How To: Growth Mindset 101

What happens at Denver airport, during the holidays, after 130+ flight cancellations, with two kids, a tired mom, and no checked bags – stays at Denver airport.

Our most recent jaunt through Denver International was an experience to say the least. Hubby had driven back a day earlier (his work schedule is pretty tight). The kids and I headed back to the airport the next day. We had been visiting my dad in Arizona. It was a great Thanksgiving. Lots of food and family. We were in the holiday bubble, completely unaware of the events taking place in Colorado. Little did we know there were mass flight cancellations and delays happening due to intense fog as we laid our heads down to rest that Black Friday.

We flew out of Tucson early Saturday morning. The thought of checking in on Denver’s status had not remotely crossed my mind. As the first leg of our long flight home landed, I turned my cellphone back on and one of the many missed messages was a notification that our half hour layover had become a 2 hour layover. No biggy, or so I thought. I actually like a little bit of a wait. It gives me a chance to grab a coffee, get the kids a snack and potty break, and we don’t need to feel rushed.

As we looked around us, we saw a number of people sleeping in corners, nestled up atop their bags… It just barely made me wonder – but I quickly moved on from any thoughts about “what if” or “should I be concerned”. We hadn’t checked any bags, so the three of us were lugging one carry-on and one personal bag each. We were getting hungry and I needed a coffee bad. When one of the kids noticed the train below us, I explained it was like a subway to get people from terminal to terminal.

I had not expected the kids to get SO excited at the thought of going on it. We didn’t even need to. We were already at our terminal. Then my phone dinged – another delay. So I said why not. We literally have NOTHING else to do and I need these kids occupied. So we hopped on a train and just rode it to the end of the line. It was not a far trip, but the kids were eating it up.

Normally, if hubby had been with us, he would have had us all hunker down at our gate (which was a fluid concept at the time) and just sat in the one spot until our flight was ready. I, however, love airports and since our kiddos had only flown once before, it was still magical to them. So we rode the trains. We had a blast. I used the opportunity to have my son (oldest) tell us which train would take us where and find it on the map. My daughter just loved watching all the people, a number of which had dogs with them. They were both getting a controlled and safe experience with independence in a setting I could manage – or so I thought…

At this point, our half hour layover had become a four hour layover. It was to the point we had stopped laughing about it. I knew the train thing would only last so long. But, then, we did the unthinkable and we did it completely by accident. We got on what we had decided would be our last ride until we got some lunch. Whoops. We accidentally took the train that really did take us to the end – I mean outside of secured areas kind of end. A massive pit formed in the bottom of my stomach.

Oh shit, I thought to myself. Keep calm. Don’t freak out the kids… Keep it together.

I kid you not – the line to get through security surpassed ANYTHING I’d EVER seen at Disneyland, anything I’d seen ever. It was easily a four or five hour long line to get through security.

Oh….shi…… 😦

I felt light headed all of a sudden as we wound our way around the building and still never saw the end of the line. This beast had multiple intersections. There were security and police roaming to keep everyone in order. Even with our delays, we still wouldn’t make it through that in time for our flight.

I’m not going to lie – I was sincerely starting to panic. I started kicking myself, this never would have happened if hubby had been with us.

I stopped. Pulled it together. I KNEW there was a solution here and dammit I was going to find it. We passed the TSA Approved line (it had maybe ten people in it). I tried to ask the security guy guarding it if, in our exact predicament, we could go through. Before I could get anything out, he barked, “Have you had the background checks done already?” I didn’t want to lie, so he quickly pointed us back the other way. The scary way…

I was determined to find a way into that line. I started feeling like a woman from steerage on the Titanic trying to get to a life boat. Then! My eyes crossed paths with a guy – no idea who he was. He just had an airport shirt on with a question mark. I had a question. A desperate, pleading, dyer question that I hoped he would answer the way I needed him to.

He must have sensed the panic brewing in me because he took me right to the TSA line, told the guy I was clear and we were on our way. I swore to him we had already been through security and just got on the wrong terminal train. He was SO understanding.

I truly hope that guy had a beautiful Christmas/Holiday season.

As the kids and I sat and ate our lunch right after that, safely near our gate, we laughed about how wrong that could have gone, what we learned, and what we enjoyed. I tried to explain how we could have had a fixed mindset which would have led us down the path of waiting in that HORRIBLE line. Instead, with our growth mindset, we were able to find a solution. Yes, we had to try a few times, but we didn’t give up. We made it work. It worked because we tried, we stayed calm, and we focused on the solution instead of the problem.

