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    How to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Kids

    Carol Dweck is a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation. In her book, “Mindset,” she  addresses why people succeed or don’t, and how to foster success through  the power of yet.

    She tells the story of a Chicago school where students had to pass a series of courses in order to graduate. If they did not successfully pass the courses they were given the grade of “not yet.” Dweck thought that was brilliant. 

    “If you get a failing grade, you feel like a failure,” she says, “But if you receive a not yet, it means you are on a growth track.”

    In an effort to more fully understand how children cope with challenge and difficulty, Dweck gave a group of 10 year olds math problems that were slightly too hard for them. Some of the children said things like, “I love a challenge,” or “I was hoping this would be informative.” Dweck says they had a growth mindset because they innately understood their abilities could be developed. 

    Another group of students thought their inability to solve the problems was tragic. They believed their intelligence was up for judgment and they failed. In fact, Dweck shared that in one study the young students said they would cheat the next time instead of studying more if they failed. They also looked for someone who did worse than they did to make themselves feel better. Dweck refers to these students as having a fixed mindset - believing that personal qualities are carved in stone, which creates an urgency to prove one’s self over and over. 

    In a TED talk about mindset, Dweck asks, “How are we raising our children? Are we raising them for now instead of not yet? Are A’s so important to them that they have no idea how to dream big dreams? Are they carrying the need for constant validation with them into their future lives?”

    Dweck contends that choosing to praise wisely would be helpful to children. Instead of praising intelligence or talent, praise progress, effort, strategies and improvement. This helps build children who are hardy and resilient.

    She also points out that equality occurs when teachers create a growth mindset in their classrooms. For example, in one year, a kindergarten class in Harlem scored in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement Test. Many of those kids could not hold a pencil when they arrived in school. Also in one year, fourth grade students in the South Bronx who were way behind became the number one fourth grade class in New York on the state’s math test. And, in a year to a year and a half, Native American students on a reservation went from the bottom of their district to the top - and that district included affluent sections of Seattle, Washington. Dweck believes this happened because the meaning of effort and difficulty were transformed. Before it made them feel dumb, but now effort and difficulty enable their neurons to make stronger connections.

    “We can change students mindsets,” Dweck says. Every time children push out of their comfort zone the neurons in their brain form new stronger connections. Students who weren’t taught this growth mindset continued to show declining grades, but those who were taught the growth mindset strategy saw their grades improve.

    Dweck received a letter from a 13-year-old boy which said, “Dear Professor Dweck, I appreciate that your writing is based on solid scientific research. That’s why I decided to put it into practice. I put more effort into my school work, into my relationship with my family and into my relationship with kids at school and I experienced great improvement in all of these areas. I now realize I wasted most of my life.”

    Are we raising children in the environment of yet?

    Once we know that people are capable of such growth, it becomes a human right for children to live in places filled with yet. Let’s not waste the time we have with the kids in our sphere of influence. Let’s teach them the importance of mindset, praise their efforts and give them amazing opportunities to grow and become the resilient children we all know they have the potential to be.

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    The Power of a Parent's Words

    Plenty of parents have been at their wits’ end when words rolled off their tongue that they later wished had remained unspoken. In fact, at some point you've probably even told yourself, “You’re an idiot,” or “How stupid can you be?” Have you ever thought about how impactful your words really are?

    “Our words create our world,” says Dr. Justin Coulson, father of six and best-selling author of 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know and 9 Ways to a Resilient Child.

    “Whatever direction your words lead, your mind and body will follow. We believe what we tell ourselves. Language is powerful. Words don’t just affect us and the way we see ourselves. They affect the way we see our children.”

    When Coulson asked a frustrated mother to describe her teenage daughter, the mother said things like, “She’s disrespectful, She’s wasteful. She treats our house like a hotel.” But when Coulson asked about her daughter’s strengths, the mom talked about how caring and generous her daughter was and the fact that she was a great sister. It was almost like she was describing two different people.

    “The language we use about one another, and towards each other, impacts how we see one another,” Coulson shares. Coulson suggests that sometimes we say things in a way that is not helpful and may possibly be harmful. 

    Here are some phrases Coulson encourages parents not to use, along with better ways to express the same sentiment:

    • Don’t say: “Calm down.” Say: “You are so upset.” Telling someone to calm down actually has the opposite effect. It’s dismissive and it denies emotions. Instead, focus on labeling the emotion. If you can name it, you can tame it.

    • Don’t say: “You’re so clever.” Ask: “How did you feel when…” Research indicates that praise leads to inferences of low ability. The best thing you can do is turn it back on the person/child. For instance, you could say, “Hey, you seem really happy with that outcome. Tell me what you did to get it.”

