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Growth mindset for parents with Rebecca Weiner

The following blog post has been pulled from a video interview with Rebecca Weiner of Learn, Play, Grow Consulting.

Zoie: Rebecca is here today to talk with us a little bit about our mindset, as parents, as we head back into the school year. I know a lot of us had a hit to mental health and mindset, as we've gone through virtual learning, hybrid learning, trying to figure out childcare during all these really crazy times. And so I think this is gonna be a great conversation to hopefully help us get some actionable tips for back-to-school mindset as parents. Let me tell you a little bit about Rebecca, and then we're gonna get started. Rebecca is a dynamic educator and creator of learn, play grow. She helps young children with diverse abilities, and their parents, teachers and school, connect, communicate and learn with confidence. Rebecca specializes in play-based learning, parent coaching, early communication and development support, and consulting and inclusion support in schools.

Alright, Rebecca, let's get down to it. We're headed back to school, and it's complex, challenging, and scary. What should we be focusing on from a parenting perspective as we head into the new school year?

Focus on a mindset of grace and new beginnings

Rebecca: So your mindset as we go into this big transition will be their anchor and their compass. So let's talk about what you need. First and foremost, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room, there is so much uncertainty. We don't know what this year will hold. But we can learn to hold space for all the feels. And to remind our children that whatever comes we're going to figure it out together.

So let's talk about giving grace and allowing new beginnings, as we're heading back to school. And we have to remember that the past does not determine the future. Perhaps your child struggled last year or you got off on the wrong foot with a teacher last year. That doesn't mean that it's going to happen this year. When we give grace we allow new beginnings, everybody gets a fresh start. So here's what we know for sure. This is going to be messy. Most beginnings are imperfect and messy. But that's how you begin again. So my number one tip is get into a mindset of grace and new beginnings. Be ready for the mess and the imperfection and know that the best thing that you can do is hold space for the feelings and promise your children that you're going to get through it together. Whatever happens.

Zoie: I love that. And what a big lesson for kids as well. To hold space for the fact that it is not going to be perfect. And perfection is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Rebecca: Yes. Yes, that's a hard-won wisdom as adults, so we can set our children up for success. The only thing we know for sure is that we don't know. But we'll have the courage to ask the questions together.

Dealing with BIG feelings as parents

Zoie: Some of us are experiencing a lot of really big feelings like anxiety, fear, and anger when it comes to certain parts of our kids' education...maybe it's not going the way that we feel it should go. What do we need to do with all of those emotions?

Rebecca: Well, first, we need to remind ourselves that everything we feel is okay. It might not feel okay, but judging our feelings doesn't help us get through them. We have to feel them to heal them. So I'm a big proponent of holding space and holding space means You're allowed to feel whatever you feel - nothing is right, nothing is wrong. But you become your own safe space and you become the Safe Harbor for your children, whatever they're feeling, it can be shared.

Now, I know some parents who are positively elated to send their children back to in-person school, because they feel the need to surgically remove their children from their bodies, and have some specs. And that is fantastic if that's you. I also know some parents that are devastated to be away from their children for the first time in so long, and other parents who are stressed to the max trying to get school supplies and anticipating the dreaded science fair. And whether you're elated or stressed or dreading or uncertain. It's all okay. But here's the mindset for parents. When you get support for those feelings, make sure you're getting it from another grown-up. Because when our children hear us say, "I can't wait for my kids to go back to school, I need to get away from them." They might hear "my parents don't want me here". And when we say, "Oh, I'm so stressed about all the things I have to do for my kids", our kids might hear "I'm a burden". Now there are things that are totally appropriate to talk to your kids about, let's talk about COVID protocols, and who's going to be in our carpool and what we want in our lunches. Those are all great conversations to directly engage your children. But I encourage you, when you're holding space for emotion and seeking support, make sure you get that from another adult so that children don't have to hold your feelings and their feelings at the same time.

Zoie: It's hard in that moment, to not express that feeling. And is there an appropriate way for us to show our kids some of those hard feelings without making them take them on themselves? If you are stressed about the back-to-school shopping, and getting all those things done for your child? Is there an appropriate way for us to express that to our kids to let them know that it's okay to be overwhelmed?

