Helping Students Take Small Steps Towards Positive Changes
Great accomplishments and long-term goals are not achieved overnight. Success is usually the result of hard work, deliberate practice, persistence, and trial-and-error learning. This often takes time, with many small steps creating a positive direction along the way. The resulting path can be filled with obstacles that may hinder or delay progress but, with persistence, don’t halt it altogether. We can reinforce persistence by recognizing and celebrating children’s small steps towards achieving positive outcomes.
Small Steps to a Growth- Mindset
In particular, children need praise for their hard work and persistence in daily activities. By recognizing hard work, effort, and process oriented-learning, rather than just a “natural” ability, we teach a growth-mindset. A growth-mindset is when students see that they can develop or grow their abilities or intelligence, rather than a fixed-mindset where students’ see their abilities and intelligence as fixed traits that they cannot change. We know from extensive research that children flourish when praised for effort and hard work rather than ability and when they perceive intelligence as a growth process. As parents and educators, we also can help guide students identify interests, make short- and long-term goals, and encourage them to take on challenges and persevere when things get tough.
Take Small Steps at Home
There are many ways families can help children make positive changes in small increments. As parents and caregivers, you can:
- Praise attempts, as well as success, and make sure that you focus on the effort or hard work put into the success.
- Emphasize that learning and growing requires trying new things and that success comes from small steps to a long-term goal.
- Encourage goal setting and mapping out a plan for achieving the goals. Talk with your child about steps they have taken, what worked and what didn’t, what they might do next
- Help your child internalize a sense that they can achieve by reinforcing the skills already developed and encouraging them to try new challenges.
- Help your child identify their strengths and interests and learn new skills.
- Create an environment at home that allows your child to explore building (playing with blocks, helping with projects, and more), drawing (crayons, finger paints, paper), and music (on the radio, with children’s instruments, or through formal training through school or community resources). This may help to identify special interests.
- Emphasize the importance of deliberate practice of a new or old skill for further development, and that talent is developed over time through skillful practice.
- Help your child work through setbacks, or lack of self-confidence, by helping to identify negative thoughts that may suggest concerns about his or her ability to be successful. As a parent, you can help children see what the small steps are and how persisting and overcoming obstacles is a part of succeeding. Help your child realize that setbacks are not permanent or all-encompassing.
- Demonstrate, through your own behaviors, how to identify and achieve long-term goals by thinking aloud, creating a pathway of short-term goals, and using problem solving and decision making skills along the way.
- Help your child develop positive relationships with peers and adults and model respectful, caring behaviors with others.
- Encourage your child to participate in community activities that may help them to develop positive behaviors, such as being grateful. In particular, volunteer activities may encourage the development of positive behaviors. Consider participating in community events yourself as role model.
- Seek out support systems available in the community to help your child learn new skills and thrive, such as tutoring or mentoring programs.