Stanford Psychologist Says Parents Should Do This to Raise Confident Kids

Stanford Psychologist Says Parents Should Do This to Raise Confident Kids

Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University and a leading researcher in the field of motivation, has emphasized differences between two mindsets that people use to understand themselves, guide their behavior and affect their achievement.

The first is Fixed Mindset, which suggests that your abilities are innate and unchangeable. The second is Growth Mindset, based on the belief that you can improve through practice.

Those with a Fixed Mindset are likely to give up when they face an obstacle. Meanwhile, those with a Growth Mindset will view obstacles as a chance to learn and grow.

Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet?

This video reveals the power of “Growth Mindset”, how it can help students succeed in and out of the classroom, and how you can apply a Growth Mindset at home, at school and in your future career.

See the transcript here

World-renowned Stanford University’s psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea.  The power of our mindset.

In her early research, she studied how people cope with failures by watching how kids grapple with hard problems.  So she gave children in a school a series of puzzles to solve. 

The first ones were very easy, but the next ones were hard.  Confronted with the hard puzzles, one 10-year-old boy yelled out loud: “I love a challenge!!!”.  Another looked up with a pleased expression and said: “I was hoping this would be informative.” 

Carol always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure.  She never thought that anyone LOVED failure. 

Not only weren’t these kids discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.  They thought they were learning. At that time Carol thought that human qualities were carved in stone.  You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures, you could stay smart.  Struggles, mistakes, and perseverance were just not parts of the whole being smart picture.  

The other hand those children on thought that human qualities such as intellectual skills could be cultivated through effort.  And it wasn’t just a feeling — working through challenges with this effort actually developed the brain. And that’s what they were doing, developing their intellectual skills or simply put, getting smarter.  So what does this mean for you?

It shows us how a mindset can have a profound effect on your life.  And that there are two mindsets: Fixed mindset and Growth mindset. If you believe that your qualities are carved in stone, you are showing a Fixed Mindset.  You believe you only possess a fixed amount of intelligence, a fixed personality, and a fixed moral character. And everything you encounter is a test to measure these traits.  Well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them! That’s why people with a Fixed Mindset shy away from challenges. They are scared their deficiencies could be unmasked through making mistakes. 

The Growth Mindset is the opposite.  Growth Mindset based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort.  Now Growth Mindset doesn’t mean everyone has the same talents and abilities, but it does mean everyone can grow through hard work, mentoring, and perseverance.  So why waste your time trying to look smart when you could actually be getting smarter?

Let’s take a quick look at the world of sports.  Michael Jordan actually wasn’t a natural. But he was the hardest working athlete, perhaps in the history of sport.  It’s well-known that Jordan was cut from the high school varsity team, he wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for, and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him.  Weren’t they foolish?

Now we know he was perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, and we think it should have been obvious from the start.  When we look at him he see MICHAEL JORDAN. But at that point he was only Michael Jordan. 

When Jordan was cut from the high school varsity team, he was devastated. So his mother told him “to go discipline himself”. Boy, did he listen?  After that he used to leave the house at 6 in the morning to go practice for 3 hours before school. He had a Growth Mindset. He believed he could improve his skills through hard work, and that’s how he became the Jordan we all know today. 

So what can we do to engrave Growth Mindset into ourselves and others?

Just knowing about the two mindsets can produce incredible results.  The other thing we can do is praise more wisely. When we praise people for the process they engage in, their hard work, their perseverance, they learn to stick to challenges.  

Praising talent, on the other hand, makes them vulnerable.  When we tell someone: “You did that so quickly, I’m impressed.”  They subconsciously hear: “If I didn’t do it quickly, you wouldn’t be impressed.” Or: “You got an A without working, you’re so smart!”.  They actually think: “Oh, if I work, you’re not gonna think I’m smart.”  

Instead when you give praise to other people, you should try something like: “I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that math problem until you finally got it. You thought of a lot of different ways to do it and found the one that worked.”  This way you praise hard work and not the so-called “talent”. Also telling people they are “smart” is one of the biggest mindset crimes you can commit. In one study, they even discovered that telling people they are smart lowers their IQ!

Here’s a common question people have about mindsets: Can you have both mindsets?  Many people have elements of both. You can have different mindsets in different areas.  I might think that my personality is fixed, but that my intelligence can be developed. Or that my social skills are fixed, but my creativity can be developed. 

