- Change Your Child’s Homework Mindset - September 8, 2016
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One of the major conflict points between parents and their kids is homework. We take a look at the tactics that you and your child can learn to improve their homework mindset.
What is Mindset?
According to Rebecca Pintre of Artemis Mindset Coaching, ‘your mindset is the set of beliefs you have about yourself, your abilities and your potential for happiness and success.’ She goes on to explain that Carole Dweck, a Stanford professor of Psychology, built a theory which puts people into one of two groups: those with a fixed mindset, and those with a growth mindset. You can read more about the fundementals of mindset here.
When it comes to homework, kids with a fixed mindset will say ‘I can’t do it. I don’t understand this at all. It’s too hard for me’. For parents, it can feel like we are in a permanent cheerleader role, waving the homework pompoms and trying not to scream in frustration. So how do you help your child flip from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset when tackling homework?
Your child will follow your lead. If you approach homework time with a deeeeeep sigh and a comment about ‘getting this over with’, and a complaint about hating homework, how do you expect your child to be enthusiastic? Ask what they’ve been learning in school and show interest in the work they’ve brought home.
Create a Homework Habit
Set a firm time for homework and stick to it. Depending on the age of the child, decide how long they should set aside. It’s a good idea to speak to their teacher, and find out how much time they should be taking.
Agree with your child that during the homework period, they will concentrate only on their homework, with no distractions or excuses. When the time is up, they can stop. If your child regularly finds themself unable to finish within the alloted time, speak to the teacher to see if they need further assistance.
Praise Effort and Progress
Carole Dweck emphasises the importance of praising EFFORT not OUTCOME. Avoid empty phrases such as ‘good job!’ or ‘well done!’ in favour of more specific praise. ‘You really worked hard to solve that maths question’.
Most educations systems are set up to focus on the end result, the test at the end of term or the exam at the end of the year. You can still praise the effort that the children took to get to that point.
If a child is feeling a bit disheartened, point out the progress they’ve already made. A friend once advised me to video my daughter playing the piano so that she can look back in a year and see how far she’s come. This gives great motivation to keep going.
When you or your child make a mistake, celebrate it as an opportunity to put it right. ‘What can we learn from this mistake?’, is a great question to ask. Mistakes can be a good thing, argues Emily Benkloff, and often lead down a completely different path.
One time I made a creamy salmon pasta dish that required a dash of white wine. I didn’t have white wine so used red wine. It still tasted fine, but it looked like blackcherry yoghurt, which was slightly off-putting. ‘I’ll know that for the next time’, I said. Much better than ‘Oh, that was stupid of me. Should have known it would discolour the sauce’.
Model Growth Mindset
How often do you say something like ‘I was really bad at maths in school’? This is modelling a fixed mindset. Try saying something like ‘I can’t remember how to do this, but I’m sure we can figure it out together.’
And don’t just restrict yourself to modelling growth mindset when you are helping with the homework. As in the example above with the salmon pasta dish, you can model growth mindset all the time. Check how you talk about yourself. Do you put yourself down? Do you say ‘Oh, I am stupid’, when you make a mistake or forget something?
I have spoken before about the way we talk to ourselves about our appearance… but it isn’t just our thoughts about our appearance that matter. Our mindset is our whole belief system – yes, how we think about the way we look and our self-confidence but also what we think about our abilities, our values, our ambition, our self-worth. The problem with the words we use to ourselves is that we don’t often consciously hear them – when we start listening we tend to stop thinking them in the first place. Then once we are no longer listening they pop back up, shaping your subconscious.
Use ‘Not Yet’
More ‘Not Yet’ encouragement.