Switching Key Habits in the Home & Homeschool: Cultivate a Growth Mindset

With engaging stories and practical advice, Switch examines the common denominators in those who make successful habit changes. The authors posit that

when change works, it tends to follow a pattern. The people who change have clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment.

So let’s look at how to apply those factors to our own home situations, particularly as we begin new routines for the school year.

Switching Key Habits in the Home & Homeschool Series
  1. Review of the book Switch
  2. Remove Lack of Clarity with Crystal-Clear Direction
    1. Leverage the Bright Spots
    2. Practice Specific Scripts
    3. Describe the Destination
  3. Overcome Exhaustion by Engaging the Emotions
    1. Find the Feeling
    2. Shrink the Change
    3. Cultivate a Growth Mindset and Build an Identity
  4. Change the Situation, Not the People

Assume a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is one that sees challenge and difficulty as an avenue for development and, well, growth. Its opposite, a fixed mindset, is one that perceives the fact of difficulty as a sign of weakness, of inability, and, ultimately, of failure. To one with a growth mindset, a challenge is an opportunity; whereas, to one with a fixed mindset, a challenge is a failure. When stated like this, it seems silly to be stuck in a fixed mindset, but I think it besets us even if we intellectually know better.

The premise underlying the fixed mindset is that life should be easy. Thus, when life isn’t easy, something is clearly deficient – us, most likely.

Children assume the fixed mindset when they slump over their math page and proclaim, “I am no good at math!” They think this because the math is hard; because they are tired of trying, they want a reason to quit. math and a fixed mindset They don’t ever say that when the math is easy. Instead of arguing with them, show them they are wrong and give them a good label to replace the bad label they are trying to stick on themselves. This is not touchy-feely self-esteemism, where there is no failure and much unfounded praise; this is good teaching and good parenting. Hand them a math page from their previous book or write down five equations that will be easy for them. Make them do them; don’t let them wallow in bad attitude: they will resist doing the easy equations, because they want to be right and they want to prove you wrong. If they protest (and they will), you have the opportunity to encourage them and show them how far they’ve come. There was a time those equations were not easy. Now they are because of hard work and perseverance. And, next year, this math page will seem easy. Right now, it takes work and perseverance. They’ve done it before and they will do it again.

Mothers assume a fixed mindset when they tell themselves that because their current stage is difficult, their capacity is maxed out. fixed v growth mindset This sounds like, “Because I’ve been super cranky since baby #3, I clearly should not have a #4.” or “Because I am so tired at the end of a day of Kindergarten, there is no way I can homeschool first grade – especially not with another toddler!” or “I have to put my oldest into middle school, because I’m just so exhausted as it is.” or “Because my house is so messy now, clearly I am just a messy person who has to get used to just living in chaos forever.” Of course there are times where making the decision to not have more children, to put kids into school, or to let the house go are legitimate and wise choices. However, sometimes we are just like the child who says he is no good at math. It is exhaustion and discouragement speaking, not wisdom.

It is possible that the tiredness and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere is because you’re in the last leg of a sprint, in the sleepy and cantankerous phase of a growth spurt. The fixed mindset looks at the next level (of math, of family life, of schooling, of whatever area of life is currently challenging) and says, “No way. This right now is already beyond me. I’m stopping here.” The growth mindset says, “I made it this far; if I stick with it, I’ll get there [or die trying, you might secretly add some days].”

Although we would all intellectually assent to the truth of the growth perspective, the fixed mindset can still perniciously discourage us with its false assumptions.

After all, we know that God has put us where we are – that nothing comes to us by chance, but from His fatherly hand – and that He will give us the grace and strength we need to grow in Christlikeness through His providential care. Balking along the way is natural, but it is also unbelief rather than faith and trust. Yet we can cry, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And He promises grace to help in time of need.

3 Responses

  1. Meredith_in_Aus
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    Excellent post, Mystie! It is helpful to know that you struggle with this yourself, but better to know that you are growing in faith.

    It has taken me so long to even get a glimmer of what God means when he says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, things unseen” but it is clearly believing the truth. How have I missed this so many times before? It is even tempting for me to wallow in how the “how long” it has taken me BUT I shall not! (That would probably be my pride speaking…) It is so much easier for me to see it in others – mainly my children – but not myself. I am thankful for the encouragement of my husband and friends (and writers!) along the way who help me see when I am not responding in faith. This is God’s grace in action.

    Have a great day.

    In Him

    Meredith

  2. Cat
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    Thank you, Mystie! Dreading a particularly tough school day today (lately they all have been), I was quickly skimming my inbox, and then did a “Woah, slow down here” with your post. This spoke to me deeply, and I know it is the wisdom I need right now to address the contrary attitude that I have been rather unsuccessfully trying to manage with bright but very independent & stubborn DS9. When harmony is absent from our relationship I completely dissolve, and loose my moorings re: what we can accomplish, how I am doing as a “teacher”, mom, human being. I am very emotional, and I think this focus on “baby steps” will help keep us more on track when the water gets rough, so I am not trying to make decisions at a point where clear-headedness isn’t possible, but rather just “following the specific script for the moment”.

  3. Lisa H.
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    Thank you! I needed that.
    I’ve self-diagnosed myself with home-school burnout, after 20 years of raising children (8 of them, home educating, etc. with literally no vacations)and have been feeling lately like the next 15 years are going to kill me! But what is this but unbelief? Has not God carried me through thus far? Is not my God bigger than my trials?
    The next time my 9-year old has a meltdown over doing the very things he did so beautifully yesterday, I’ll remind him, and myself, of where he’s (and I’ve) been and where we’re going… together! I’m grateful for your putting it all so clearly.