When I first became a mom, I had a mistaken belief that if I didn’t automatically know what to do, I was a bad mom.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over time, I discovered I could enjoy parenting more and develop strong bonds with my kids by shifting my thinking. I began to develop a growth mindset about parenting – realizing that as parents, we’re always learning. There’s no shame in not knowing the answer yet, and the only thing you want to avoid is closing yourself off to growth.
Good parenting skills are not a set-in-stone ‘gift' that some people have and others lack. Parenting skills can be learned.
Parenting with a Growth Mindset
Parenting is one area we all long to get right. Even if we're open to trial and error in other parts of our lives, we'd like to parent perfectly. And so we read and question and strive – adding one should after another to our ‘be-a-good-parent' list.
Soon, not only do we know what we should be doing, we can see all the ways we're not doing it. Or we're doing it wrong. Or we're discovering what ‘should' work according to others, doesn't work for our family.
Then the guilt descends. In this cloud of guilt and self-doubt we can no longer see a way forward. We lose trust in ourselves to make choices for our family, and get stuck going in circles on a path clouded by guilt. It is exhausting and it's the path away from growth.
By taking on a growth mindset we can find our way free of the guilt-and-judgment path and start down one that offers possibility and growth.
What's a Growth Mindset?
In her revolutionary book, Mindset Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck explains that we can adopt either a fixed or a growth mindset.
- People with a fixed mindset believe intelligence and abilities are set and spend their time trying to prove they have those traits – instead of working to improve them.
- People with a growth mindset believe intelligence and abilities can be improved through effort and hard work. This mindset lets people with a growth mindset develop resilience and a love of learning.
The neat thing is, just by knowing about the growth mindset, we can move toward having one. We don't have to know everything because everyone is capable of growing and learning.
We can try new things, let go of things if they don't work for us, laugh a little and try again. Having a growth mindset in relationships means that instead of feeling doomed if our family faces a challenge, we see it as an opportunity to grow and learn together.
Growth Mindset Relationships
Growth mindset relationships are characterized by a commitment to personal and mutual development. In these relationships, individuals believe that abilities and qualities can be cultivated and improved over time through effort and learning. Instead of seeing challenges or conflicts as threats, they try to view them as opportunities for growth and learning.
In parenting, the growth mindset helps you remember that as a parent, you're growing and learning along with your child. This mindset makes room for mistakes and imperfection. That spaciousness encourages open communication, resilience, and a willingness to work through difficulties together, ultimately strengthening family bonds.
Growth Mindset Tips for Parents
One of my biggest frustrations when I started down a path of conscious parenting, and learning to parent more positively was the feeling of reading a positive parenting idea and thinking, ‘Yeah, that would be great if I had the patience of a saint.'
Or being in a situation where I was so angry, and knowing there was probably a better way to handle the situation with my kids, but having no idea what that way might be. I'd get even more angry, guilty, and discouraged as I worried that I was handling it all wrong.
What I was missing at the time was a growth mindset. I was stuck in a fixed mindset and believed: There is a right way to parent, and when I make a mistake it means I'm failing.
Instead of the growth-oriented belief: I will keep learning and we'll get better at this.
As I began to see that indeed, I did improve in being able to handle anger, tantrums, communication and more, I developed a growth mindset in parenting and began trusting myself that I COULD keep learning.
Examples of Fixed Mindset Parenting:
- Believing you are inherently a good parent or a bad parent. Thus spending your time trying to prove to the world that you ARE a good parent
- Believing that when you make mistakes, it indicates that maybe you just aren't cut out for this job
- Expecting connected relationships with your family should happen automatically and believing that if you need to work at your relationships, it means you are failing
- Believing you are doomed to repeat mistakes from your own childhood
- Thinking personalities are fixed. For instance, “I have a bad temper so my kids will have bad tempers.”
Examples of Growth Mindset Parenting:
- Believing that good parenting skills can be learned, and it's not shameful to need to learn them
- Believing relationship and communication skills can be learned and improved
- Looking at problems and issues that arise as opportunities to learn and grow
- Trusting in the potential of parents and children to grow toward their best selves
- Giving lots of grace and expecting stumbles and imperfections to be a natural part of growth – both for yourself and for your kids
Developing a Growth Mindset in Our Relationships with Our Children
To develop a growth mindset in parenting, it's helpful to have a collection of phrases to use when you're feeling down on yourself and expecting yourself to be perfect. Look for phrases that remind you that it's totally fine and good to be learning and growing.
Here are some things you can say to yourself:
- I'm in tune with my children and I'm always looking for the adjustments we can make to improve our family life.
- I made a mistake, and I'm a big enough person to learn from it and move forward instead of clinging to something that isn't working.
- This used to work for us, or I thought this would work for us, but now it doesn't. I can make a change when things aren't working.
- You can find 10 more phrases to help you develop a growth mindset in parenting here.
Every time you make a mistake, every time you fall flat on your parenting face, you are opening the door to a new opportunity to learn. What a great example of life-long learning! Isn't that what we want our children to see? We can show them how to continue learning and growing all through their lives.
Growth mindset parenting transforms your relationships and your experience for the better.