After all of this, our flight was delayed a total of seven times. We waited in the airport at least nine hours. The kids were champs. We agreed never to speak of our near “death” experience. But as I’ve thought about it, it seems like a story that needs to be told. We loved the adventure. And, despite the momentary scare, we lived, we learned, we grew and bonded. Overall, it’s a happy ending to a long, long day.

Holiday Stress Relief

The countdown is in full swing. Kids are amped for their winter break. Your parents, in-laws, siblings – they are all in-bound as we speak. You still have to get the house ready, wrap stuff, bake all the things, and take care of the regular to-dos. Yay for the holidays….

Right?

First of all, remember one thing – you are a part of the holidays as an equal member of the family. Under no circumstances should you be stuck with taking on all the responsibilities. Are you laughing right now? I get it. I’m the same way. A lot of us are natural handlers. We see what needs to get done and we do it. But I’m telling you – take on too much, add holiday stress, and boom – recipe for disaster.

Here are 3 tips that will lift at least a little of your holiday stress so you too can sit back with some adult egg nog and actually enjoy the holidays.

  1. Despite what Pinterest and all the Magnolia, Martha Stewart, and others make us believe – The entire house does NOT need to look like Restoration Hardware exploded in it. The “Happy Holidays” banner you’ve been using every year for the past decade is great. The tree skirt no one will notice? It’s okay too. So are your “mismatched” stockings. The whole point of everyone getting together in the first place is to, well, be together. Something far more memorable (and important) are the kids witnessing what they’ll be doing when they are the adult hosting their families. Do you want them to feel the same stress you feel? Or would you rather have them understand that the priority is to spend time together? Bake together, craft together, listen to rambling stories from relatives together. That’s the stuff of memories.
  2. A few task cards go a long way. Sometimes it’s hard to ask others to help us. I know I’m guilty of this one. My kids could be helping with dishes or laundry, but I always end up doing it all myself. I’ve convinced myself it’s faster and easier just to do it rather than have to police the kids and nag them to do it and then go re-do it when they’re done because it’s not the way I do it…. Ugh. Instead! Take ten or so index cards, or just scratch paper, and write out some basic things that need to be done. Things like toys out of the living room, walk the dog, set the table… Instead of you having to “nag” the kids to help out, direct them to each blindly pull a task card from the stack. The stack needs to be completed before they can have their tablets or the TV remote back. Having the chores chosen blindly removes the whining of who does what. Ideally, rewards do not need to be handed out, but incentives are helpful if you’re desperate.
  3. Complete your 2-2-2 lists. Everyone in the house needs to write down their goals/expectations for the day. The catch is they only get to choose 2 personal things (tablet time, toys, wine…), 2 family things (walk the dog together, bake together…), and 2 helpful things (put laundry away, sweep, pick up dog poop in the yard…). Once their 2-2-2 list is complete, they can have free time. This list can be done in whatever order works for everyone. But ideally, it helps get at least four things done that you no longer need to be responsible for. If each member of the family does this, that’s even more off your plate and you don’t need to hover. You can just remind them to handle their list.

I hope these were helpful. Unlike many members in my family, I live in the real world. I have real expectations. And I will really freak out if I get overwhelmed. Try to focus on the things that actually need to happen, communicate when you are getting overwhelmed, take intermittent brain brakes by going outside or to the bedroom to have a few minutes of quiet. You can’t manage everyone if you are unable to manage yourself. You matter. Period. Make yourself a priority. If your kids see you making space for yourself, they’ll learn they should do the same and will be stronger adults because of it.

I wish you the happiest of holidays. Cherish these times with loved ones. Cherish the moments you have with your kiddos. Take candid pictures, give hugs, say thank you, and remember yourself this holiday season.

Bossy Kid? Or Future Boss?

I’ve dealt with a lot of kids, and I have to say some of them are SO bossy! Right?! Or… Do they just totally know what they want? Is there a difference? 

Everyone just hold the phone for a second. (Is that still a thing?) Of course no one wants to admit that their little angel is a Captain Bossypants to the other kids, and even to you. Nevertheless, we hear the B-word all the time. “He’s bossing me around”, “She’s being bossy”… OMG! Just stop. Geeze. I’m not going to lie, I’m thrilled my kids are pretty much past this phase. My students though… Not a day goes by without hearing the B-word. 

Recently, it dawned on me that maybe “bossy” is not really the problem. Maybe the problem is stemming from communication. Think about the traits of a “bossy” seven year old; demanding, wants things a certain way, they speak up for those wants, they get heard. Now, what are the traits of a business owner or executive? They’re demanding, they know how they want things done, they delegate and identify what needs to happen, their employees listen. Coincidence? I think not.