Carol found that whatever mindset people have in a certain area, that mindset will guide them in that region.  You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind and you can change your mind.  So try your best to put yourself in the Growth Mindset every time you face a challenge, that way you will be better than yesterday. 

Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe to see more videos like this.  Leave us comments and questions below, and study with Everest Education to see how we apply these methods in the classroom.

WOOP – 4 steps to set your goals for the best school year ever!

WOOP – 4 steps to set your goals for the best school year ever!

It’s that time of year – for newly purchased textbooks, sharpened pencils all accounted for, washed desks awaiting handprints and chairs awaiting new friends.  The time of year that is crisp with newness. The time of year can feel like New Year’s Eve: filled with hope, promise, and resolutions.  

As the first day of school draws near, it’s a great time to envision your goals for the coming year.  Setting meaningful and actionable goals for school will help you get where you want to go. For parents, teaching your children to set goals is a valuable life skill. Through goal setting, students gain self awareness, self-efficacy, and resilience or “Growth Mindset.” 

In this article, we introduce WOOP – an easy-to-follow but effective goal setting framework to get you started.  We also include a blank planning template that students can use for themselves, or allow parents to have their child complete it as they set their own learning goals.

With all your energy recharged, let’s start thinking about what you want to do differently in this next school year.

What is WOOP?

Standing for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan, WOOP is a practical, accessible, evidence-based mental strategy that people can use to find and fulfill their wishes and change their habits.

“WOOP” is based on 20 years of research in the science of motivation by Dr. Grabiele Oettingen — a professor at New York University and the University of Hamburg — and her colleagues.  It presents a unique and surprising idea: The obstacles that we think most impede us from fulfilling our wishes can actually help us to realize them.  WOOP instructs us to dream our future dreams but then to identify and imagine what inner obstacles or hindrances of reality prevent us from achieving these dreams.  When you WOOP, you think about your ultimate goal, the best possible outcome, the personal obstacle(s) that stand in the way, and the plan for getting around those roadblocks.

Why WOOP matters?

A common mistake when setting a goal is to indulge in fantasies about how great life will be after accomplishing it—without considering what’s currently holding us back. This is also the most intriguing part of WOOP – it often requires us to mentally contrast our hoped for outcome with an obstacle that stands in our path.  WOOP also reminds us to step away from a particular goal if it conflicts with one another. WOOP works because it guides students through those in-between and oft-forgotten steps. Rather than pursuing goals that feel imposed by others, WOOP taps into a student’s intrinsic interests.

In schools, WOOP significantly improves effort, attendance, homework completion, and GPA.  WOOP develops self-control so that students can earn better grades, develop physical fitness, and build stronger relationships.  WOOP can help with any kind of wish, whether it’s something large (“I want to start a school newspaper”) or comparatively small (“I want to get an A in Science this quarter”). When used regularly, WOOP builds up what educators call “student agency” or the drive and motivation for students to take control over their own learning.  

The 4 steps of WOOP 

WOOP works in a simple 4-step process: students develop their own goals, they envision what the goal would feel like, they think about why they might not meet their goals, and then they plan ahead on how to deal with these problems. 

Step 1: Wish

Something you really want to accomplish. A wish that is exciting, challenging, and realistic.

First off, think about this school year, what is your one dearest wish that you would like to fulfil and that you also think you could fulfil during this time frame?  Fulfilling your wish should be challenging for you, but you should feel that it is possible. For best results, make it SMART:

  • Specific
  • Manageable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive 

For example: “read three books over each month”, or “finish at least one SAT practice test each week”, or increase my GPA to a 3.0 before end-of-term exams”. 

If you have several wishes, select the one that is most important to you.  The wish can be about your school, relationships, your health, a job, or anything else that is important to you.  Find this one specific wish, summarize it in 3 to 6 words, and keep it in front of your mind. 

Step 2: Outcome

The best outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal. 

Now, identify your best outcome and take a moment to imagine it as fully as you can.  What is the best thing, the best outcome that you associate with fulfilling your wish?  If your wish is fulfilled, where would that leave you?  What would be the best, most positive outcome? How would fulfilling your wish make you feel?  Find the best outcome, summarize it in 3 to 6 words, and keep it in front of your mind. 

For example: “I have more energy and feel better about myself”, or “My GPA is good enough to apply to top colleges”

Step 3: Obstacle

The personal obstacles that prevent you from accomplishing your goal. 

