How parenting children towards learning success requires dealing with their failures appropriately

By Dr. Anita Corfe,                                                                               Chartered Counselling Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist

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We all know how challenging parenting can be at times despite our best efforts. Parents are aware they carry huge responsibility and want the best for their children in the great majority of cases.

Psychology has always focused on children`s development and is constantly conducting research to enhance our understanding about how to support our children in order to enable them to fulfil their potential to live as functioning well-balanced adults in the future.
You`re probably already aware how praising and rewarding your child`s effort rather than their success at completing a task is recommended, in order to enhance your child`s motivation.

However, recent research conducted by Stanford University psychologists, reported in the scientific journal Psychological Science, has suggested that parents who saw failure as an opportunity to learn tended to have children with a `growth mindset`, whereas parents who saw failure as more negative and bad for learning tended to have children with a `fixed mindset`.
The reason this is so interesting and potentially important is that we already know mindset can heavily influence future outcome. For example if we think we`ll never be able to achieve something, we probably won`t achieve it – in other words if we think our intelligence or ability is fixed, it becomes socialised and acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Surprisingly this study suggests that parents`mindsets `fixed`or `growth` do not seem to be related to their children`s mindsets. This is because children can`t tell what mindset their parents have. Instead what emerged from this study is that children`s beliefs about their ability are associated with how their parents`view failure.
Importantly, the researchers concluded that parents who believe failure is a debilitating experience have children who believe they cannot develop their intelligence.
So, if your child fails at a task, it`s probably wise to check-in with your own views about failure first and if they`re negative perhaps try to review them. Try to see failure as potentially beneficial instead, in that it offers opportunity for growth.

As you probably already know, resilience and coping with set-backs is a necessary tool involved in adults` ability to attain success. Rarely are goals achieved without a set-back. Now we understand more about how influential a role our own responses to failure are in terms of determining our childrens` potential for success.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Think – Rachel Upperton

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As a psychologist much of my work involves helping people examine their feelings and thoughts and the subsequent responses they have to these.  I love the process of unravelling these connections with people and the realisation people have that not all thoughts are facts.  According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California, on average our minds generate 48.6 thoughts per minute, adding up to a staggering 70,000 thoughts per day!  Imagine if we were to attend to each and every one of these thoughts and believe each one to be an absolute truth, how exhausting.  Often thoughts we listen to lead to a subsequent behaviour.  It is therefore important to be able to separate the fact from fiction.

 

When we are going through times of great stress or hardship our thoughts can begin to become skewed in particular ways that can create and increase anxiety and depression.  It is at these times that it is particularly important to develop a consciousness around our thought processes.  Before I explore this further I want to point out that I am not suggesting that we should be void of strong emotions that can be associated with depression and anxiety such as sadness, grief, fear and anger.  These are all valid and healthy emotions and are important for us to experience.  What I do however want us to decipher is when we are experiencing these emotions due to our distorted thinking.  Let me give you a few examples of such situations.

 

During a session with a university student I was exploring feelings of anxiety associated with exams that were rendering her unable to focus and concentrate, with much time spent tearfully fretting about anticipated performance.  I asked the her to explain to me what she was thinking.  The client then went on to describe a thought process that went from feeling unprepared for her exams, to dying as a homeless person on the streets in her adult life. This provided great clarity as to why she was feeling paralysed with fear about failing her exams. Her catastrophic thinking pattern, linked poor exam performance at the age of 19 with lifelong failure.  Identifying these thoughts created opportunity to explore alternative thoughts and outcomes thereby reducing the current anxiety to an appropriate level for a student sitting exams.

 

Another client presented with a very low mood and suggested this was due to his friends not liking him, that he had trouble fitting in and keeping friends.  These thoughts resulted in feelings of isolation and loneliness.  I asked him what had triggered these thoughts.  He then went on to describe a situation where he had arranged two catch ups with different friends during the previous week and they had both cancelled.  When I asked him to tell me why they had cancelled, he cited last minute work travel and sickness.  Neither excuse suggested that his friends did not like him.  When I asked him what his interactions with these friends has been like previously he described fun times and close relationships with a history of reliability.  The client was then able to identify that his disappointment in not seeing his friends had led to thoughts of personalisation and over-responsibility in the absence of any such evidence.  This recognition was a powerful first step in being able to work backwards to discover why he so quickly assumed that the failed catch ups were a result of his unlikeability.  Looking at his historical experiences with kids in the schoolyard allowed him to recognise a vulnerability to assuming rejection triggering negative self talk.   He was then also able to recognise how such thoughts ultimately resulted in him withdrawing from friends and reinforcing the self belief that he was unable to sustain friendships.

