Is it just me or do you ever feel like you have such talented kids but tend to feel a little intimidated by them?
Today I want to talk to all my moms of talented, intelligent kids. Especially if your child’s talent or intelligence is a little intimidating. And even for those of you that no longer have kids in the home, you don’t need to tune out. This is still going to be very relevant to you.
I love all the people who support parents in their roles. I love anyone that teaches parents how to enjoy it more, and how to help their children thrive. But it’s especially powerful to me when I hear somebody speaking to parents of talented, intelligent kids because I’ve noticed a lot of us as parents these days, we see the light and the intelligence our kids have, and we are amazed by our kids, and we want them to have high self-esteem, but we also can feel a little intimidated with how to help them thrive. Do you relate? And I want to take it a step further and speak to parents who have kids in music lessons or who are high achievers or who excel in some way.
I want to speak to you today because again, being a mother of children like this myself, I have some thoughts and ideas I want to offer to you that might help you if you either have a child who is good at everything they do, or who has a lot of talent, or has big goals and dreams.
Now, I want to be clear that I don’t think there’s any such thing as an unintelligent child. Or even an ‘average’ child, or a child with no talent. I think it’s actually a pretty small percentage of children who don’t have an area where they shine if there even is one. And so my hope in this episode is not to minimize anyone’s talent or intelligence, but to speak to how to help our kids thrive with the gifts they have, whether it would measure super high on the imaginary talent scale, or not.
You with me?
I’m not here to say that kids who are talented or smart are better in any way than kids who might be considered ‘average’ on tests or what have you. I don’t really care about those kinds of tests. That’s not what this episode is about. Sometimes when I talk about talented kids I get parents saying, “my kid doesn’t fit in that category.” But I actually think every child has their own zone of genius, their unique set of talents and gifts, and so to me, there’s no such thing as a child who isn’t talented.
So in order to speak to the message of how to help your talented child thrive, I’m going to imagine that I’m speaking to people who already at least have some idea of what their child’s gifts are. So maybe you have a child in music lessons, or maybe in a sport.
I’ve coached many, many parents, and the majority of my work has been with moms who are raising kids in the Arts or who are high achievers at school, which comes with its own challenges. And I love these kinds of parents. And I have experience with this myself. I actually studied piano performance and pedagogy on scholarship in college as a teen and young adult. And I’m raising talented kids, two of them are musicians, and my youngest son is an artist with drawing anime, and they’ve all competed in sports too, and they care about getting good grades. So these kids I’ve been given to raise, it can feel like a lot of pressure to know how to help them thrive. With all the drive they have, it can come with difficult challenges in their mental health.
And as a parent, you might be wondering, how do I help my kid navigate their interests in a way that they actually enjoy it, they don’t feel so hard or down on themselves that they aren’t enjoying it when they fail or they stumble or if they think they don’t measure up?
So what I’m offering you today is a result of over 30 years of work that I’ve done on my own brain to get to the place I’m at now in terms of how I think about my parenting, my kids, my own talent, their talent, and where that all fits and how they all go together. And it’s also the result of work I’ve done in coaching with my own clients. These same kinds of principles will help you and give you answers to questions that come up, especially if you are raising a talented child.
Oh, and one more thing before I dive in, the reason this is so fresh on my mind, I recently finished delivering a deep dive intensive at a retreat for moms on how to help a group of home-schooling moms approach their new school year with more creativity. I worked with a group of moms from southern Utah, and we did tons of coaching and deep dive learning on how to cultivate creativity in motherhood and in our children. And by the end, as I was leaving, those moms felt so empowered to enjoying their kids more, to letting go of the pressure to be all and do it all, to invite their kids into the process of owning their education, they experienced these huge breakthroughs.
It can be emotional too. It’s a lot. We laughed a lot and there were tears. I loved getting to know each of them, which I don’t always get to do unless things are in person, I love in person retreats like this for that very reason. So even though I had to give and be my best teaching self, it feels selfish for how much I receive too. It’s so fun to get to know you. And anyway, I’m still on a high from that event and loving those women and wanting the best for them as they move forward.