The difference I see is the language, tone, and the manner in which the seven year old’s communication comes across versus the executive’s communication. We allow the executive to demand things from us because they’re an adult, a business owner, and the setting dictates that it is appropriate. When the seven year old shouts that she wants the ball so she can roll it down the slide, the other kids are like, “Yeah right. I’m telling!” 

As parents, we have the benefit of seeing both perspectives. We are in a unique position to help our little people change their reputation from “bossy” to conscientious or diplomatic. To do this, we need to understand this is not something that will change on the spot. It takes practice, patience, and skills. 

The practice and patience kind of go hand-in-hand once the skills are there. The skills are comprised of a few different tools your child can use as needed. 

The first tool is comprehension. They need to comprehend the idea that other kids may not understand or be aware of their wants and needs. So shouting, for example, won’t help anything. Instead, talk to your kids about context. 

Scenario 1:

Amy: Gimme the ball!

Jess: Stop bossing me around or I’m gonna tell.

Scenario 2: 

Amy: Hey, if you give me the ball, I can roll it down the slide so you can catch it.

Jess: Ok!

I wasn’t born yesterday, I know these examples are laughable. The meaning is there just the same though. I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference even a little bit of context can make with kids. 

Quick Side note:

Parents and teachers should also use context with kids. There will be an entire post on this topic soon, but it never hurts to get started now. 

The second tool is reciprocity. Essentially – give to receive. If Amy wants Jess to listen to her, Amy also needs to listen to Jess. If Jess feels heard, she’s far more likely to accept Amy’s communication happily. This is the foundation for solid relationship building and is a skill they will carry with them through life. A big way parents can help get this ball rolling is to initiate turn-taking. Eventually, the kids will be able to roll with it on their own and before you know it, Amy is giving Jess a turn without any prompting. And Jess is happily doing what Amy asks because she feels like she is being heard and acknowledged. This is also a key skill any executive should incorporate with their employees. You want happy workers? Make them feel heard.

Part of the stigma of being “bossy” is the idea that the person is self-centered or self-serving. So, the third tool is acknowledgment. Kids are entirely capable of recognizing a fun experience or a good idea. If Jess suggested they balance on the pavers as they walk all the way around the yard, and Amy ends up really having fun, she is completely able to communicate that to Jess. This interaction is a win-win. It removes that stigma. And it is what we call a bucket filling moment. If you are not familiar with what a bucket filler is, I strongly suggest you check out this site: https://bucketfillers101.com/. It is a serious game-changer and has truly inspired me. 

If you notice, there’s a full-circle thing happening here. First we developed the environment for the interaction to take place (context). Then we made room for a mutual, two-way exchange to happen (reciprocity). We wrapped it up with the closure of positive communication (acknowledgment). 

I guarantee that if your child is helped with the development of these skills, there is no way they’ll be called “bossy”. Believe it or not, this entire scenario also applies just as much to adults. We need humility if we expect to teach our kids about this concept. Context, reciprocity, and acknowledgement are real-world skills everyone (whether giving or receiving) can benefit from learning. 

Looking for more tips? Have a question? Want to share a cool moment, vent a little, or hear from other parents? Check out @wholemindset on Instagram and YouTube. 

From Powerless Observer to Empowered Game-Changer

It wasn’t until a few months ago that it really clicked in my head that I’ve been a victim of my past for pretty much all of my adult life. I had no idea. Me? A victim? Nah…. I had a decent childhood. I never went hungry or lived with horrible parents. Christmas was always happy, lots of gifts under the tree, treats on the coffee table, both of my parents and my brother, our cats and dogs around me. How can I call myself a victim?

I’ll back up just a smidge. In June of 2019 I began earning my Master’s degree in secondary education. This degree would give me the credentials I need to teach middle and high school. As I have progressed through my classes, I’ve become aware of particular aspects applied to victims of abuse and neglect. I’ve watched countless hours of teachers in classrooms all over the country. I’ve read multiple textbooks about students with disabilities and how to balance their needs with those of the other students. All of this is on top of my years as a substitute teacher and private school teacher in addition to my years of running a tutoring company. When I say I’ve seen all the classroom settings out there – know that I am not exaggerating.

I’ve witnessed amazing teachers really go beyond to meet the needs of their students. I’ve watched teachers destroy the beauty of learning. I’ve helped students find emotional support when they can’t turn to their parents. I’ve learned from students, been made to laugh by them, made them laugh in return…

All of these experiences seemed to run head-on into my degree courses at the same moment I was studying mental health and childhood trauma. Suddenly it all hit me. Pow! You don’t have to have been the child being abused to feel the impact of it. You don’t have to be a student at the mercy of a brutish teacher to experience the dread. It took a few days or so for the full weight of this realization to sink in for me. As the days went on, I started to realize just how often I observed harmful, abusive, or negligent behavior from adults toward children.