Rebecca: It is okay to be overwhelmed. And we're going to talk about normalizing challenge and learning from mistakes. Because it's perfectly healthy to say "getting school supplies is a good challenge". That's a phrase that my little learners and I use, it sounds a lot better than "really hard". "Well, I'm thinking a lot about getting school supplies and need to get organized. So I know how best to help you." It's okay to own your feelings. And it's okay to own your uncertainty. But when we express it in a way where children might internalize that they're a burden, that becomes problematic. So "I'm stressed about getting school supplies, and not about you". Or "I'm overwhelmed with all the things that we need to do. I've made a to do list let's divide and conquer." So we're encouraging our kids to participate in this. So we're walking the journey together.

Parenting kids through big feelings

Rebecca: There's one more tool I want to share. Our kiddos also have big feelings. And when our kiddos have big feelings, we can co-regulate literally, we're going to model for them how to self-regulate. So when they lose their stuff, we tend to lose our stuff, which doesn't work very well. Because if they can't handle their stuff, what makes us think that they can handle our stuff. Losing our stuff with our children is not a good storage solution for our stuff. So they get upset, we can co-regulate by taking deep breaths, by staying calm by holding space for those feelings and knowing that we're going to have an adult outlet later. And when our kids are up here and they're screaming, and they're yelling, and they're freaking out and they're panicking, we're down here, and we're staying calm. There's no reason to feed the squirrels, we're just going to be there safe, calm, and constant. And when they come down, that's when the teachable moment happens. That's when we have a rational conversation. But Dan Siegel, who's a great thinker in the world of child development talks about the brain in the palm of your hand. And when kids flip their lid, their prefrontal cortex is offline, and they're just in their primal limbic system. This happens for adults, too. That's not the time to try to have a conversation. Let's wait until everybody's calm, and that's the teachable moment. Same thing for grownups. Sometimes we need to take a grown-up timeout. If we think we're going to flip our lid with all our big feelings. It's okay to step's better than say something that we would regret.

Advocating for your child at school

Zoie: Okay, so you work with parents and schools, and all the stakeholders in those situations, what advice do you have for parents who are trying to collaborate with the school to make sure that their child who maybe has some unique needs, gets everything they need?

Rebecca: That is a great way to put it. Children with unique needs, getting everything they need. I absolutely love that. So when it comes to communication and collaboration, some clues, there's this unnecessarily adversarial relationship, and it doesn't set anybody up for success. So I encourage families that clear is kind. Be clear about who your kid is, and what your kid needs. If you're asking for specific support, whether it's your child sit in a specific place, or your child needs to wear noise-canceling headphones, or your child has an IEP or 504 plan, and they have accommodations and modifications in the curriculum. It's okay to be clear about that. And upfront, better to know now than to wait for something to go wrong, and then bring it up later. But also, when we're being clear, we also need to be kind about it. And sometimes in our rush to protect our children, and promote their education, we accidentally assault teachers. I used to be a teacher who would get mauled during carpool time, because that's when everybody wants to talk about dads moving out, and so and so lost the job, and so and so's got a terminal disease, all of which is important. But let's make sure that we also understand that teachers and administrators are doing their best.

Last year, I heard a lot from parents about "I am getting these emails from my kids teacher at eight or nine at night about how they didn't turn in their homework. What do they want me to do about I'm trying to put my kids to bed." And, of course, we hold space, and we validate - sounds like you're really frustrated that you're getting these emails at bedtime. I wonder if the teacher also being a human being a parent has just put their children to bed and this is the time they can send the email. Does the email say you need to wake your child up and have them complete this worksheet for tomorrow? Or is this email generally communicating that certain things haven't been turned in? And can be by XYZ date? So clear is kind, be an advocate and a champion for your child, but also be gracious about it, and communicate exactly what you need by when. So on that worksheet email. "Hey, Mrs. Smith just wanted to let you know Timmy has not turned in his math worksheet. It's due by Friday at 3pm. I know we can do it." Clear, simple, what he needs to do by when communicating confidence. We also don't have endless amounts of time to read endless emails.

Zoie: I always tell parents, to try to figure out exactly how the teacher prefers to be contacted. This is going to get you the results that you need and want, especially when you need a reply.

Rebecca: That is so important...communication is a circle. And often we think I sent the email, so I did my part. But if we don't bring it full circle, if you haven't gotten a response in a meaningful way, then we haven't accomplished the goal of communication. And if some people are reachable between these hours by this means, then that's what we prioritize. I love that you said that it's so important to be clear about how, when, and for what to reach people.

Zoie: I will say though, as well. So even if it doesn't get closed, if you go to whatever avenue that teacher is wanting, maybe it's text message and you have an exchange, I would send an email follow up that summarizes what you talked about and the conclusion that was reached. Because email is the best to document.