Next, let your mind go and imagine any potential inner obstacle.  What is your main inner obstacle? What is it within you that holds you back from fulfilling your wish?  It might be an emotion, an irrational belief, or a bad habit. Think more deeply—what is it really?

For example: “I’m tired when I get home from work and just don’t feel like reading.” or “I procrastinate and get distracted by Facebook”

When it comes to Obstacle, some students may ask: “What if I cannot control the obstacle?”  However, remember that we’re searching for internal obstacles.  When we look for obstacles within us, we are better able to control and to overcome them.  We often have limited power to change our environment. What we can change is how we respond to and deal with our environment.  If you have trouble identifying an obstacle that feels surmountable, take the obstacle you have thought of and see if you can break it down into several smaller, more surmountable obstacles. 

Step 4: Plan

Finally, we get really practical.  How are you going to make your Wish happen?  Let’s create a simple If-Then plan.

What can you do to overcome your obstacle? Identify one action you can take or one thought you can think to overcome your obstacle. Make the following plan for yourself: If / When _________ (obstacle), then I will __________ (action to overcome obstacle).

For example: “If I get up in the morning, then I immediately put on my sneakers and go for a run even if I don’t feel like it.”, or “If I get distracted during my work, then I will block all distracting websites and get back to work.”


WOOP is a scientifically proven tool that helps us change our behaviors and achieve our goals.  It’s the combination of mental contrasting and implementation intentions. In short, WOOP is just about this simple but powerful question:

“What is it that holding you back from fulfilling your wish?”

We highly recommend you to make WOOP a habit.  The more you do it, the more comfortable and successful they will be with the process.  Pick a goal that’s meaningful to you, and work through the WOOP process.

Last but not least, we also include a blank WOOP template below to guide you through this process.  

Let’s use WOOP to excel at school, learn more, achieve more, and enjoy each day at school more.  We wish you the best school year ever! 


Top 7 brain foods for Back-to-school season!

Top 7 brain foods for Back-to-school season!

School has started again!  This time of year can be crazy: vacation is over, schedules are all over the place, and getting healthy food on the table (and in the lunch boxes) can be tough.  It’s the perfect time to think about some healthy recipes that we’re all in need of.

A healthy, balanced diet is not just good for your child’s body, it’s good for her brain, too.  As you might know, our brain is a very hungry organ – it consumes more than 20% of our daily calories intake, and is the first of the body’s organs to absorb nutrients from the food we eat,  according to Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a Detroit nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Therefore, the right foods can also improve our child’s brain function, memory, and concentration, and get her ready for another successful school year ahead.

We’re all aware of the importance of enough fruit and vegetables, but what else can you offer your children to optimise their chances of having a good day at school?  Below are our top seven nutritious and delicious school snacks to include in your child’s diet weekly.

These are the best foods for the developing brain:

Here’s a quick list of 7 nutrient-dense foods that will boost your child’s brain power:

1. Eggs 

Eggs contain all the nutrients children need to grow.  Children’s brains are developing at a significant rate, especially for the first years of their life.  Rich in choline, the yolk of an egg almost meets the daily needs of children up to eight years old. Eggs are also high in protein and contain iron, folate and vitamin A – all of which are important for growth, repair and development of cells.  So encourage your child to eat eggs regularly, unless she is allergic to it. 

Meal ideas: Hard boiled eggs mixed with a small amount of mayonnaise is perfect in a sandwich, or dipping bread in egg and frying it up to make French toast as a weekend breakfast when you have a little more time.

2.  Oily fish

Rich in omega-3 which is vital for brain development and health, oily fish has so many benefits.   Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of the building blocks needed for cell development. Certain types of omega-3 fats are the most abundant fat found in the brain and some studies have shown they may help manage behavioural problems due to their role in neurotransmitter function.

Other studies have linked poorer reading ability with low levels of omega-3 and supplementation was linked to improved memory function. 

Salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, trout, sardines and herring are great sources of omega-3 oils and should be eaten once a week.  Try substituting one of your child’s meat dishes to include one of these healthy fish choices with family-friendly recipes.

Meal idea: Tuna sandwiches, or sandwiches with salmon salad – canned salmon mixed with reduced-fat mayo or non-fat plain yogurt, raisins, chopped celery, and carrots make a great lunch.