Sadly, I can name several instances just off the top of my head. For now, I’ll just mention one of them. I chose this particular experience in part because it so emotionally impacted me and because it is not an isolated occurrence. About a year ago I was in Walmart when I saw a woman with four children under the age of 6. The youngest was sitting in the top of the cart, the next youngest was in the main basket of the cart. The oldest was walking at the mother’s side. The second to oldest, a little girl with soft brown curly hair, maybe 4 years old, was trailing behind the mother. She was sobbing for her mother to wait for her. All of the children were dirty. All of the children were thin. The mother was quite overweight and not especially clean either. Though I cannot recall the exact words the mother used, she said something along the lines of threatening to leave the little girl there because she was tired of her attitude (or something to that effect). 

I do not presume to judge anyone for the weight or cleanliness of themselves or their children. My kids certainly do not wash their hair as often as they should. Sometimes they wear clothes over again and I don’t have the energy to make them pick out something else. I’ve been questioned about my kids being under-weight, when they just happen to be twiggy little kids that eat like crazy. It happens. This woman I observed though, was a great deal beyond what is safe or healthy. I could see she needed help and likely had none at all. I wanted to help her. I especially wanted to help her children. The daughter that was sobbing seemed like the only one of the kids that had any spark left. The others seemed vacant.

It crossed my mind to be furious with the woman. To call security, child services… something. I wanted to take the little girl home with me. I wanted to give her a big hug and tell her it would all be OK. But I stood there, silently, in awe at my powerlessness. What could I have done? Thoughts about that brief instance have plagued me ever since. Should I have done something? Called someone? Who was I to think I had any right to “fix” this woman or her children…. I felt overwhelmed with grief for those children, apathy because of my inability to help, and sick over the future of those kids.

I walked away from my cart. Left the store. I sat in my car as tears welled up in my eyes. Even now, recalling that moment, I’m choked-up. My eyes get wet just from the memory of it. Now imagine living it. I think of those four kids, and the millions of kids out there like them, and I become sick. Even as an observer, I am traumatized by the experience.

So, back to my original point, that feeling of powerlessness is not limited just to the people that experienced the incident. The observers unable to step-in can feel their own guilt, helplessness, and fear. When my classes touched on caring for children and how to help them become strong adults it all just sort of clicked in my head. I don’t want to feel powerless anymore. I want to help make some changes. The next time I witness a situation like the one at Walmart, I want to have the confidence, knowledge, and tools to go up to the person and the children and help. I may be naive, but at least it’s a starting point.

When I think about the young adults out there suffering from depression, broken relationships with their parents, inadequate reading levels, drug abuse…. I look back at the four children from that day. I hope that their futures are brighter than what I imagine them to be. I can’t help but think that all of this boils down to poor communication. I truly do not mean for that to sound like an oversimplification of a serious problem facing America. I am writing this with the utmost sincerity and respect.

Imagine the woman from Walmart. If she graduated high school, her reading level was likely at the fourth grade level. This will have negatively impacted her ability to earn a living. This makes her self-confidence low which attracts other people with low self worth. She begins having children she is not financially, emotionally, or psychologically ready to care for. She does not think she is “good enough” or able to leave her partner/spouse despite her own unhappiness. All of this builds into an immense frustration and sense of despair that explodes out of her and onto her children. The same is true of her partner. Neither have the skills to make the changes they need to make, and put food on the table, and pay the bills, and care for the children, and care for themselves — It just becomes too much. Sadly, if nothing changes, there is a high likelihood that the children will continue the cycle.

It is from this one example, and the countless others like it, that I discovered a way to help others and stop myself from feeling powerless. The little girl with soft brown curls should have her story heard. It is because of her that I am reminded of who needs the most help. Though my degree will allow me to teach in a classroom, I know that will not be where I stay. My goal with Whole Mindset is to shout to the world that we CAN help the kids of today become amazing adults of tomorrow. We CAN raise literacy levels. We CAN help parents survive better. We CAN make a dent on mental health, drug abuse, incarceration. We can. I know it.

I do not expect already overwhelmed parents to jump-in and take online parenting courses. I do believe though, that we can impact the lives of the children we want to help. If willing and able parents, conscientious teachers/educators, and communities take the time to learn how to teach with a growth mindset, fulfill the whole child (mind, body, and spirit), and get on the same page as one another; I truly do believe we WILL make a difference. We may not be able to help some parents, but we can help their children so the cycle is not perpetuated any longer. 

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