All of us want our kids to grow to be healthy, happy, and productive adults. The key to doing so may be in getting them to develop an “I can” mind early on.
According to best-selling author Carol Dweck, an “I can” brain, as opposed to an “I can’t” brain develops when the adults in a child’s life support his or her curiosity, sense of adventure, and view problems as opportunities for learning. Dweck calls this “positive growth mindset.”
“Children can easily and accidentally develop an ‘I can’t brain’,” says Dweck. This happens when they are frightened, confused, stressed, expectations are unreasonable and problems are viewed as failures. Dweck calls this a “fixed mindset.”
Dweck goes on to say that one of the best ways to help foster the “I can” brain, is to employ “mindful parenting.”
Mindfulness is a way of being more in tune with everything around you, to produce a sense of heightened awareness and therefore, reduced anxiety. Mindfulness has been used effectively for everything from stress reduction to weight loss. Mindful parenting is practicing relaxation through exercise, being present, and most importantly, spending a few minutes a day giving children your full attention.
“It is managing stress so you can bring your best self to the relationship with your child. It is honoring your children’s individuality and their right to develop their own personalities. Lastly, it is teaching them kindness, compassion, and empathy for themselves knowing that what they give to themselves, they will give to others,” says Dweck.
According to Dweck, how you communicate with your child is also very important in developing the “I can” brain. When your child makes a mistake, let them know that mistakes help them learn. If they say something is too hard, let them know that with more time and effort they will succeed. If they say they can’t do something, let them know that only means that they can’t do it yet – with practice and in time, they can accomplish it.
Being a mindful parent also means that you have to speak with your children to help them make sense of their experiences – good and bad. If something is bothering them, or stressing them out, you need to acknowledge their feelings and help them to work through them. Taking them outside to engage in some physical activity may help them to become “centered,” or bring the mind and body back into proper balance. This is the cornerstone of mindfulness.
This is especially true as children are dealing with unprecedented fear and anxiety over the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
If you would like to learn more about the concept of “mindfulness,” check out my book, Mind Your Own Fitness, which I co-authored with fitness guru, Greg Justice.