3. Oats, cereals & whole grain breads

Packed with carbohydrates, whole grains provide essential glucose and energy to fuel the brain. They are also full of vitamin E, zinc, and B-complex vitamins, which nourish a healthy nervous system.  Numerous studies have shown that a breakfast filled with whole grains improves short-term memory and attention, when compared with refined carbohydrates or no morning meal at all.  Whole grains are found in oats, granary bread, rye, wild rice, quinoa and buckwheat. Whole grain foods are also high in fiber, which regulates glucose supply into the body.  So, why not try and start your child’s days with whole grain cereals, breads or oats? 

Meal idea: Whole grain crackers with tasty toppings such as cheese, mashed avocado or banana are a great treat; hummus or a bean dip with whole grain pita is an easy and quick idea for lunch boxes; or swap rice for whole wheat couscous for dinner.

4.  Berries 

Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries, mulberries, goji berries, etc.) are lunch-box-friendly and packed with vitamins that help boost memory and cognitive functioning.  They are also great sources of natural sugars and fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system. “In general, the more intense the color, the more nutrition in the berries,” says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, a St. Petersburg, Fla. consultant and ADA spokeswoman…  

Berries boast high levels of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which may help prevent cancer. Studies have shown improved memory with the extracts of blueberries and strawberries.  “But eat the real thing to get a more nutritious package,” Krieger says. “The seeds from berries are also a good source of omega-3 fats.”

Meal idea: Add berries to veggies that may need a flavor boost — like sliced sweet cherries with broccoli or strawberries with green beans.  Toss berries into a green salad. You can also add berries to yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or dips. For a light dessert, top a mound of berries with nonfat whipped cream.

5. Beans

High in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals, beans are an excellent food choice for your kids.  Beans are special because they have energy from protein and complex carbs — and fiber — plus lots of vitamins and minerals.  “These are an excellent brain food since they keep a child’s energy and thinking level at peak all afternoon if they enjoy them with lunch.” Krieger says. Kidney and pinto beans contain more omega-3 fats than other beans which we know are important for brain growth and function.  Not only do they release energy slowly which keeps children filled with energy, it will help them concentrate in the classroom.

Meal idea: Sprinkle beans over salad and top with salsa.  Mash vegetarian beans and spread on a tortilla – and add shredded lettuce and low-fat cheese.  Mixing beans in spaghetti sauce or swapping them occasionally for meat will also make a good dinner choice.

6. Milk, yogurt & cheese

Milk, yogurt and cheese are nutritious and packed with protein and B-vitamins which are essential for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters and enzymes which all play an important role in the brain.  Another benefit is that these foods are high in calcium which is vital for the growth of strong and healthy teeth and bones. Children have different requirements for calcium depending on their age, but you should aim to include two to three calcium-rich sources a day.  

Meal idea:  Low-fat milk over cereal – and calcium – and vitamin D-fortified juices – are easy ways to get these essential nutrients.  If your child isn’t a lover of milk, don’t worry, as there are other ways that you can add dairy into the diet: use milk instead of water when making porridge, puddings or pancakes.  Cheese sticks and yogurt are great snacks and usually popular with children.

7.  Meat (or alternative meat)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends meat as a first food because it’s such a great source of protein, zinc, iron, and fat.  Plus, a developing brain needs more saturated fat than an adult one. Iron is an essential mineral that helps kids stay energized and concentrate at school.  Lean beef is one of the best absorbed sources of iron. In fact, just 1 ounce per day has been shown to help the body absorb iron from other sources. 

Meal idea: Meatballs on spaghetti, healthy spring rolls, or mini beef and mushroom burgers are great kid-friendly choices for your child (and adults love that, too!). For vegetarians, black bean and soy burgers are great iron-rich meatless options.  Eat tomatoes, red bell peppers, orange juice, strawberries, and other “Cs” with beans to get the most iron.

7 most important social skills for kids

7 most important social skills for kids

Good social skills allow kids to enjoy better peer relationships.  But the benefits of robust social skills reach far beyond social acceptance.  Children with better social skills are likely to reap immediate benefits. For example, a 2019 study found that good social skills may reduce stress in children who are in daycare settings.

Why developing social skills is important?

Being away from family places stress on children, and not having the social skills to interact with others likely compounds that stress.  The researchers found that children experienced a decrease in cortisol once they learned new social skills. Additionally, kids who can get along well with peers are likely to make friends more easily.  According to a 2015 study published in the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, childhood friendships are good for kids’ mental health.

Friendships also give children opportunities to practice more advanced social skills, like problem-solving and conflict resolution.

