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How To Build A Growth Mindset Through Praise - Tips by Toddlers Teens & Between

Meet Gemma and Sophia; mental health and wellbeing specialists, and the faces behind Toddlers Teens And Between! With 8+ years of teaching experience, these two amazing women are here to help guide you through all the need to know tips and tricks to help you build a stronger bond and strengthen your relationship with your child.

Often being a parent requires you to be considerate of your own emotions whilst being mindful of your little ones too. Most of the time, they might be trying to navigate a complicated world of feelings, and that's where @toddlersteensandbetween comes in to help! By providing you with techniques that to help your child become emotionally literate to deal with and articulate themselves at the right time, to the right person, in the right way.

I don't know about you, but I can surely use some of these recommendations to help me day-to-day with my toddler. But, these tips are great for if you have a toddler, teen or between! So, let's get straight into it; here are some fantastic steps that you can take to help build a growth mindset through praise for your child. Over to you, Gemma and Sophia!

Think back to your primary school days. How would you characterise them? New uniform for the start of a new school year. Ice lollies after a hot summer’s day. Carpet reading time. Playing with your friends in the school playground. School discos. Class monitor. Receiving the honour of wiping the whiteboard clean. So many sweet memories! Now think back about how you coped with some of the challenges in primary school. Were you someone who embraced or avoided a challenge? How did you cope after revising hard for a spelling test and only getting 4 out of 10 correct? What did your inner voice say to you in those moments? In your younger years were you someone who wanted to appear and look smart or were you happy to be a mistake-maker in front of your classmates? Did you find criticism personally hurtful? How were you praised when you were growing up? Was there lots of focus on the outcome? This matters, because how you were built up informs how you build up your child.

Fast forward to now. You have a baby who will be a toddler in the blink of an eye, or a toddler who seems to be a teenager already, or a primary school child who is practically off to university and we as parents have such a small window of time within in which to instil a new way of thinking about themselves - a growth mindset. A mindset where our children persist in the face of setbacks rather than giving up easily. Where our children find lessons and inspiration in the success of others rather than feeling personally threatened. Most importantly, a mindset where our children view effort as the path to mastery. So, let's start there:

An image of children eating their Mamamade meals and a family making food in their kitchen including a mother and two children

Praising the Effort Rather Than the Outcome - Emphasise the Verb!

When giving praise to children at any age, focus on the effort rather than the achievement. Avoid generic statements like ‘good girl/good boy’ or praise which focuses on the outcome, “Well done on your maths test result” and instead add the verb in to praise their attempts: “Well done for trying to put on your shoes!”, “Well done for listening to me”, “good try at stretching for that cup’ or even “I’m so proud of how much you tried in your football game.” Here, it’s the -ing verb which focuses the praise on the effort! Offer this praise at any given opportunity when you see your child trying and this helps encourage that repeated behaviour. The younger you can implement this the easier and more natural it feels for you the adult and therefore will help build your child’s growth mindset as they will believe the effort is as important as the outcome!

Focus on What They Should Do

Keep your requests short, specific, succinct and focused on what they can achieve rather than what they should not, whilst bearing in mind that your little ones most of the time only really hear the first three or four words you say. For example instead of: “don’t jump on the couch!” We need to present our children with an opportunity to complete what they shouldbe doing: “Put your feet on the floor”. So “don’t hit your brother” becomes “use your kind hands with your brother”. You can then praise them for trying to do what you’ve suggested  - “well done for trying to keep your feet on the floor, that was good first-time listening.” By focusing on their efforts and what they should be doing you create a positive and motivating environment where your child wants to achieve and thrive. Keep the praise specific, relevant and effort-based.

A collage of three pictures, the first with a child eating her Mamamade meals, the second with two toddlers playing with wooden toys on the floor and the their is of a father inside a cardboard house looking out the window whilst his daughter paints

Praise the Internal Character

If we want our children to believe what we feel and think about them, having them overhear your praise about them to other people can be incredibly powerful. If they are really little, you can tell their teddies and dolls about what they did, what character traits have shone that day and why you are proud of them! For slightly older children at bedtime, you can ask them to reflect on the positive moments of the day and why those moments and the skills they demonstrated made them proud of themselves. Build-in positive affirmations into the start or end of the day like mirror affirmations with repeated, “I am” statements helping spotlight their strengths. Moments like these are beautiful and nurturing and help build their self-esteem. Moreover, this teaches the skill of personal praise rather than seeking external praise and centres on character and traits rather than external appearance. Your children will feel safe in the knowledge you are proud and praiseful of them and their skills, character and effort.

Mistakes Are A Learning Opportunity - Not Yet!

We love the phrase ‘practice makes progress’! Focusing on the improvement rather than an abstract and unattainable concept of perfection is a wonderful mindset shift. Whenever we ‘fail’ at something a useful repeated phrase to reframe this concept is: ‘it’s simply a learning opportunity’. When our children look like they’re about to give up, narrate the situation and use the word ‘yet’ at the end of your/ their sentence, “that puzzle looks really tricky, I haven’t been able to crack it yet” or “I can’t tie my own shoelaces, yet” or “I can’t do it yet, but I can try''. This changes thoughts about a difficult attempt, a failure or a mistake from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset full of belief in the possibility of progress and improvement!

An image of the founders, Gemma and Sophie of  Toddler Teens And Between

By Gemma Arnold and Sophia Ziff - at ToddlersTeensAndBetween:

Subscribe to ToddlersTeensAndBetween’s ‘The Younger Years Course’ for parents of 0-6-year-olds and access strategies and support for the behaviour and wellbeing of your baby, toddler and early years child or book a Bespoke 1-1 Support Session and receive tailored advice, approaches and tips to improve the mental health, behaviour and wellbeing of your toddler, teen or between. For more, follow ToddlersTeensAndBetween on Instagram and Facebook too.

Thanks to Gemma and Sophia for these super-helpful and actionable tips! If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog make sure to check out “5 Ways To Encourage Your Child To Try New, Healthy Foods”, “The Basics Of Daily Affirmations: Guide Yourself And Your Kids Towards A Positive Mindset” and “5 Ways To Raise A Decent Human Being” for some more Mamamade-approved tips and tricks for you and your little ones.

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