I’m also so excited about the Dare Greatly Society, moving into my second year of that program. I have so many things I’m working on. It keeps getting better and better. And I love those women so much, too. So all the moms I work with are in my mind as we dive into today’s topic, Growth Mindset Momentum.
Ok, my question for you, have you heard of the term Growth Mindset before?
I didn’t coin the term; it comes from Dr. Carol Dweck and her research colleagues who became interested in students’ attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students are able to rebound quickly after a setback or a failure versus other students who seem to become devastated and highly frustrated by even the smallest setbacks.
And so the term Growth Mindset is used to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence and talent. The opposite of Growth Mindset is a Fixed Mindset, which is the belief that talent, intelligence or natural ability is, well, fixed - set in stone, cemented based on factors beyond your control, and dismisses the role of effort or putting in extra time in order to improve.
As the field of neuroscience has really taken off in the last couple of decades, images of the brain show that it is far more capable of growth and change than we ever knew. Research on brain plasticity, which is the brain's ability to rewire and grow new neural networks, the research verifies how new neurons can grow, how neural networks can build new connections, strengthen existing ones, and even build up protective insulation that speeds up the transmission of neural impulses. The brain is capable of lighting up in new ways, no matter what talent or intelligence you were inherently born with.
I love knowing about this about the brain. It makes me excited and combining this with mindset work, with the think/feel/act loop that I teach to my clients, - which simply stated - is that thoughts create feelings, and feelings are the juice or the fuel for everything we do or don’t do, it turns out, the brain science is there to support the principles of the think/feel/act loop.
As Dr. Dweck continued her research, she also noticed that teachers in the classroom could help shape children’s mindsets about their capabilities and their distress tolerance when they hit challenges or failures in their learning.
Parents and teachers can have a big impact on their student’s mindset. The feedback and the way we compliment children can either build a growth mindset or build a fixed mindset.
And since I work with talented kids in my music studio, I’ve really wanted to know how to build a growth mindset in order to help them think in ways that will serve them.
What it boils down to is this:
When we tell kids they are smart or talented, it encourages a Fixed Mindset, mainly because once a child’s talent or intelligence hits a barrier or a challenge, the child can quickly conclude they must not be smart or talented ENOUGH when things feel hard - there can be a lot of comparison and kids will conclude that they just don’t have what it takes. But when we praise hard work and effort, we are cultivating a Growth Mindset. And this matters because we are teaching children that no matter their talent or intelligence, they have what it takes inside of them to keep going when things get hard. Do you see the difference?
I’ve worked with many parents to shift their culture in their home in the way they praise their children.
I want to speak to a few lessons I’ve learned in my own experience being told how talented I was as a little girl, and then my experience as a parent myself.
So Lesson #1: I learned to stop saying, “you’re amazing.” or “that’s amazing,” or “I think you are so amazing.”
I had good intentions with saying that, but I learned that it left my child with nowhere else to go. And if we zoom out in our parenting and try to connect dots down the road, we can see that we don’t want our kids to rely on us to tell them they are amazing. We want them to look inside and ask themselves, “what do I think about me?” and help them conclude with some honesty that yes, there’s some amazingness there, and there’s also some average-ness there too, and it’s fine to have both.
I don’t want my child to conclude that she needs to look to other people to tell her how amazing she is to feel good about herself.
Let’s say she comes up to you so proud, and she’s showing you her latest artwork. You want to tell her how amazing it is, and you really think it is! Ok, that’s good. But if you can take it a step further and picture her outside of the house someday, creating for strangers, creating for herself, you can say things like:
And then take delight in how they explain it to you, and watch their own light come alive inside as you talk about it together. This is how we cultivate more of a growth mindset, and it’s a beautiful thing to see unfold. We want to marvel at the inner workings of our child’s mind and be curious. So this is about marveling in the “how” of what they created more than the “what” they created. It’s magic, I’m telling you. You want to do this because it creates more motivation in your child to keep creating, to engage with the process of creation more than the end product.
Ok, so that’s lesson #1. Instead of saying, you’re amazing, show curiosity in the creation process itself. This is magic my friend.
Lesson #2: are you ready? Building self-esteem isn’t the goal.