Good social skills can also help kids have a brighter future.  According to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, a child’s social and emotional skills in kindergarten might be the biggest predictor of success in adulthood.  Researchers from Penn State and Duke University found that children who were better at sharing, listening, cooperating and following the rules at age five were more likely to go to college.  They were also more likely to be employed full-time by age 25.

The children who lacked social and emotional skills were more likely to have substance abuse issues, relationship issues, and legal trouble.  They were also more likely to depend on public assistance. Fortunately, social skills can be taught. It’s never too soon to start showing kids how to get along with others.  And it’s never too late to sharpen their skills either. Learn the most important social skills for kids to learn and how you can help teach them.

1. Sharing

A willingness to share a snack or share a toy can go a long way to helping kids make and keep friends.  According to a 2010 study published in Psychological Science, children as young as age two may show a desire to share with others—but usually only when their resources are abundant.

However, children between the ages of three and six are often selfish when it comes to sharing resources at a cost to themselves.  For example, a child with only one cookie might be reluctant to share half with a friend since it means he’ll have less to enjoy. On the other hand, he might readily share a toy that he’s no longer interested in playing with.

Around age seven or eight, most children become more concerned with fairness and are more willing to share.  Furthermore, research shows sharing and positive well-being are related. Overall, studies show children who feel good about themselves are more likely to share.  Sharing also makes them feel good about themselves. So teaching them to share may be key to boosting their self-esteem.

How to practice
While you may not want to force your child to share certain toys or with certain children, you can make it a habit to point out sharing when you see it.  Praise your child for sharing and label how it makes others feel. Say something like, “You chose to share your snack with your sister. I bet she feels happy about that.  That’s a nice thing to do.”

2. Cooperating

Cooperating means working together to achieve a common goal.  Kids who cooperate are compliant with requests from others.  They also contribute, participate, and help out.

Good cooperation skills are essential for successfully getting along within a community.  Your child will need to cooperate with classmates on the playground as well as in the classroom.  Cooperation is important as an adult, too. Most work environments thrive on employees’ ability to work together as a team.  Cooperation is key in romantic relationships as well. By about age three and a half, young children can begin to work with their peers on a common goal.  For children, cooperation may involve anything from building a toy tower together to playing a game that requires everyone to participate. Some may take a leadership position while others will feel more comfortable following orders.  Either way, cooperation is a great opportunity for kids to learn more about themselves.

How to Practice
Talk about the importance of teamwork and how jobs are better when everyone pitches in.  Create opportunities for the whole family to work together. Whether you assign everyone a specific job when you’re making a meal or you assign specific chores that are integral to the family, emphasize the importance of cooperation often.

3. Listening

Listening isn’t just about staying quiet – it means really absorbing what someone else is saying.  Listening is a critical component of healthy communication.

After all, much of the learning in school depends on a child’s ability to listen to what the teacher is saying.  Absorbing the material, taking notes, and thinking about what is being said will become even more important as your child advances academically.

It’s essential that your child grows up knowing how to listen to the boss, a romantic partner, and friends.  It may be an even more difficult skill to master in the age of digital devices since so many people tend to stare at their smartphones when they’re engaged in conversation.

How to Practice
When reading a book to your child, periodically stop and ask her to tell you about what you’re reading.  Pause and say, “Tell me what you remember about the story so far.” Help her fill in any gaps she’s missing and encourage her to keep listening as you continue.  Additionally, don’t allow her to interrupt others when they’re talking.

4. Following Directions

Kids who struggle to follow directions are likely to experience a variety of consequences.  From having to redo their homework assignments to getting in trouble for misbehavior, not following directions can be a big problem.

Whether you tell your child to clean his room or you’re telling him how to improve his soccer skills, it’s important for kids to be able to take direction – and follow instructions.  Before you can expect your child to get good at following directions, however, it’s essential that you become well-versed in giving directions.

For example, don’t give a young child more than one direction at a time.  Instead of saying, “Pick up your shoes, put your books away and wash your hands,” wait until he picks up his shoes before giving the next command.

Another mistake to avoid is phrasing your directions as a question.  Asking, “Would you please pick up your toys now?” implies that he has the option to say no.  Once you’ve given your child directions, ask him to reflect back what he said. Ask, “What are you supposed to do now?” and wait for him to explain what he heard you say.

It’s normal for young kids to get distracted, behave impulsively, or forget what they’re supposed to do.  View each mistake as an opportunity to help him sharpen his skills.

