Mindset is such a fascinating concept. The more I’ve learnt about it over the past year, the more I’ve learnt about myself and those around me and the more it has helped me. It has helped me to communicate better with others and to understand them better. It was like a lightbulb moment when thinking about my neurotypical daughter. It gave me tools to use to help her with an area of school which she has been struggling with. I shared them with her teacher (who no doubt thought Uh oh, here comes Aimee. But the change in approach once she understood how Bella is motivated has worked wonders for her confidence. I wanted to share some information about Mindset with you because it really can help boost your confidence. It can give you a different outlook and a way to cope with challenges.
As parents of children with SEND, we have A LOT going on don’t we? It’s not just the usual parent decisions like which after school club to send them to, it’s more, is there an after school club with a higher ratio of trained staff? It’s making big decisions over invasive medical treatments and surviving hospital admissions. It’s seeing them suffer and trying to keep yourself and your family together. Then on top of that, we are often the receivers of hurtful or unhelpful comments from friends, relatives, work colleagues, strangers and professionals. Most of whom mean well but just get it a bit wrong or perhaps they got it right but you weren’t in the head space to take it on board in the way it was intentioned. Protecting yourself from other people’s shit is really important. I say this because, most often, it is their stuff to deal with and not yours. What they say is often just a mirror of how they feel about themselves or their own decisions. Working out why people speak and behave in the way they do is part of the key to not allowing it affect you negatively. I want you to have the ability to protect yourself so that you can focus your energy on your children and you. I want you to genuinely be able to filter out all of the excess noise. Using the right mindset approach can bring you more success in those all important meetings with your child’s professionals, it can help you manage tricky situations with your children and it can help you cope and be resilient when challenges become more and more demanding. How you think and feel about the situation, your ability and the relationship. It can bring a higher level of success. Moving into the growth mindset can bring about a greater resilience and desire to learn and progress.
What Is Mindset?
Well, Mindset is a concept which has evolved from years of study by world renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Once I had read all that I could, I realised that the concepts she shared were actually quite simple but they were also a revelation. I could see myself in the descriptions and how I have changed from the time of growing up to the me now. I can also see the changes I have made over the past 12 months having really understood the power of Mindset.
There Is The Fixed Mindset And The Growth Mindset.
Most people have a mix of both approaches to life but you will er more towards one or the other. As I was growing up, I can totally see that I was more immersed in the fixed mindset. A really simple example of this is when I passed my driving test. I had a Nova and I loved it, it was going to be my freedom. However, the first time I was going to take it out after passing my test, I just couldn’t get the clutch control right to even leave the drive. I was so angry about it and I can remember shouting out loud, ‘Argh, I’m never going to get the hang of this, I’m not going to be able to get out of this village.” Now, looking back, I laugh at myself but I see this trait in my daughter. I thought that because I couldn’t get the clutch control right in that moment, it was never going to happen. Even though, I’d just past my test so clearly I was able to do it. If I had been in the growth mindset, I would perhaps have been more likely to try to work out what I was doing wrong and either ask for help or persevere until I got it. To me, not being able to do it meant I was a failure and it was crushing my dreams of freedom.” It sounds almost ridiculous now but that’s where I was. Fixed mindset can create a lot of worry, upset and anxiety.
The revelation for me was that as I have grown up and experienced more and more challenges in my life, I have been able to move more towards the growth mindset. Perhaps when you have a child with disabilities and additional needs, the dogged determination you need to get them what they need, somehow changes the brain chemistry? Understanding how to lean more into the growth mindset and catch yourself when you are in a fixed state really helps to build that emotional resilience.
Some of the studies Carol Dweck did were with student and teachers. One of the lessons I learn from those studies has helped me to change the way I parent my neurotypical girly when it comes to school work and other challenging things and it has also helped keep me going when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with getting some of the things I need to for Freddie. It’s those times when you’ve been to a meeting and you haven’t got the outcome you wanted. I am a huge believer in the long goal and that no meeting or phone call is a wasted opportunity. It’s another step on the path to getting what you want. Sometimes though, when you have so many different challenges to work on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. That’s the fixed mindset talking.
Often just a change in language can improve your chances of success. Carol Dweck’s advice is not to praise intelligence or talent. That stands true for praise of your children, your work colleagues and yourself. I have spent many years praising my kids with “oh wow that’s such a great piece of work, you are so bright or smart or oh you are so talented” thinking I was doing the right thing to encourage them. In actual fact, the words that encourage learning and encourage you to keep going over the hurdles is to praise the process. Praise the effort, strategies, focus, perseverance and improvement. If after every meeting you attend you didn’t get the outcome you wanted and you feel that the outcome is representative of how intelligent or successful you are, it’s going to knock your confidence. It’s putting you in the fixed mindset.
It’s the difference between feeling like you have succeeded or failed versus whether you have achieved your outcome ‘yet’ or ‘not yet’. Living with ‘not yet’ is far more powerful.
Getting to grips with how you handle and cope with the disruption that other people can bring is also down to mindset. When you are in the fixed mindset and someone speaks cruelly to you or perhaps about your child, you are more predisposed to think that their words define you or define your child. It’s like bullies. They use derogatory words and the more they tell you that you are stupid or ugly the more you believe them. Or perhaps, every time you hear a professional say that your child won’t achieve, they won’t walk or talk or have much quality of life? I’ve certainly been there with those comments and still have those conversations with people at times. In the fixed mindset I would believe them and accept that as fact. In the growth mindset, I would see that (and I do) as a challenge to learn more and be more and help Freddie more.
More often that not, I think, those around us who speak negatively are dealing with their own fixed mindset issues. Often when people criticise you for your parenting or how your child is, they are actually thinking about themselves and some of the decisions they have made or the guilt they carry. Whenever I deliver a live workshop on Mindset, during the mini mastermind in the second half, I often hear from people who are holding on to so much upset and anger over how they have been treated or how they have been spoken to or not understood especially by a family member. When they are so close to your inner circle, it is just so painful. Working out why they behave in that way and where it comes from rather than focussing on what happened can really help you deal with it. Learning more can help you protect yourself. I highly recommend Carol Dweck and her groundbreaking work on Mindset. It is so incredibly insightful. Understanding that we are all a mix of fixed and growth mindset but that we can develop ourselves and others to be more in the growth, is enlightening.
We all need hope and resilience to get through the many many challenges of loving and raising children with SEND and working on your mindset is one of the keys to making that happen. It gives you the power to let go. To let go of what people say, to let go of their disruptions to your life and to choose how and if you allow them to affect you.
I am running a live workshop on April 10th in Solihull, West Midlands (UK). Here is the link if you would like to join us.
Catch you next time x