Note: The following is an excerpt from the Rosy Window, online guided imagery course for parents and caregivers. Full course available summer 2020.
We all want the best for our children and being a positive, and effective guide on their journey is an important, yet daunting task, to say the least. When asking what we can do to support them in becoming the best versions of themselves, the answers are never easy, and are often different for each child and each family. However, there are a couple overarching themes when it comes to improving the life of a child. Successful adults can often attribute their accomplishments and happiness to one or both of the following: possessing a growth mindset and having a supportive person in their lives to whom they can look up to and feel important around, i.e., a mentor.
The Power of a Mentor
When researching resilience in children, one of the common factors was mentoring. Resilient children often had at least one adult take notice, and step in to support them in some meaningful way (Bellis et al., 2017). In Rom Brafmans book, Unlikely Success: Why Some People Flourish Where Most Others Fail (2011) he calls these people “satellites”. These ‘satellite’ people offer constant, unconditional support and acceptance, “with no strings attached” (Brafman, 2011, ch. 7). Meaning that they regard, in this case, the child with positivity and offer their time and caring while expecting nothing in return.
Brafman (2011), goes on to site studies in the workplace, orphanages, and in organizations like Big Brothers & Big Sisters, where, “the presence of a supportive, satellite figure is one of the differentiating variables that separate those who overcome life's obstacles, from those who succumb to them”(ch. 7).
In the case of Big Brothers & Big Sisters, a one and a half year study by Tierney, Grossman & Resch (2000), looked at a group of children paired with a Big Brother or Sister, and a control group of children who remained on the waiting list. The results showed that children actively participating in the program were 45.8% less likely to use drugs, 32% less likely to engage in violence, missed 52% less days of school and were reported to lie to their parents 37% less often (p. 20-28).
Mentors are not just for those children deemed ‘at risk’ or ‘in need’. Studies and interviews with a number of high-achieving adults, show that having a mentor with the correct qualities can help build confidence and success in anyone at any age. A study conducted by Ellen A. Fugensun of George Mason University, showed that adults who had mentor in the workplace contributed greatly to career growth, no matter their job position or level (Brafman, 2011, ch. 7). The Handbook of Youth Mentoring Second Edition (2013), shows how a mentor can help to develop the positive strengths and mindsets associated with building social and behavioral skills as well as cognitive abilities (this entire handbook is an amazing resource and can be found online in Google Play or through Amazon).
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. C. S. Dweck outlines the two types of mindset held by children (and adults); fixed and growth. With a fixed mindset, the person views intelligence as a set trait and something that does not, or cannot change over time. These types of children believe that they are as smart as they are ever going to be, and that is that.
Growth mindset children, on the other hand, see intelligence as something that can be developed. They believe that learning and practice can lead to having a higher level of intelligence and this belief lends itself to a number of positive traits including a desire to learn, perseverance and a tendency to embrace change (p. 245). Most importantly, children with a growth mindset view failure as a learning opportunity, rather than a personal statement on how smart or capable they are. Cultivating a growth mindset in your children is invaluable, not only in increasing their chances of success, but in supporting a healthy vision of who they are as a person and what they can achieve.
Practical Application: Giving your child the advantage.
The following are some simple ways you can facilitate a growth mindset in your child, as well as information on how and where to find a “satellite” figure or mentor. It should again be noted that these two strategies are not reserved for those children who we deem “in need” of extra support, believing that intelligence can evolve and be improved is a mindset that breeds success and personal fulfillment in anyone and everyone. And having a mentor, an outside influence with the aforementioned traits is again, an advantage to all people, no matter their age, station, aspirations, desires or personal views. Mentors and growth mindsets are an asset for everyone.
Two Keys to Fostering a Growth Mindset
As a caregiver, teacher or friend, one key to helping children in believing that intellectual growth is possible, is to demonstrate the belief; be the example. So what does that look like?
