There are many types of students. There are those who are the natural go-getters. These students can be seen sitting in the front of class waiving their hands in the air, or completing assignments weeks before the due date. These students are few and far between. There are also the students who are easily distracted. They sit on the side of the room staring out the window, day dreaming, or procrastinating. These students are a bit more common. Then there are the students who are some of the most challenging to work with as a parent or as an educator. These are the easily frustrated students. Once they decide they don’t want to work anymore, there is often little that can be done or said to make them change their minds. They will put their heads on their desk, slam their books, or just refuse to do the work all together. Though frustration is common in students, it can be one of the challenging obstacles to work around.
So what can you do?
One of the most important things to identify about your child is their mindset. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, we can have one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. People with a growth mindset understand that intelligence is not fixed. They are able to take their mistakes and learn from them. They are resilient. People with a fixed mindset believe that, no matter what effort they put in, they are as smart today as the day they were born. If negative things happen, they tend to blame others or completely give up. The child who is easily frustrated almost always has a fixed mindset.
The idea of positive thinking and a positive attitude may make you roll your eyes. I’m not talking about going to your happy place or being a yes man. Rather, I’m talking about developing confidence, which in turn can lead to a growth mindset and a successful academic career. So often we assume that the way children approach things is an innate characteristic. But really, just like everything else, it is a skill that must be taught. Try opening a dialogue with your child about the ups and downs during their day. Family dinner is a great time for this. Ask your child what went really well in school that day, then ask them if there was anything they found challenging. Once they describe the situation, ask them how they handled in it and if they felt they put their full effort to overcome the challenge. If they believe they did, praise them for it.
It’s easy to get caught up on grades; we all do it. But understand that the effort one student puts in to earning a C may be the same another student puts in to earning a A. Rather than asking your child what they got on their last math test, ask them about how they prepared and praise them for it. If your child does bring home an A say, “That’s fantastic! I know how much you studied for it!” or if they bring home a B after spending hours working on a project say, “Wow! You put so much effort into this, I am so proud of you!” Praising effort not only boosts students’ self-esteem, but it also instills the idea that putting in effort makes a difference, one of the key traits of someone with a growth mindset.
Recent studies have shown a direct correlation between mindset and success inside and outside of the classroom. Carol Dweck’s techniques are being implemented into schools across the country. Last year every teacher at Fairfax High School was required to read her book Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential and keep it in mind in their classroom.
Frustration is something we all experience in life. Even the type-A student sitting in the front of the classroom is bound to become frustrated at some point. It is not important to teach your child to never be frustrated, but rather, it is important to teach him or her to deal with that frustration in a healthy manner. Encouraging him or her to have a growth mindset through positive thinking and emphasizing process over product will allow him or her to bounce back no matter how frustrated he or she may be.