Moving Minds, Heartening Hearts

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For those following my series on Growth Mindset, you know that at a personal level, I have been studying on the growth mindset practice at the homefront and in the classroom.

I always believe that God makes things beautiful in His time. After 9 years of parenting and now 2 years of re-entering teaching permanently, my exposure to the growth mindset came in timely helping me reframe my expectations and relook into my priorities in life. It was part of 2 answered prayers

  1. to have wisdom and guide in growing my 3 kids’ heart attitudes.
  2. to teach and empower my students to grow in their learning behaviours.

I have gathered feedback from the school teachers, The Little Executive (TLE) teachers and made my own observation on the progress of my children’s behavioural and mindset growth. This post is a deep reflection on how we have grown as a family, eversince we embarked on this Growth Mindset journey especially together with The Little Executive (TLE). My hubby and I agreed for the kids to continue with this program from TLE after our trial sessions.  Let me share why. (For the record, this is NOT a sponsored post.)

My eldest has shown the most significant growth since May. From birth, I knew A had something singular about him. To cut the long story short, I had come very close to ‘label’ him in my mind as perhaps having slight traits of compulsive behaviour. He thrives in routines and does things with a very singular mind and way. Once a sudden change happens in his routine, he would react and become visibly affected. Before my own research and contact with The Little Executive, my perception of A’s traits had been ambiguous and leaned towards the above. After TLE’s assessment of A, it was liberating to hear that he has a highly fixed mindset! Why liberating? Because it meant that A does not have any compulsive behaviour but a fixed mindset, which can change! It however required ‘more time and effort’ to ‘work’ on growing his mindset according to Ms M his TLE teacher.

Moving Mindsets in

  1. Failing Successfully 

He used to swing to extremes. If he is confident of something, he will go all out to excel in it, especially when it comes to his tests grades. He also had this ‘I must win’ mentality. In competitive context, he would get visibly upset when a game/competition is lost. It was strenuous to teach the value of losing well and being a good sport. Success was important to him.

He has improved throughout the years, albeit at a gradual rate. Somehow, the knowledge and awareness is there but it has not sunk in. However, this year there was a significant shift of mindset. He is more accepting of failures be it in the form of unmatched marks, losing in something or being slower than others. Evidently, he has internalised the fact that failures are part and parcel, in fact, the most productive thing that can happen because our brain grows the most when we make mistakes! This is according to the growth mindset that has been instilled by me and TLE. He used to react in frustration or disappointment when he faced failures or made mistakes. Now he is able to accept more readily to bad news/situations and recovers faster from the setbacks because he knows it is OK to fail.

Instead of the extreme, ‘I cannot do it’ and give up mentality, he is now willing to give it a try until he gets it right, or approach for help for the setback/problem faced. This recent month nearing the exams, he stepped up in his own revision without my nagging or prompting. He also tackled his weakest subject (science) daily  in the systematic way I taught him. He used to detest this new subject and escaped doing many papers until I discovered his struggles.

Interestingly, E despite her insatiable thirst for learning, hid the fear of failure quite snugly under her thoughtful demeanour. According to Ms M, when she faced challenging tasks, she will back off and blank out which sends her into a mode of panic spiraling down. She does not dare to ask questions even when she is unsure of what to do. I find that observation pretty accurate and insightful. Basically, she did not wish to appear ignorant or ‘not smart’. With this growth mindset nurturing in our family and the weekly TLE classes, she slowly lets her guard down and slowly warms up to the idea that making a mistake or being wrong about something is OK. She can feel safe even if she does not know how to do something because mistakes means our brain is growing strong! As a result, she does not break down as easily.

Perhaps, because of this growth, the other area of concern was her inertia in taking initiative to do things without being asked. Ms M reasons that with her tall height and being the oldest in the class, she should be taking the lead in doing things like putting back things or answering questions. However, she is very reserved in class. This is contrary to the preschool teacher’s opinion. Then Ms M aptly points out that her leadership is appointed in school not self initiated. After half a year, she is now growing out of her comfort zone and taking more leads in the TLE class. She is also more willing to take risks and make mistakes.

~We are learning how to fail successfullyto embrace failures and mistakes as a valuable experience and succeed in learning from there~

2. Process vs Product Oriented 

We have always been process oriented, at least in my mind I think I am. However, the reality of the education system still gripped me for the past 2 years as a primary school mum goer. I would watch the processes carefully in view of expecting a good product. The results? An unintended but passed on pressure felt and experienced by my kids. Remember my Fear turned to Faith of Missing out post? That was a milestone of pressure relieved by the Lord. I did not say out my expectations, my actions spoke louder than my words. I was stressed over their exams. This in turn reinforced the ‘cannot fail’ mindset in them. It was until I had a personal breakthrough from the Lord in May that I saw how we as the parents play such a crucial role in changing our kids’ mindsets! Read May’s Smile! It’s the Exams! Great time to grow and glow.