Rebecca: Yes. Which is true. and confirm understanding, because often we complete this or both communication and we think that we're agreeing, but we're not agreeing to the same thing.

How to foster growth mindset for parents and kids

Zoie: So back to the mindset piece, overall growth mindset has become really popular and parenting and education. How can we foster a healthy growth mindset with ourselves and with our kids? And do you think that that's something important?

Rebecca: Yes, yes, yes. And yes. A growth mindset for kids is so important. For those unfamiliar -growth mindset is the notion that we're always growing. And we're always learning that nothing is fixed. Some people believe "I'm just not a smart person", or "I'm just not good at sports", or "I'm a terrible parent". And then they go into the spiral of that belief, and they look for things that confirm it. growth mindset is looking for other ideas that can help us grow.

So three strategies for growth mindset for parents, one normalize struggle, we're all going to struggle, we're all going to face challenges, that doesn't make us weak, that makes us human. And how we talk about and how we respond to those challenges is such a powerful role model for our children. It's how they learn whether or not it's okay to try new things. It's how they learn whether or not to dread the stress or to know that the stress is pointing us in the direction of growth.

Number two, learn from mistakes. Mistakes are our greatest teachers, it's not a matter of if we make a mistake, it's a matter of when we make a mistake. And when we make a mistake, we haven't failed. Making mistakes doesn't make us failures, it means that we have an opportunity to learn. And it's so important that children grow up knowing that mommy Daddy, Baba Baba, whoever makes mistakes, sometimes with children, I will purposely make a mistake, I will pour the orange juice into the cereal. Oh, Ms. Beck, I made a mistake. What can I try better next time, normalize that we experienced challenge. And we make mistakes and make those mistakes, learning opportunities. That's the goal. But above all, know that who our children turned into what they're learning from us as we go is so much more important than what they turn in the core curriculum here is resilience. And Grace is the number one school supply.

Zoie: For parents who grew up in a very traditional school system and parenting system of get the grades, do the things check off the boxes? That's where I come from too. Do you have any advice on where to start? If you're just trying to make the small change, to move towards the growth mindset in parenting and away from you know, the traditional mindset.

Rebecca: My go-to practice is actually mindfulness. It's to be mindful of what I'm thinking and feeling. So I recently made a mistake. And the script in my head was how could you have done that you are such a failure? Don't you know better? And then I stopped myself. And I told myself, I'm thinking that I'm a failure because this happened. Sometimes I also asked myself what I ever talked to my student, or my parent coaching clients this way, I would never say to parents, you are morons, how could you have done that? So how can I talk to myself that way? So being mindful of what we're thinking and feeling reality checking that is if it were total failures, because we made mistakes? Or did we just do the best we could with the information we had, and it didn't turn out the way we wanted. So just a frame of mind, the mindset shifts, it happens over time, but I am on a mission to help the grownups in our children's lives, feel empowered and supported to do that. So that the children don't internalize the negative messages about themselves or their capabilities that they learned that it's okay to be human.

Zoie: Amazing. I mean, it seems so simple right? It's okay to be human. But it's so difficult.

Rebecca: Yes, I don't want to no percent believe it myself. I preach it but I'm still working on actually living with your people. I am with you. The struggle is real, but we're in it together. And you don't have to walk the journey alone.

Zoie: It's always okay to reach out to a professional, an expert like Rebecca, who can help you and help your children, thrive in this new school year and help you parent in a way that's going to help your kids get where they need to go and be happy and healthy and play.

If you’re worried about your K-8th grade student academically this school year, and wonder if an online tutor might be able to help, schedule a free consultation call with Zoie today!

About Rebecca Weiner: Rebecca A. Weiner, M.Ed. is a dynamic educator and creator of Learn Play Grow. She helps young children with diverse abilities and their parents, teachers, and schools connect, communicate, and learn with confidence. Rebecca specializes in play-based learning, parent coaching, early communication and developmental support, and consulting and inclusion support in schools.

Rebecca creates amazing content for parents. Check out her FREE power of play guide and guides for getting parents on the same page and transforming behavior.

About Zoie Hoffman: From struggling student to inspirational business leader, Zoie Hoffman’s journey has fueled an online educational movement that is helping thousands of families. Learning how to learn was the key to top honors in her degree programs, while being a military spouse and twin mom were the springboard to running a virtual tutoring program. When she realized that the need for her services far outstripped her capacity working solo, she hired other highly-qualified academic specialists to bridge that gap. Now, having blossomed in the midst of a global pandemic, Hoffman Tutoring Group is thriving and so is Zoie.

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