How to Practice
Praise your child for following directions by saying things like, “Thank you for turning off the TV the first time I told you to.”  If your child struggles to follow directions, give him opportunities to practice following simple commands. Say things like, “Please pass that book to me,” and then provide immediate praise for following directions.

5. Respecting Personal Space

Some kids are close talkers.  Others crawl up into the laps of acquaintances without any idea that the other individual feels uncomfortable.  It’s important to teach kids how to respect other people’s personal space.

Create household rules that encourage kids to respect other people’s personal space.  “Knock on closed doors,” and “Keep your hands to yourself,” are just a few examples.

How to Practice
Teach your child to stand about an arm’s length away from people when he’s talking.  When he’s standing in line, talk about how close to be to the person in front of him and talk about keeping his hands to himself.  You might role-play various scenarios to help him practice describing appropriate personal space.

6. Making Eye Contact

Good eye contact is an important part of communication.  Some kids struggle to look at the person they’re speaking to.  Whether your child is shy and she prefers to stare at the floor or she simply won’t look up when she’s engrossed in another activity, emphasize the importance of good eye contact.

If your child struggles with eye contact, offer quick reminders.  Ask, “Where do your eyes go when someone is talking to you?” Then provide praise when your child remembers to look at someone when they’re talking.

How to Practice
You might even show him how it feels to hold a conversation with someone who isn’t making eye contact.  Tell him to tell you a story while you stare at the ground, close your eyes, or look everywhere except for at him.  Then, invite him to tell another story and make appropriate eye contact while he’s talking. Afterward, discuss how it felt for him in each scenario.

7. Using Manners

Saying please and thank you and using good table manners can go a long way toward helping your child gain attention for the right reasons.  Teachers, other parents, and other kids will respect a well-mannered child. Of course, teaching manners can feel like an uphill battle sometimes.  From burping loudly at the table to acting ungratefully, all kids will let their manners go out the windows sometimes.

It is important, however, for kids to know how to be polite and respectful—especially when they’re in other people’s homes or at school.

How to Practice
Be a good role model with your manners.  That means saying, “No, thank you,” and “Yes, please,” to your child on a regular basis.  And make sure to use your manners when you’re interacting with other people. Offer reminders when your child forgets to use her manners and praise her when you catch her being polite.

Social skills aren’t something your child either has or doesn’t have.  It’s a set of skills that will need ongoing refinement as he grows older.  Look for teachable moments where you can help him do better. Start with the most basic social skills first and keep sharpening your child’s skills over time.


5 tips to stay connected with your teenagers

5 tips to stay connected with your teenagers

It’s not easy to raise a young teen.  Many outside influences distract our children and complicate our efforts.  In a 1996 study of 220 tweens and teens between 5th and 12th grade, the proportion of waking hours that those kids spent with their families dropped from 35% to 14%.

While it’s always been challenging for families to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, today’s parents face an additional challenge of raising teens who have grown up as digital natives.

Family psychologist Michael Riera reveals that in every teen there are two very different people: the regressed child and the emergent adult.  The emergent adult is seen at school, on the playing field, in his first job, and in front of his friends’ families. Unfortunately, his parents usually see only the regressed child-moody and defiant-and, if they’re not on the lookout, they’ll miss seeing the more agreeable, increasingly adult thinker in their midst.

“So, what can I do to be a good parent for my early adolescent child?”

To answer that big questions, we suggest some ideas for parents to reconnect with their teenager and keep that connection even in today’s often-crazy world.

1. Listen.  Empathize. Keep advice to a minimum.

It doesn’t matter how good your advice is.  Every time you offer it, you’re giving your teen the message that he can’t solve his problems himself.  Be a sounding board, not a prescriber, and you’ll find your teen coming back for more. Don’t take it per-sonally if your teen isn’t always in the mood to talk, or if he or she wants to be alone with his or her friends.  Teens have the right to privacy (within safe limits), just as you do.

2. Be available when your teen wants to talk

For most teens, that means late at night over a snack.  You’ll be amazed at how much more your teen will open up in the wee hours.  Most kids don’t keep an agenda and bring things up at a scheduled meeting. And nothing makes them clam up faster than pressing them to talk.  Kids talk when something is up for them, particularly if you’ve proven yourself to be a good listener, but not overly attached to their opening up to you.  (If you push them to open up, they feel they have to defend their independence by keeping secrets from you.)

