For most children and teens, back-to-school means a return to being measured by a report card. It also means heightened expectations from parents who want their child to succeed in classwork, sports, and after-school activities.
Success comes in many forms. While grades and soccer trophies may be traditional measures of success, back-to-school is a great time for parents to reflect on the internal drivers of success and achievement rather than the outcomes. Parents play a huge role in nurturing their children’s motivation and belief in themselves. With a parent’s love and encouragement, children normally do the rest.
One of the greatest ways parents nurture success at school is to walk alongside as opposed to doing for a child. The first relies on love, respect, and encouragement. The second involves the mistaken belief that kids are bundles of behaviors that must be managed, manipulated, or problem-solved.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term, “growth mindset” after decades of scientific research on how children and teens become successful. She suggests that success and achievement extend beyond children’s abilities or test scores—to their attitudes about learning. When children develop growth mindsets, they see themselves as creative works in progress.
Another Stanford University psychologist, Albert Bandura, discovered the importance of believing in yourself, or self-efficacy, and how this ability helps young people accomplish their goals. This belief in self and in the core abilities that evolve from being human helps children and teens learn to chart their own successful paths toward young adulthood and throughout life.
How do parents encourage their children to develop growth mindsets and believe in themselves? By walking alongside children in their learning process, parents foster a child’s ever-expanding perspective of the world, an ability to see connections and generate new ideas, and the value of learning from mistakes. When parents praise children for their efforts rather than the end game, they instill a love of the learning process and reinforce the idea that success takes hard work and perseverance.
10 Messages that Encourage Children’s Success
Young people need to be encouraged to believe in themselves—to discover their own solutions to problems and the unique abilities they have within themselves to achieve goals. You can remind them, in so many ways, how they are becoming their best selves through your words, love, and affection!
Following are ten examples of the kinds of messages that help kids grow and develop, and a brief explanation of the abilities that parents nurture everyday in small, meaningful ways through the statements they make to their children.
1. “You analyzed the problem, then discovered a great solution!” [Statements that point out a positive behavior and corresponding result help youth develop an ability to be resourceful students.]
2. “Thank you for reminding me how fun it is to be inventive!” [Statements that let kids know you appreciate their imagination and ideas nurture their creativity and innovation.]
3. “I admire the courage it took to stand up for what you believe.” [Statements that let youth know that you respect how they live their values in the world encourages development of integrity.]
4. “I trust you will find meaning from this experience.” [Statements that honor a young person’s ability to reflect and find meaning from challenging experiences or failures help develop their self-awareness.]
5. “Your flexibility and grit certainly helped you grow from this adversity.” [Statements that point out a young person’s positive traits like determination and strength foster resilience.]
6. “Your open-mindedness is such an asset.” [Statements that shine a light on how children learn to pursue ideas or think critically foster curiosity.]
7. “Thank you for your kindness; what you did was very generous and caring.” [Statements that let kids know that you appreciate the small, thoughtful things they do for you and others encourages the development of empathy and compassion.]
8. “I appreciate what a good listener you are.” [Statements that help children understand the importance of listening and good communication skills foster the development of emotional intelligence and sociability.]
9. “I will always love and appreciate you for who you are, not just for what you achieve.” [Statements that let children know that your love is not tied to a grade or trophy facilitates a deep and abiding bond that is built on being human, not on being perfect.]
10. “I don’t want you to be anyone other than who you are.” [Statements of acceptance demonstrate to children that they are valued, respected, and supported by their parents.]