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Category Archives: Resiliency

Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success focuses on how our mindset profoundly influences the way we approach life. Rather than being a quirk in our character, our mindset creates our entire perception of what’s possible. According to Dweck, a fixed, inflexible, mindset causes us to avoid failure, at any cost, and a flexible, forgiving, mindset turns mistakes and challenges into learning opportunities. Mindset can also influence the course of shyness. She cites compelling research that suggests shyness “harmed the social interactions of people with the fixed mindset, but did not harm the social relations of people with the growth mindset”. When a child or teen with a tendency towards shyness views a social situation as a challenge rather than something to avoid, their worry and nervousness dissipates. Even though some children will warm up more slowly than others, with time their initial discomfort in meeting new people melts away.

As parents, it’s important to consistently expose our kids to new social situations, even ones that make them nervous. We don’t want to unwittingly give them the message that feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness are permanent and mean they should avoid situations that make them feel that way. Shy kids with a growth mindset can embrace the challenge of socializing with peers.

For a deeper dive into fixed and flexible mindsets, watch this video.

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In this article in Psychology Today, “Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges“, Peter Gray, PhD discusses how we’ve raised a generation of “Young people, 18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.”

There is a bit of a mixed message communicated to parents of college bound children by our educational system.  ”Stop coddling” “Allow your child to fail” “Teach your child to solve their own problems”  while at the same time perpetuating the idea that a child will not get into a “good” college without perfect test scores, a solid 4.0 average, and a college resume replete with superior extra curricular activities.  How is a parent suppose to respond to these pressures? By allowing their child to fail? To let them figure it out by themselves?   I don’t think so.

In the minds of many parents, there is way too much for their child to lose to risk getting it wrong.  Parents feel they have failed if they aren’t able to smooth the path for their child to get into a good college.  This is a long, arduous, and highly competitive path. And, it is a rare parent that has the wherewithal to think beyond high school and reflect on whether their child will have the tools and emotional resilience to cope on their own once they get to their dream school.  If failure and struggle are to be “normalized” and “growth is to be achieved by striking the right balance between support and challenge” then maybe we can hear more about colleges and universities being less focused on GPAs and test scores and more willing to accept and encourage those high school students who demonstrate a willingness to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.

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