Here me out on this one. I know we compliment our kids because we want to build their self-esteem. But I want to offer to you that the real goal is to build trust with themselves WHEN they feel terrible. That’s true confidence.
When our kids share that a friend can read better than them, or is better at math, or something, or that kid is progressing at the piano faster, they actually aren’t looking for you to say, “No, that’s not true!” or “Well, you’re great at this other thing. . . “ What are our kids looking for? They want to know that we aren’t afraid. We aren’t worried.
We can model for them what it’s like to notice the differences between ourselves and other people, and not make it mean that we are less lovable or less worthy. That is true confidence, right?
The real fear, when a child starts to compare and notice, is that they aren’t going to be as valuable as the person they're comparing themselves to.
And so the more we can validate our kids’ perception and feelings, and again, get curious, we actually help our kids become more at home with themselves.
We can say things like:
And then listen to all the things your child tells you about the other person they are noticing who is shining at the moment. Confidence isn’t about feeling the best at everything. It’s more about feeling like it’s okay to be you - maybe that you can still like being you even though you’re not the ‘best’ at something. And the more we can tolerate the discomfort or the fear our children have, the uncomfortable feelings, the more they will be able to tolerate them as well, the more confident they will become.
You can tell them of a time you noticed so and so in your own childhood, or in a similar situation when you were a little girl, kids love to hear about their parents when they were little, and how you wondered about it, but you concluded that you like you anyway, and you are happy for that person.
It actually lowers their self-esteem when we try to fix their uncomfortable emotions. They conclude that you don’t get it, which can feel scary to them, and that you have a bias and that you aren’t seeing the reality of the situation. So the real goal is to help our child be seen, to hold a grounded energy for that which builds self-trust. When we show them we aren’t scared of their experience, that helps them not be scared of themselves.
So lesson # 2 - build self-esteem by helping your child tolerate feeling uncomfortable. Self-esteem isn’t about walking around thinking how awesome we are. It’s about having the confidence to know what to do when we don’t feel awesome.
Lesson #3 - Knowing what to do when my child says “I can’t,” is more about building my tolerance and patience for their frustration and keeping myself from taking over.
Let me explain: let’s say your child comes to you and says, “I can’t figure out this math problem! Will you show me how to do it?”
And I think kids these days are given lots of tasks that overwhelm them, and also absorb the message that if something takes too long to figure out, better to just ask an adult, especially because they see adults do things with ease. And, as the adult, it can feel gratifying to take over and show our child how to do things.
I have to be careful of this as a piano teacher. “I can’t figure this part out, will you show me how it’s supposed to sound?” I could. . . and sometimes I do. But it’s better if I walk my student through how to figure it out. And that means I have to draw upon some patience and let my student be frustrated.
So I do this by normalizing frustration. I say things like:
I say those kinds of things in a neutral tone and just let them know I see their frustration.
This sends the message that frustration IS part of the process, that nothing has gone wrong. And also, that frustration is not the enemy to success. This is so huge to understand!
Sometimes I like to share with them something that made me frustrated today or in the recent past that might be unrelated to the task at hand. “Yesterday I was making a new dinner and the recipe asked me to do something new I’ve never seen before. I messed up and I was frustrated.” and I share it with a No Big Deal kind of tone, like it was funny, and that it’s totally normal. And I follow it up with something like, “it just goes to show that every single person, no matter how young or old, feels frustrated when they’re learning something new.”
What makes frustration more tolerable? Naming it for what it is, normalizing it, and even better, having someone sit in it with us. Not someone pulls us out of it and fix it, but just be there while we’re feeling it, and let time stop for as long as it needs to.
You can say, “It’s ok to feel frustrated with math right now. I’m right here with you.’
Then offer your child the idea that you believe in their ability to tolerate frustration and re-engage with the task. You can say, “try again when you feel ready. Start small. You’ll know when. I trust you.”
So powerful. Kids see that you believe in them. We support them without solving it for them. Tolerating the discomfort of learning will take them far in life. This one really builds a growth mindset momentum.
But we might have to do our own work first and build our own tolerance for the emotions of frustration or impatience.
All of these lessons I’m sharing work for us as adults too, right? So let me recap, and apply them to your adult self too. Because it’s never too late to build Growth Mindset Momentum.
