Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Kristin Noelle of Trust Tending.
We’re often asked about our parenting styles, but equally important might be the question, what is your parenting mindset?
In my better moments, my mindset is all about becoming a better parent—learning how my kids work, gaining new skills, getting better at what I do. However, I admit that much of the time I’m focused more on whether or not I am a good parent, especially in the eyes of others. I want badly to prove that I’m great at this parenting thing and, moreover, that it all comes naturally to me—no sweat!
In a book titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck gives a name to what I’ve just described. At heart, she says, I’m operating with a “fixed mindset”.
The Fixed Mindset
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character–well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
The Growth Mindset
By contrast, Dweck describes a growth mindset, which assumes intelligence and all the qualities for which a person could aspire, are things to be practiced and cultivated. They aren’t pre-determined traits destined to bring pride or shame.
- Good parent? Practice and cultivate it.
- Successful family manager? Practice and cultivate it.
- Simply happy habit-maker? You get the picture.
The point is not to safeguard a label, but to recognize that labels themselves are as inherent as one’s mood – i.e. not so much.
Dweck writes, “For [those with a growth mindset] it’s not about immediate perfection. It’s about learning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress.”
I’ve noticed these two mindsets at work in my meditation practice as well. The part of me that’s frustrated by my inability to still my mind for more than a few seconds and then soars when I’m able to one day, is operating with a fixed mindset. This part of me wants to prove that I’m good at meditating, that I’m spiritually advanced, that I’ve reached some optimal level of serenity.
The part of me that watches my incessant thoughts and feelings rise notes them, sometimes chuckles at them or sheds a few tears in their wake and then continues on to draw me back again to my breath: she knows something about growth. She knows about the value of simply showing up, about the normalcy of fears and limitations and mental ruts, about the practice itself being the goal, rather than its results.
Which of course is ironic, given what happens when this mindset is applied: growth. Learning. A back door wide open to the very inner world, parenting style, and family relationships I most want to cultivate.
For anyone eager to transform fears of imperfection – in you or your kids – into places of deepening trust in our capacity to learn and grow and delight in that process instead of in its results, Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success might be just what you’re looking for.
Kristin Noelle is a mother, writer and illustrator. Her blog, Trust Tending, uses music, words, and art to explore how to live Life beyond fear.