This year end exam period, I prayerfully and deliberately allowed boys to work on their own revision routine with minimum checks. Then on saturdays, we have quality time with them, while waiting for the kids to take turns attending TLE course.

3. ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I WIll Try until I Can’ 

growth vs fixed mindset2

J on the other hand, lacks the confidence to try new challenges or compete to win. His first reaction is ‘Too hard, I cannot’ or ‘I will sure lose/he will surely win’. This lament became his tagline whenever he faced challenges. It was a tough process to help him renew his thinking. We have been intentionally training our kids to have a ‘growth mindset’ since young. Just that we did not term it as that. We basically relied on God’s words to help us grow as shared in Sentimental Mum-me.

Now, with TLE’s support, J is unlearning this fixed mindset and this frequency of lamentation has reduced significantly.

TLE helped identify his thought patterns and the teacher Ms M, consistently reinforced the ‘I can’ attitude by setting appropriate challenges in class to facilitate this growth mindset. This applies to all my kids. I saw a visible change where my kids now take on difficult tasks with less complaint and more motivation. In fact, in the recent 2 weeks, the boys have been doing their own homework and revision without my nagging!

I noticed that A is willing to take more risks, accept what he cannot do and tries harder in the challenges faced. J no longer dreads learning his multiplication table and revise on his own accord. There is also greater self awareness on his own thinking processes. When he says, ‘I can’t,’ I will remind him on the growth mindset and ask him also to pray for strength to change his attitude. E too, when faced with a difficult task, like learning to memorise her graduation script, she overcame her ‘I can’t’ mentality with prayer and reminders on growth mindset.

I find that such practical help from TLE and my own understanding of growth mindset has opened up a key understanding of our brain’s potential to learn.

4. Higher Executive Functions

TLE also equipped A to recognise how learning to express himself verbally leads to better management of his emotions. Self regulation is another major aspect that TLE focuses on. Other executive functions like thinking of different strategies to approach a problem was also a by product of their course.

Factors that contributed to this sharp growth

What are the factors that have caused such moving mindsets and heartening hearts? We are all Works In Progress. This post serves as a precious reminder on how the Lord is answering our prayers on growing our hearts as a family. My hubby and I are encouraged by the milestone growth spurts of our kids and I think these are the main reasons for it.

  • Growing Parents and Loving Kins

We place great priority in training and nurturing our children. As parents to be, we read a variety of parenting books, researched and applied when they arrived. Our thirst for learning bring us to attend workshops or seek counsel from those who have gone before us in this road of parenting. At every stage we are always expanding our knowledge of the children’s growth. We intentionally actively engage in our children’s lives. In other words, we observe and reflect on how they are growing in different aspects of their lives. We seek to know our children by spending heart to heart times.

We have doting relatives and kins who love them and provide us honest feedback and support.

  • Good Teachers

We are blessed to have good Form teachers in school who believed and see great potential in our children’s growth. Teachers who encouraged our boys to be their best and took time to teach them in their character and habits other than their academics.

We have a dedicated bunch of sunday school teachers, and loving brothers and sisters in Christ who take interests in their lives. They are also privileged to have a faithful and godly GodGranny as their spiritual grandma.

  • The Little Executive

In other words, because we know our children well, we are careful in how we choose activities for them. We invest our resources in The Little Executive because we value the important life skill habits that can be imparted through their unique curriculum. The kids have been attending their classes for half a year. The teachers in TLE provided an important platform of giving crucial feedback on my children’s learning gaps. With their valuable insights, we can effectively reinforce the good learning habits at home.

  • God

Finally, I trust that all the above are made possible because of the Lord’s Sovereignty. In His time, he guided us closely in this parenting journey, encouraging us at the low moments and boosting us in the great times. Throughout this blog, you would have read how God has been our life line. I am excited to enter into another transformational growth through our application of the growth mindset and welcome the refreshing help from TLE.

In conclusion, if we wish to see impactful character growth in our children’s lives, we must labour in the field ourselves and model the growth. Having like-minded people around us will speed up the process and following God’s will is the sure path to victorious growth.

During this exam period and soon to be release of results, let’s not get carried away by the product and results. May we refocus on the truly valuable:

Growth Processes of the Person to Be

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