1. Embrace failure and learn from it. In an interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of the multi-national, billion dollar Spanx company she attributes much of her success to the way her father viewed failure as highly valuable. Dinner conversation often centred on what each family member failed at that day and what they would do differently next time. These chats led Sarah to adopt a key aspect of a growth mindset, and use her failures as scaffolding to reach her goals. Each unsuccessful endeavor meant a way to learn and improve. (Robbins, 2020).
Discussing failure in this light is a great practice and one you can begin right away. Remember that it is important to not only adopt this approach with things your child may be struggling with, but also with your own failed attempts as well. Talk about something you tried that did not go as planned, and be sure to think aloud, or discuss what you learned from the experience, and what you will do differently next time. There is zero shame in failure. It is how we learn. Help your child break down their mistakes, misadventures and disappointments in a positive, productive way, gathering the important information to make a better plan for next time.
2. Practice Productive Praise. When your child is successful, the way you react to their success and the form your praise takes is important. There are several schools of thought on praise, and in keeping with our goal of fostering a growth mindset, we look at the advice shared by Dr. Dweck (2006), give praise in a way that comments on the child’s efforts and achievements, rather than their personality traits (p.178). This means using statements such as, “All of your practice and hard work really paid off! Look how well you’ve done on this test!” rather than, “Great job on this test! You’re so smart”.
The first statement leaves room for having a productive conversation and pride in themselves, no matter the outcome of the test. If they were disappointed with their mark, the conversation could address the amount of hardwork and practice the child has done already, and how and what they could do differently in the future to improve. Adversely, if you praise the good test results by attributing it to their level of intelligence, if they are disappointed with the marks they got they will blame themselves for not being “smart enough”. This will potentially lead them to view the test results as out of their hands and not seek ways to do better next time.
Helpful words and phrases:
1. Becoming a mentor: Roles and Traits. As mentioned before, the basic traits of a mentor or satelite person are as follows:
2. Finding a mentor. While being a role model for your children is paramount, one of the key elements of children having a satellite person in their life is that they are, or are perceived as, someone on the ‘outside’ of the immediate family circle. This can mean anything from a grandparent to a coach, but does not often imply an immediate caregiver. So where can we find that person for our children?
These two elements of success will not only impact what your child can and will achieve, but who they will become. The mental health benefits to having a mentor are well documented and possessing a growth mindset, as we have discussed, lends itself to many positive character traits and personal beliefs.
The references listed below include some fantastic books and articles on these topics and more in the areas of success, and resilience in children. Further reading and research is always encouraged!
Bellis, M. A., Hardcastle, K., Ford, K., Hughes, K., Ashton, K., Quigg, Z., & Butler, N. (2017). Does continuous trusted adult support in childhood impart life-course resilience against adverse childhood experiences - a respective study on adult health-harming behaviours and mental well-being. BMC Psychiatry. 17(110), 1-12. DOI 10.1186/s12888-017-1260-z
Brafman, R. (2011). Unlikely success: Why some people flourish where most others fail. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
Canfield, J. (2005). The success principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. Collins.
Dubois, D. L., & Karcher, M. J. (Ed.). (2013). Handbook of youth mentoring.(2nd ed.). SAGE Publications.
Dwech, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Ballantine Books.
Ferriss, T. (2016). Tools of titans: Tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Robbins, T. (Host). (2020, March 9). Start small, think big, scale quickly [Audio podcast episode]. In The Tony Robbins podcast. Robbins Research Institute. https://tonyrobbins.libsyn.com/start-small-think-big-scale-quickly-spanx-founder-sara-blakely-on-how-to-bootstrap-a-billion-dollar-business
Tierney, P. J., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (2000). Making a difference: An impact study of big brothers big sisters. Public/Private Ventures. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242542499_Making_a_Difference_An_Impact_Study_of_Big_Brothers_Big_Sisters
Who we are. (2014). Big Brothers Big Sisters International. Retrieved January 20202, from http://www.bbbsi.org/about-us/
Building Foundations: A Quick Reminder
From before our babies are born, we begin loving them and building the foundations that encourage health & happiness. They grow and learn quickly, taking in all that is around them, like sponges. We are not in control of how they perceive information, and there are days that they must hear “no” far too many times, (especially toddlers).
