite multiplication facts through the fives? That’s progress.
Want an effective way to teach kids about growth mindset? Here is a short video that will teach you how to better explain this concept in five simple steps:
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Mindset
Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser. All his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach. How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future. Will he give up trying new things? Will he have the confidence to try again? Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?