When students start secondary school they are usually very positive and optimistic about school. Then things can start to get harder, a bit more challenging, maybe they get a bad mark and become discouraged. Some students are able to overcome these challenges, while others let it affect their attitude and application to school.
As part of our interest in helping children improve their growth mindset, we’ve been investigating the links between positivity, resilience and academic achievement.
Negative self-talk has a large impact on a child’s ability to improve their results. For example:
A student does poorly in a maths test. Her inner voice says ‘I can’t do maths’. This feeling discourages her and she gives up on the subject. The consequence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and she fails the next maths test. You can imagine the cycle is set to repeat.
‘Positive Psychology’ is a new area in education and results are showing that children perform better in most subjects if they have a positive overall attitude.
Children need to be taught that challenges can be overcome, that intelligence is not fixed and that failure is an opportunity to identify weaknesses that can be worked on. Once a child understands that adversity is temporary and can be overcome, they develop resilience, something that has been identified as a key part of reducing the chances of depression occurring.
I can’t do it…yet!
How can we foster positivity in our children?
1. Model positive behaviours ourselves
Show good modelling behaviour when faced with a challenge. Children learn from watching us, so reacting positively to a challenge is a good start.
2. Listen empathically
Sometimes when we hear our children express a concern we try to ‘fix it’ by telling them not to worry or that things will get better. As parents we want our children to be happy, so it’s a natural response. Instead of trying to fix a problem try to empathise ‘yes, that English assignment does sound tricky, how do you think you will approach it?’ Reflecting back their emotions makes children feel heard and can often diffuse tension.
3. Look for the chance to be positive
It’s raining outside and your plans for a family day are in disarray. Rather than moan and sigh, get the family to come up with some fun alternatives. Congratulate yourselves for turning your day around.
4. Express gratitude
Play a daily game of ‘Highs and Lows’ with your family. Ask each person to share a high and a low from their day. It’s a great way of keeping the lines of communication open as well as making time to catch up on the day’s news.
5. Use empowering language
Phrases like ‘You can do it’ and ‘I believe in you’ can have a positive affect on a child’s frame of mind when tackling a problem. Or an adult’s for the that matter!
What strategies would you try?