No. 1 - Complement the creative process, the How, more than the What. If you work hard at something and want praise for it, compliment yourself on how you put forth the effort, you were brave for engaging in creative work in the first place, and allow yourself to bask in that energy as your reward more than someone else’s praise. You can talk to yourself and say, “good job me for trying a new recipe.” I think many women could benefit from complimenting themselves more often. It feels so good!
No. 2 - the real goal is to build trust with ourselves WHEN we feel terrible. That’s true confidence. The goal isn’t to always feel awesome. And when we do feel terrible, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a high self-esteem. We gain confidence when we learn that we can tolerate any emotion and see ourselves through to the other side without making it mean we are a terrible person for feeling. . . fill in the blank: frustrated, impatient, right? This is a big shift for many adults. But the sooner you make the shift, the sooner you can help your child. It’s magic, I promise. Remind yourself, “hey. It’s okay to feel this right now. We’re just going to be frustrated for as long as we need to. It will pass when it’s ready, but right now, I’m frustrated, and that’s okay.” Talk to yourself this way, don’t resist the emotion or it will fight harder to stay.
No. 3 - Knowing what to do when I hear my brain say “I can’t,”. This is more about building my tolerance and my patience for my frustration and not giving up when learning or trying new things. Many adults have a hard time with this. And for good reason. They are afraid of being judged. But really who is judging you, is you. So put that down. And normalize frustration and impatience. Take a deep breath. Allow the emotion. And try again when you are ready. You’ll know when that is. I trust you. Haha You can say to your brain, “hey. I trust me. I do. I can’t do this yet, but I’ll get it. It’s just a matter of more effort. I trust me to get this.” Direct your brain to this kind of thinking and pretty soon, you’ll start to feel more patient with yourself. When you can do this for yourself, you can give it to others more naturally.
A parent’s voice can become a child’s self-talk. So let’s wire our kids for growth mindset momentum.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. None of this is meant to prescribe to you how to be the perfect parent. It’s more about shifting our focus to something that we can find some meaning in, and that is our potential for growth. It’s always available to us. But let’s not use that against ourselves, okay?
If you’re maybe thinking of all the times you didn’t compliment your child in these ways, or things you wish you would have known before or done differently, instead of saying to yourself, “Ugh, my kids are so screwed. . . “ haha turn your focus to growth: “Hm… that one time I did that one thing that helped my child do such and such. . . I mean, that’s something.”
This is just simply meant to help you have a deeper understanding of what motivates human behavior to keep going when things get hard. And to encourage you to keep going so you can show up as the parent you want to be.
So promise me you’ll focus on all the good things you do too, ok? Do you promise?
Alright, my friend. Thank you SO MUCH for joining me today. I love you. Growth Mindset Momentum is awesome! It’s magic. Let’s think about who we want to be today and who we want to be moving forward, someone who believes in our potential for growth and that growth isn’t always comfortable, and it doesn't have to be. It’s such good use of our brains to think of learning in this way. Growth Mindset momentum is awesome.
One more thing, You can also join my newsletter if you want more on this and other topics, I want to make sure to all my listeners, whether you’re new to the podcast or if you’ve been listening for a while. If you’re a mom and you want to understand how to raise happy, healthy kids. If you want tips and strategies and resources you can print that are evidence-based toward helping kids thrive, you don’t want to miss out on the tools I offer there. Join my newsletter at daniellevaughncoaching.com, you’ll see the link on the home page. But maybe you wish you had more help with this thing called parenting, I help all my subscribers who join the Dare Greatly newsletter. I never send spam, I only send things I think will help you, that and add value to your inbox. if you haven’t joined yet, go do it so you don’t miss anything I share there -
I will talk to you soon.
Take care friend,
Have a beautiful day.
In this mini course, I'll take you through the Emotion Coaching framework that is a gamechanger for cultivating more peace. Plus you'll discover how to shift the 'frustration habit' and parent from a place of trusting yourself more.
In this free mini course, I'll take you through the Emotion Coaching framework I've taught hundreds of moms and dads for cultivating more peace. Plus you'll discover how to shift the 'frustration habit' and parent from a place of trusting yourself more.