Or Growth Mindset Over Minecraft
“Icepack! Put Dad’s ice-pack on it. No… put ALL Dad’s ice-packs on it… and get it strapped at school tomorrow” chirped our headphoned “ten-ager” from the back seat of the car in response to my fast ballooning knee.
“That’ll keep you going. Was this wakeboarding injury worth it?” smiled the school nurse the next day.
Being a parent is anything but easy.
Whilst sailing in Thailand, I couldn’t keep my son, Tas, out of the water. This was the perfect expat picture that we could only imagine many months earlier when we decided to move to KL. But, once back in the city, we couldn’t get him off Minecraft and his computer and into our condo pool. We come from London where school sports can be patchy, pools packed, and the wayward weather can transform sunny Sunday cycles into grinding slogs against the elements, so for us, this desire not to take up the opportunities seemed bonkers.
More worryingly, keeping our expat kid fit and active was going to require more effort than we had expected and relying on school sports and the draw of the condo’s fantastic facilities was clearly not going to be enough. So initially, to keep our son fit (and show him how lucky he was!) we chose to use carrots (TV, Minecraft, etc.) and sticks (after you’ve been swimming / played basketball etc.) , and it worked. A bit. But it was not the fun it was supposed to be.
Then three things happened which made us modify this approach.
Firstly, at GIS we ran a parent workshop about Growth and Fixed Mindsets. Integral to our school life is the development in all of us, staff, students and parents, of a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that, in it’s simplest form, you are either good at something or you’re not. Our school has a growth mindset. We believe that anyone can be good at anything if they are motivated, well supported and put in enough effort.
Secondly, my husband persuaded Tas to audition for the end of year school musical, Matilda. This was something he was adamant he wouldn’t do, even after doing well in his earlier role as King Claudius. After talking about how our attitudes impact our performances, he started to understand that he was refusing to audition, because he was sure he would fail.
Thirdly, the haze descended and outdoor activities of all kinds ground to a halt.
We realised that the carrot and stick approach was little more than a containment strategy and was potentially holding Tas back so we determined to come up with a better plan. Our objective for sports would be for Tas to keep fit and, using a growth mindset, learn the benefits of persistence and the fun of learning. To help, we would praise turning up and effort, not achievements.
Tas started wakeboarding. He showed great tenacity for lesson after lesson, until finally getting out of the water. This was a brilliant example of the impact of a growth mindset in action. Then for no apparent reason, he couldn’t get up anymore, and he wanted to give up. That is when I found myself in Putrajaya Lake with a board strapped to my feet…
…the impact was incredible. Once Tas saw me fail again and again, but stick determinedly with it and finally get out of the water, his fear of failure went almost as instantly as my knee! Four weeks later he’s started jumping the wake. My middle-aged body hasn’t yet recovered, but I sure as anything know that turning up, and making the effort over and over again made all the difference. Not just for him, but for me too. We both turned the fear of failure into an incentive to try again, and it made what we were doing fun.
Tas did land a starring role in Matilda, and loved every moment of it. It was fantastic and fun. He now swims in Lily’s Sunday morning swimming class, plays weekly cricket after school and goes wakeboarding twice a week.
This approach has worked so well with sport and drama, that we have agreed to now use it with piano lessons … which is why I will be sitting my Grade 3 piano exam with the students at GIS in May!
Being an expat parent is still anything but easy. But since we have moved on from the carrot and stick, we are having heaps of fun.