Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how kids gain self confidence and resilience. Today, when my kids balked at walking home from school, I started thinking again about empowerment and the value of “grit”. Like most parents, I spend a lot of time worrying about my kids’ future. I want them to be successful. In that desire to support them, I tend to want to make their lives easier and shower them with love. But this can be counter productive.
Carol Dweck, a psychologist and author, has shown that people need determination more than talent. They need a belief in their own ability to learn more than they need smarts. We need a strong belief that we can succeed, if we persevere. To do this, we need a lot less empty praise and more practice solving problems and overcoming obstacles. Praise can diminish motivation to persevere when things are tough.
So I’ve started changing my way of thinking about “supporting” my kids and the children I work with. Instead of making everything easy for them or praising them constantly, I want to get out of the way of their problem solving. Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success has encouraged me to be a dificilitator in my children’s lives. The is a play on words from the French word, difficile, or hard. It means to create obstacles or hardships for my kids to overcome.
Walking home today is one example. I could pick them up. I’m just at home writing this blog post. But for me, in this small way, I want to offer them the challenge of getting home. Then, ironically, I found this article today about grit and physical fitness. It complements my new thinking about resilience.
Walking home may not be a good fit for your kids or it may be something you already do every day. We are all on a different journey. But I challenge you to be a difficiltator for a child today and to resist praise for motivation’s sake.