But, positive reinforcement of the foundations we believe in, can be easy.
During a calm moment, settling in for a nap, tucking in for the night, or just that cozy relaxed cuddle, tell them those important bits. Remind them what a good kid they are, how much you love them, what a good job they did, how smart they are.
A child’s subconscious is very open, but those moments of quiet are a perfect time to reinforce foundations.
Counseling Hypnotherapist, On Track Hypnotherapy
Taking Pride Builds Self-Esteem
Children should be proud of their accomplishments.
Pride means finding joy and satisfaction in a job well done. Pride means feeling admiration for yourself and value in what you have achieved. Pride, authentic pride - not bragging, boasting or seeking outside approval - is an essential part of self-esteem.
Encourage your children to take pride in what they do and MODEL IT FOR THEM.
Take pride in your accomplishments! You have accomplished so very much, from learning to drive a car, to starting a family, to getting up each morning and taking care of what needs to be done. Be it big or small - take time to feel that joy and satisfaction.
What are you proud of today?
What wonderful times we are living in! All of the opportunities that are available for people today no matter where you live. Growing up and raising a family in a northern, somewhat remote area, there were many things that were just not available It was a given that you must travel or be away from home for many kinds of training or courses. To research, you had to visit a library and although wonderful resources were available at school and community libraries, they too were somewhat limited.
Now with the power of the internet there is a plethora of information at our fingertips! Abundant on-line courses and even university courses that may reduce the number of years one might have to live on campus. Our world has expanded so quickly and the circle of friends and influences that I had during my formative years pales in comparison to the vastness of connections that young people make today.
“With great power,” though, “comes great responsibility” we mustn’t forget! We are well aware that with that immense power of the internet a new door was opened and the term, ‘cyber bullying’ has become a part of the general vernacular for people and places all over the world.
Inspired by campaigns such as Pink Shirt Day, this February, we really want to focus on bringing awareness to Anti-Bullying programs, strategies and resources. There are so many great resources available online, one site being prevnet.ca. This website looks at three roles: the bullied, the bully, and the witness to bullying. It gives signs and symptoms that a parent may notice in their child as well as consequences of bullying, and what parents can do to raise children that are less likely to bully, or to help them with these toxic relationships, in whatever role they are in. This site also breaks information down into different age groups.
If you can’t be out and about in a Pink Shirt on February 27, 2019 I encourage you to take just a moment (or a long while, if you like) and click over to prevnet.ca. If you only have a moment or two, check out “What Parents Need to Know” read it, learn it, share it.
Whether you have children or not, the ramifications of bullying behaviour can be devastating, it may also explain some adult behaviours that you’ve witnessed, or you might just happen to reach one person that needs this information.
To learn more on Pink Shirt Day and what you can do to spread awareness, click the link: https://www.pinkshirtday.ca/
My earliest memory of thinking about my body size was in the forth grade on one of my first days as a student of a new school. Up until that point, it had never come up.
My friends came in all shapes and sizes and none of us thought much of it. I’m not sure if it was the age we were at, or being a stranger in a new place, but one of the girls in my new class made a comment about how heavy I was and my whole world shifted.
Looking back now, I was by no means the biggest girl in my class, far from it actually, but I was the newest and the shyest. Regardless of what was fact and what wasn’t, things were never the same again. Fast forward through more than 20 years of struggle, which included, among many other things; self-hate, depression, yo-yo diets, binge eating and starvation, until one day, when I found myself in a loving relationship and about to have a baby. Everything changed again.
I began to see more of the whole picture. I remember the way I felt while I watched close family members let their size chip away at their self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. I recalled all the time, thought and energy I had wasted on my obsessive focus on weight. I knew one thing, as I stood with my hand on my 30-some-week, pregnant belly: my children were not going to live like this. Letting the number on the scale, or what you THINK other people think about you, was never going to even be on my kids’ radar.
