Tips and Tools for Parents: Supporting Your Child’s Growth

January 8, 2015

Op-Ed, Mr. Brian Ashton, Teton Middle School Principal.

TMS Tips and Tools for Parents

Why is it that some people seem to thrive and flourish? Is it our DNA, our past exper

TMS Tips and Tools for Parents, Brian Ashton, Teton Middle School Principal 

As appeared in Teton Valley News Op Ed

Why is it that some people seem to thrive and flourish? Is it our DNA, our past experiences and decisions, nature vs. nurture, our attitudes and beliefs, or a bizarre combination of them all? What makes us . . . well . . . us? And, despite all the things that impact and shape us, is it possible to live a life filled with meaning, growth, and joy? I believe the answer to this question is yes – and it starts with growth.

When did we Stop Growing?

If you have ever watched a toddler learn to walk, they have a wild-eyed look that says “I can’t believe how awesome this is.” It’s pure joy. If they fall, as long as they don’t bonk their head, they get right back up and go at it. The more they learn, the faster they go . . . and they love it! Can you imagine either of the following scenarios: (a) a toddler learning to walk who, if she trips, looks sheepishly around to see if anyone was watching? (b) an adult pointing a finger and making fun of that toddler for tripping (only a monster makes fun of babies).

At one point in our life we had undaunted curiosity. Learning and growth were the most natural of activities. We remember what a cool window pane feels like on our tongue, because as little children we ALL put our face on a window. The same goes for the weird dusty metal flavor of a penny in our mouth. We were not afraid to try new things, because we were learning and growing.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

In her 30 years of studying resilient children and adults, Stanford researcher Dr. Carol Dweck, found that an individual’s growth mindset had a profound impact on their resilience and quality of life. She defines a growth mindset as the belief that our talents, intelligence, character, and basic qualities can be developed through dedication and effort. Someone with a growth mindset:

·         Believes their failures and mistakes do not define them, but are simply opportunities to learn and grow.

·         Doesn’t need to prove their intelligence or talent level to others. The success of others is not a threat.

·         Knows their value and self-worth is not anchored to their last performance or test, and is not threatened by feedback.

Someone with a fixed mindset believes theirtalents, intelligence, personality, character, and basic qualities are fixed traits. Fixed mindset outcomes:

·         You spend time comparing yourself to others instead of developing your own talents, skills, and attributes.

·         You see the world in opposite black-or-white labels (e.g. smart vs. dumb; likeable vs. unlikeable; good vs. bad).

·         You measure opportunities by—Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?

(Retrieved 11/26/2012 from:

Helping our Children (and ourselves) through Challenges:

As children grow, they will find themselves in situations they hadn’t imagined possible. It is in these situations that they need to be able to say “I can grow.” It sounds unsophisticated, but the truth is, challenging times are hard, because they are HARD. A growth mindset applies to every facet of our life: when we feel the sting of regret, criticism, and embarrassment; when we view damage caused by our own actions; when we are lonely and feeling lost. These are the very times we need to remember that, growth is NOT rooted in perfection, but from really looking at our mistakes and saying –

“Wow . . . I really did do that, and it’s a little embarrassing . . . but I can grow!”