Find ways to be in proximity where you’re both potentially available, without it seeming like a demand.  This may seem obvious, but stating your availability invites contact that might not otherwise occur: “I’ll be in the study working if you want me” or “I have to run to the grocery store, but don’t hesitate to call my cell phone if you need me.”

The most important part of staying available is your state of mind.  Your child will sense your emotional availability. Parents who have close relationships with their teens often say that as their child has gotten older, they’ve made it a practice to drop everything else if their teen signals a desire to talk.  This can be difficult if you’re also handling a demanding job and other responsibilities, of course. But kids who feel that other things are more important to their parents often look elsewhere when they’re emotionally needy. And that’s our loss, as much as theirs.

3. Have a teen-friendly house

Make their friends welcome in your home, even the friends you don’t particularly like.  Teenagers often see their friends in a different light when they see them in their own homes.  As you get to know the youngsters who visit your home better, you may come to like those about whom you first had doubts.  Most importantly, if your teenager feels comfortable asking friends to hang out at your house, they will tend to spend more time there.  You will find it easier to know what interests them, what they talk about and, hopefully, to be part of the conversation.

Most teenagers prefer working with other teens on almost everything, including homework.  If your home is a comfortable place for teenagers to work together on homework, your teen will be more apt to complete his or her homework.  Invite them in, provide a place for them to study together and give help when asked.

4. Place a premium on relationships in your family by spending some time together every single day

Constantly look for opportunities to do things together, such as shopping, attending sport events, travel, or movies… Whether it’s five minutes at bedtime or washing the dishes together after dinner, make sure you have time to connect with your teen every day. 

 If your teen is resistant to spending time with you, develop routines where you share something that your teen enjoys doing: play a game of ping pong or have a cup of tea together every night, take a walk for ice cream on Monday evenings, make brunch together or play some basketball on Sunday mornings.  Kids often wait for these routine times with their parents to bring up something that’s bothering them. Don’t expect your son or daughter to invite closeness or volunteer vulnerable emotions at each interaction, or when you expect it. But if you set up enough regular opportunities to be together, it will happen. 

5. Last but not least, remember that your teen’s fierce need for independence doesn’t mean he can’t stay connected to you

If you can let your teen exercise his own judgment and be himself, rather than who you want him to be, he’ll be able to grow into age-appropriate independence without cutting you off.  If, on the other hand, you insist that he plays the sport you love or that she agrees with your political views, your teen will have to choose between a relationship with you and his or her integrity.

Your teen is constantly squashing his dependency needs so that he can function independently in a demanding environment.  Your presence, with all of its comforting reassurance and warmth, signals to him that he can relax and let down his guard.   You’re not “encouraging dependency.” You’re “allowing” the dependency that is there anyway, and will otherwise go undercover.

“As we well know, a hallmark of adolescence is resistance.  Just as crying exercises a baby’s lungs, resistance exercises adolescents’ abstract reasoning skills…  No longer able to physically contain or comfort them, our only hope is to stay in touch… rather than trying to prevail or curtail, we need only strive for connection itself.” – Jennifer Marshall Lippincott, 7 Things Your Teenager Won’t Tell You 

Additional tips on staying connected

 Communication and understanding are crucial to cultivate respect from your teenagers.  The Learning Network ( suggests these helpful hints.
– Keep communicating with your teens, even if they don’t seem to be listening.  Talk about topics that interest them.
– Respect and ask their opinions
– Give them privacy.  That doesn’t mean you can’t knock on their door when you want to talk.
– Set limits on their behavior based on your values and principles.  They will grudgingly respect you for this.
– Continually tell them and show them you believe in who they are rather than what they accomplish
– Seek professional help if your teen’s abnormal behaviors last more than three weeks

Early adolescence can be a challenging time for children and parents alike.  Even though we know our kids need to pull away from us during the teen years in order to build their own identities, it’s hard not to take personally the smirks and snarkiness that are the hallmarks of this stage of development.  But whatever the challenges, we share one aim: to do the best job possible as parents. We hope these tips helpful for you to achieve this goal. And whenever you feel like you’re the one doing all the work, try to remember that this phase will usually pass!



What to do when your child is not kind?

What to do when your child is not kind?

Kindness is the virtue of thinking of others — caring about their feelings, needs, and happiness.  As parents, we want our children to be kind, thoughtful, and empathetic to those around them — and it can be hard to know how to respond most effectively when they are not.

Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, ran the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.  In the study, about 80 percent of the youth said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others.  The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

You may not think that you need to be teaching your child to be kind.  However, like reading and writing, emotional intelligence doesn’t come naturally to all children.  “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

Some children miss the subtle signs that they are upsetting those around them.  Some children have a hard time putting themselves in other people’s shoes. Some children have a hard time knowing how to be kind.  So, how do you help teach your kids to be kind and not turn into a bully? There are some easy steps to build empathy and kindness in your children.

1. Make caring for others a priority

It’s not enough to tell kids that kindness is important – they need to hear that it’s the most important.  Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others.  But children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. Make sure that everyone in the family is held to high standards in relation to the way they treat each other.  They should learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friends who is bullied.

A big part of that is holding your child to high ethical expectations, such as honoring her commitments, even if it makes she unhappy. She can be angry, grumpy, stressed or tired, but speaking to anyone disrespectfully is a no-go. 

She’ll slip up and so will you – none of us are beacons of kindness all the time, but when you snap or hiss, apologise as soon as you can so she can see how it’s done and that it’s really okay to admit that we get it wrong sometimes.

2. Correct aggression — clearly and with feeling

A study of toddlers 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years of age observed how they responded to another toddler’s crying on the playground.  About a third of the toddlers offered comfort or help; the rest did not. 

The compassionate toddlers, the researchers found, had mothers who were warm and nurturing.  These mothers had also taken it very seriously if their own child had hurt someone in the past. When your child’s behavior is affecting those around her – point it out.  Let your child know how she affecting others without shaming her. For example, a 2-year-old girl who responded compassionately to the crying child on the playground had once pulled another little girl’s hair.  When she did that, her mother had responded: “You hurt Amy!” (pointing out the consequence) “Pulling hair hurts!” (an instructive generalization) “NEVER pull hair” (a small moral absolute). This combination of clear teaching and emotional concern sent a strong message to the child: Hurting is a big deal.  As a result, this child was subsequently disposed to take it seriously and respond compassionately when she saw another child crying on the playground.

3. Guide children in managing destructive feelings

Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.  If your child is angry, let her know that you can see this and hold her in the space without having to change it or solve the original problem.  Just hold the feeling. We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.  Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her.  After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.

4. Teach your children the joy of helping others

Be an example for your child and help strangers, friends and family.  Let her know that it feels good to help others – even if you get nothing back.  Set up opportunities for her to help others as a family. Ask her to help with dinner, feed the family pet, read a story to a younger sibling, help with lunches.

On the other hand, it’s also important to help children learn to care about someone outside the circle of their family and friends.  Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable.  It helps them to be aware of their shared humanity. Talk to them about what’s happening in different cities, countries and cultures and about different social issues. Let them see you show concern when kids on the other team get hurt, or ask them how the new child in class is going and what they can do to help them feel included, even if it’s just making an effort to say hello.  Make sure they’re friendly and grateful to everyone who helps them, whether it’s the waiter, the bus driver, the tuckshop helper or the young guy who packs your groceries.

5. Read books that cultivate kindness

With all kids and especially with kids for whom kindness doesn’t come naturally, good books can be one of our best allies.  There are scores of books, fiction and nonfiction, with strong character themes. The more kids read them – with us or on their own – the more they’ll be immersed in goodness and attracted to it.

Books take them into other worlds where they can learn from the good and bad examples of the story characters, vicariously experience the consequences of the moral choices these characters make, and then transfer those learnings to their own lives.  An 11-year-old boy, after reading C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, talked about Edmund:

“He was deceitful by lying to his siblings.  I’ve been deceitful by lying about breaking something — I blamed it on my brother. I wouldn’t do that again.”We can facilitate this kind of transfer from books to life by pausing during a read-aloud to reflect on times when we and our child may have shown the virtue or vice exhibited by a character in the story.  Children’s books that depict peer cruelty and exclusion and everyone’s need for friendship, such as The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and Wonder by R. J. Palacio, are especially good for this kind of parent-child sharing of experiences.  Also refer to our article of “The best books to teach our kids to be kind” as another important resource, where you can show many inspiring ways people do good for others.  This gives us an opening for talking with our kids about how we too can make a positive difference in the world.

Most of us would be shocked if we heard our children were treating others unkindly.  However, there’s no shame in having a child who is a bully, the shame lies in suspecting your child is a bully and ignoring it.  If we want our children to be caring, respectful and responsible people, we have to raise them that way. With love, attention and guidance, even the harshest bully can become someone kind of wonderful.