My husband has a normal, healthy relationship with food and his body. That is what I wanted for my children.
So, I enlisted the help of a counselor and began doing something I do best – research. I would become the role model I wanted for my children.
I did my homework and field tested many strategies. I made a plan, continually reviewed it, and made changes where needed. I started adopting healthy SUSTAINABLE habits and sticking with them. And even more importantly than fixing my physical health, I was working on getting my head right.
No more self-deprecating talk. No more obsession with eating this or not that. No more letting my appearance affect my confidence.
I wanted my children to have all of the time and energy I’ve put into one stupid goal of reaching a magic number on the scale, to be put to much better use. I wanted that for me too.
I look back on all of the things I could have done instead of making myself feel bad over the size written on the tag of my jeans. And I’ve learned that in reality, that number hasn’t even mattered to me. At my fittest and smallest, it was still “never good enough”.
Today, when I look at my 3 year old and 1 year old, I see their perfect little bodies, and their perfect sense of self-worth. I look at my body and see the woman my partner loves and the miraculous body that brought two perfect beings into this world and works hard to care for them each day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a work in progress, but I no longer look back at pictures of my 13 year old self and sneer in disgust. I don’t say negative things (aloud – I’m still working on my internal self-talk) about myself. I am a work in progress, but already I’ve grown so much.
If my children were to begin today, to emulate my relationship with my body, I wouldn’t be 100% satisfied (there is always room for growth), but I know that I’ve done well so far. Sometimes when I look in the mirror and smile at myself, I can almost imagine the look of surprise on my 20-something-year old face. That girl NEVER smiled in satisfaction or admiration at her reflection, but this one does. And so will my babies.
Mirror, Mirror on the wall.
Does it matter if I’m short or tall?
If I twist and turn and sneer and puff.
Am I telling my children we aren’t good enough?
Self-esteem and body image seem to go hand in hand and all too often I hear people blaming society for the unreasonable expectations that are put on children these days.
Too many princesses with hourglass figures, too many heroes that have chiseled abs and strong jaw lines. We see depictions of perfection with enhanced photos and the folks in movies that have it all. All too often the leading men and women in movies, video games and advertisements don’t really represent the majority of the population.
Where do our children get the first whispers of who fits in where and what is beautiful or acceptable? “Do as I say, not as I do” only goes so far and we really need to lead by example.
As we, at Rosy Window Productions developed “Perfectly Me” to encourage young people to notice how well their bodies worked for them and how everyone is unique and fits just right, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Moms and Dads out there are feeling that way about their own physique.
Please, learn to love yourself, just the way you are! Sure you can aspire to be all that you can be, get some regular exercise, eat properly, maybe adjust your weight a few pounds either way, but do it for health sake. Let your children see that you love your body, that you take time for self-care because you value yourself and that you appreciate the way you are. It is not selfish or egotistical to take time for yourself, children that grow up with parents who look after themselves will be more inclined to do the same.
People come in all different shapes and sizes and if you marvel at how a 200 plus pound person can model bathing suites, the answer is simple, they are not hung up on how others will look at them – great body image – excellent self-esteem.
Imagine if Maybe, your words were building blocks. What towers will your children build?
Our hats are off to Dr. Harvey Karp! On page 59 of a wonderful book called “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” Dr. Karp shares a table of “Labels that Hurt – Descriptions that Help,” which depicts the very fundamentals of re-framing. How we can build our children’s self-esteem, just by being aware of the language we are using and what words actually inspire.
He points out that when a child appears to be bossy, they may be destined to leadership. He promotes the idea that most words we use which have negative connotations such as “hyper” can be easily replaced with their positive counter parts such as “energetic or passionate”. A very negative “nosy” is quite an endearing “curious”.
His list continues but instead of posting it here, I challenge you to add a comment of your favourite one word re-frames.
See the comment below to get you started!
Rosy Window Staff