    • Don’t say: “Ugh, you’re just like your mother.” Say: “Wow, this is really challenging for you.” Avoid comparisons. Highlight what you are observing. Maybe you could say, “In these situations, you seem to struggle with…” Then offer to help.

    • Don’t say: “Because I said so.” Instead, say: “Let me tell you why this matters.” When people have a rationale for the requests we are making they are far more likely to be compliant.

    • Don’t say: “I was lousy at that.” Perhaps you could offer this:  “It’s amazing what we can do when we try.” We can promote a growth mindset (Carol Dweck has research on this) by highlighting what happens when we have a go at it, put some effort into it and work hard at something. Can’t yet doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t ever.

    • Don’t say: “Don’t be so stupid.” Say nothing. Simply pause and walk away. We don’t motivate others by making them feel lousy about themselves. If they are doing something stupid, ask them to stop. Stupid to us may not seem stupid to them. Be curious, not cranky. There is always a reason for challenging behavior.

    “Saying horrible things to others is every bit as damaging as other forms of abuse,” according to Coulson. “It affects cognitive function. Things will come out of our mouths that will hurt. The trick is to say fewer of those things and to build our children up.”

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    How You Can Make Visitation Count

    Many divorced parents face the reality of divided time with their children. Arrangements vary from weekend visitation to splitting time with each parent right down the middle. This often creates problems between the two homes: sometimes one parent is strict and the other is lenient, one parent may try to fill both parental roles, or perhaps one parent’s home is like a vacation spot.

    Occasionally, parents refuse to work together for the good of the children out of spite for each other. This sets up an environment of competition, guilt and resentment, according to stepfamily expert, Elizabeth Einstein.

    How can you work together for the best interest of your child?

    First, you must put your issues aside. It is helpful if both of you:

    • Complete a joint-parenting plan and agree on expectations and limits so that your child can’t manipulate you;

    • Work as a team to provide consistency for the children;

    • Agree not to degrade or talk negatively about each other even though you might still have unresolved issues and anger;

    • Allow the children to talk about their feelings while listening and comforting them, as they also are going through a very difficult time; and

    • Try to make home as normal a place as possible.

    Each of you should have a plan in place for how to spend your time with the children.

    • Remember to make sure it is not necessarily all fun and games, but give them the freedom to learn and get to know you better, just as they would if they lived with you all the time. It is important that the parent-child relationship does not only become one of playmate, peer or buddy when visitation time comes, but one of bonding.

    • Mentally prepare yourself for the visitation, and do not expect your kids to be cheerful and happy all the time. They are going through adjustments that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

    • Remember, no one is perfect. Do the best you know how to do. Work with your children to establish new traditions. Stick to the agreements in the joint-parenting plan, and above all, be consistent during the special times you have with your children.

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    Keys to a Smokin' Hot Marriage

    You found your “soul mate,” dated and fell madly in love. Before long you were fantasizing about what your wedding and wedding night would be like. The honeymoon was wonderful, and so were the weeks and months that followed.

    As you slowly get down to the business of marriage, tasks, opportunities, decisions and real life can hit you square in the face.

    After a couple of years, your home and roles in married life are down to a routine. Looking to the future, you suddenly realize that your romantic life has become as routine as the household chores.

    Since the routine doesn’t have the magic it once had, you wonder, "Did I really marry my soul mate?"

    “This is an all-too-familiar story for many people,” says Dr. Pat Love, author, speaker and educator. "People find this very disconcerting. They know couples who are talking divorce which makes the lack of passion in their own marriage a bit more concerning. Couples have the baby, the recession, responsibilities, job insecurity, and so many irons in the fire that the fire has gone out of the bedroom. Their commitment is strong, yet there is this gnawing worry that maybe they should be doing something to flame the embers and get the fire going again.”

    During the first two years of marriage, couples get a free dopamine ride. Everything is new and exciting and they have an elevated sex drive. But dopamine levels drop around the two-year mark, and spouses begin to wonder what is wrong. To make matters worse, they rarely talk about what is happening in their relationship.

    “These disconcerting thoughts can lead to arguments about things that don’t have anything to do with the real issue at hand – what has happened to us. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage," Love says. "If you can’t talk about it in a healthy productive way, both spouses are likely to be dissatisfied. This quickly moves to discontentment which can lead to the dissolution of a perfectly good marriage.”

    Perhaps the passion in your marriage has fizzled. If you want to make sure it stays alive, you can still fan the flames.

    Believe it or not, there are classes and events for couples on topics just like this. In a safe and fun environment, you can consider what makes you feel close to each other. You can also learn how to talk about sexuality and sensuality without being overly-sensitive or blaming.

    To learn more about fully understanding your spouse’s needs or how to deal with differences in creating passion and intimacy in your relationship, please contact us or check out our classes for married couples.