 

The above are just two examples of how distorted thinking that goes unchecked can impact not only on our mood but our behaviours.  The method of unravelling these patterns and habits forms the basis of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that was developed by Aaron Beck in the 1960’s.  This is just one type of therapy that many psychologists use to empower individuals to understand what influences their mood and behaviours.  If you were to look at Beck’s list of thought distortions it is highly likely that you would find at least one or two that you engage in.  An awareness of these habits can result in recognition in the moment and lead to greater mastery of your emotions and behaviours.

 

There are some really good resources available for individuals wanting to look at this for themselves.  Along with a vast amount of resources on the internet I have listed a few of my personal go to’s below.

 

Change Your Thinking with CBT by Dr Sarah Edelman – Ebury Publishing

MoodKit – an app that guides you through thought identification and challenging.

www.beckinstitute.org

Putting things down

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Stress management is one of the top concerns people come to see me for. I often share this story about one of the main reasons causing stress and the simple beginning towards relief – remembering to put things down.

Here goes the story:

Once, a professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see and asked the students, ‘How much do you think this glass weighs?’ ‘1 pound!’ ….’2 pounds!’ …..’3 pounds!’ ……the students answered.

‘I really don’t know unless I weigh it,’ said the professor, ‘but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?’ ‘Nothing’ the students said.

‘OK what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?’ the professor asked. ‘Your arm would begin to ache’ said one of the students.
‘You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?’ ‘Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress & paralysis; have to go to hospital for sure’ ventured another student. All the students laughed.

‘Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?’ Asked the professor.

‘No’.. Was the answer.
“Then what caused the arm ache & the muscle stress?”
The students were puzzled.
“What should I do now to come out of pain?” asked professor again.
“Put the glass down!” said one of the students “Exactly!” said the professor.
Life’s problems are something like this.
Hold it for a few minutes in your head & they seem OK.
Think of them for a long time & they begin to ache.
Hold it even longer & they begin to paralyze you. 

It is important to think of the challenges in your life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to ‘put them down’ at the end of every day before you go to sleep. That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh, strong, can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!
Remember friends – PUT THE GLASS DOWN TODAY!

After thoughts:

In life, many of us hold on to just so many of things.. we hold on to insults, grudges, traumas, fights, criticisms and what not.  While it is necessary to think things through and have a problem solving approach, is it really necessary to keep it alive and kicking all the time by consistently focusing on it? Is it
helpful to hold on to all your pain? Taking your attention and your energy off your problems can be immensely therapeutic. While it helps you de-stress and relax your tired frantic mind, the process of incubation can also lead to significant new insights actually enabling you to solve the problem in a better way than before.

So while you will inadvertently hold and be held in conflicts and problems every now and then, what’s more important is that you remember to PUT THEM DOWN. Holding on will not help. It will make you tired, irritable, anxious and ineffective. Can u really do anything about the glass or the water in it as long as you’re holding it, just holding it? Instead try putting it down, just for today and see the difference it makes in your ability to do something about it the next day.. Give yourself a time-out for today, and check if the world falls apart or things go really wrong without your constant worry.. Maybe it’s safe to put things down, maybe it’s okay.. Meditation and being mindful are the simplest most practical ways of putting things down, atleast for those few minutes.. Try it today. Let go of all that is unnecessary.. Wishing you a new Light life..

For more ways to manage stress and live a happier easier life, please read the earlier blogs:
1. 6 ways to make everyday life easier here: https://m.facebook.com/SACACCounselling/photos/a.1172789976105267.1073741827.550812251636379/1200638963320368/?type=3
2. Try EFT, read about it here: http://www.sacac.sg/blogb/2016/08/02/tapping-your-way-to-health-and-happiness-with-emotional-freedom-techniques-eft/

*Story shared from http://www.motivation-for-dreamers.com

By Mahima Gupta.