What to Say When Your Kids Are Having a Hard Time Learning Something

Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset,” which describe the beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

A simplified explanation of these terms is this: Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed. A person is smart or not smart. A person is good at math or bad at math.

Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter or better at math.

The latter belief—the growth mindset belief—encourages people to put in extra time and effort.

Those with a growth mindset understand that they can learn and achieve more.

Adopting a growth mindset is important for children because it allows them to move past their current challenges and grow. It shows them that they are not stuck in a box, but rather can put in time and effort to achieve something that is important to them.

We can help children believe in their ability to learn and grow by asking them to share stories about things they have...

Continue Reading...

What to Do When You Wish Your Kids Were a Little More Independent

Are your kids pushing your buttons because they ask you to do so much for them? If so, you aren’t alone. In fact, at one point or another, most parents think: This isn’t fun. I don’t enjoy this. I’m irritated a lot.

We love our kids so much that it hurts. But sometimes, we’d rather not spend so much time doing things for them. And this is even more compounded now, when families are staying home, in close quarters, and spending all of their time together.

Here is a strategy for establishing some boundaries in your household and reducing some of the tension by encouraging your children to be more independent. The strategy is called “Rights, Responsibilities, and Privileges,” and it’s based on the belief that households function better when children understand that their privileges are directly tied to their responsibilities. Beyond that, you can raise more resilient children by teaching them self-efficacy.

Have a conversation with your...

Continue Reading...

What to Say When Your Kids Are Unkind to Their Siblings

Oftentimes, when children are failing in some area, they do not see the long-term repercussions. They are unkind to their siblings because they do not see that the years of taunting will turn into a long-term failed relationship.They fail at school because they cannot connect the dots between homework, getting into college, and getting a dream job.

As parents, we often want to lecture them: "You have to do your homework! Be nice to your little brother!"

But if we can take a step back and genuinely, curiously, ask them to explain their plans, we transfer responsibility to them, and we begin the process of empowering them to make choices and live with the outcomes of these choices.

So we might ask: "What's your plan with respect to your relationship with your little brother? I don't think he's going to like you very much if you keep this up, so tell me what you see happening. When you are adults, and we plan a family vacation, what does that look like? Is it fun? Or is your brother...

Continue Reading...

What to Say When Kids Roll Their Eyes

Uncategorized Aug 18, 2020

Kids have every right to get irritated. After all, there are things we do—like barging into their rooms without knocking, interrupting them when they are busy, and barking orders at them—that are legitimately irritating.

But when they roll their eyes or use snarky tones of voices, they are handling their irritations in a way that isn’t productive.

These types of communication are passive aggressive and they fail to communicate exactly why the person is upset. More importantly, they fail to communicate what the person needs in order to feel better.

So instead of allowing your children to wallow in self-righteous victimhood and make you the enemy, teach them to wrap words around their emotions and identify what they need.

Teaching our kids to calmly and politely use words to express their frustrations and identify their needs is one of our most important jobs as parents.

What can we say when kids are rude? Try this …

“You just rolled your eyes at me, so...

Continue Reading...

The Case Against Fixing It

Why do parents feel so upset, and even angry, when their children are upset?
We have a theory. When our children are babies, they depend on us for everything.
If they are upset, it is our job (rightfully so) to figure out why, and to fix it.
So now, when our children are 8, or, 13, or 17, we are conditioned to jump into
action when our children are upset. If a child whines, rolls their eyes, cries, or
struggles, we think: “I need to fix this. If I can’t, I must be failing in my role as a
But consider this: As your children grow, they need to learn to rely on you less and
less so that they can rely on themselves. This is a requirement of independence.
Each time they are upset, they have an opportunity to learn how to take care of
themselves. They have an opportunity to learn coping skills.
As they grow older, your job is to slowly transfer more and more responsibility to
Continue Reading...

Two Conversations About Money

Here are two tips for helping your children build healthy paradigms about money:

1. Replace “We can’t afford it.”

This phrase (and the belief it expresses) sets up a paradigm of being powerless with regard to money. On the other hand, if you frame it as a choice, such as, “I’m not going to choose to spend my money on that today,” you take your power back.

Sometimes you actually can afford it, you simply don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on the trivial or useless thing your child is asking you to buy. If you say, “We can’t afford it,” you are wasting an opportunity to say something that proactively builds a better paradigm about the relationship between values and money. More on that in a bit …

Even if you truly cannot afford it, saying that over and over to your child builds a disempowered model in their head of your family’s relationship with money. It communicates that you are never in a position to...

Continue Reading...

"Help! My Son Is Bored."

Uncategorized Jan 26, 2020

Question: My ten-year-old son is bored. He does well in school, without trying, so he isn’t very engaged academically. We keep trying different sports, but he doesn’t like any of them. He likes to draw, but that doesn’t seem like enough. He needs focus. What do you suggest?


We believe that all people, children and adults alike, should spend as much as possible using their strengths and honoring their values. Spending time doing something you love builds confidence. It gives people a sense of purpose. It shows children how it feels to be passionate about something.

And, inevitably, developing a mastery of one strength leads to interest in related fields.

Beyond that, we all present ourselves much, much better when we are using our strengths. Our social skills improve when we feel confident. We are happier and more pleasant to be around, and people turn to us for advice.

Unfortunately, school is boring for a lot of people—in fact, it is boring for most...

Continue Reading...

Baseball and Resilience

Our friend and the president of the Santa Monica PONY Baseball league, Marc Shrake, has this to say of coaching: “Most of the kids know what to do; they just need to be taught how to figure out for themselves how to do it.” 

In other words, the wisdom exists inside of them. They just need to be taught how to find it.

He goes on to say that kids don’t need to be told every single time what to do when they swing and miss. Intellectually, they know what they are supposed to do.

“Most of the time, they need to be told to relax, take a deep breath, wait, trust their hands.”

The goal of coaching, he says, is that the kids learn to coach themselves. Instead of looking to the coach for step-by-step instructions, they look inward at what they already know. 

This is also the goal of teaching resilience. The goal is that over time, your kids can figure out for themselves how to tap into their Inner Wisdom. The goal is that they figure out for themselves...

Continue Reading...

Let Them Feel Pain

No well-adjusted parents enjoy seeing their children sad, in pain, or fearful.

Yet …

When your children are experiencing negative emotions, do your best to remain calm. Do your best to receive those emotions and communicate that they are acceptable. Demand of yourself that you step back and allow your children to work through these emotions.

You can and should help them process their pain through conversation, of course, but do not rush to sweep their icky feelings away.

When you rush to do anything—everything!—to make your children feel better …

When you panic and, through language and tone, express that you are also flooded with pain …

When you step in and save the day …

… think about what you inadvertently communicate …

You communicate that pain is an unacceptable condition. You model the frantic need to make pain go away at all costs. You model the behavior of reaching for anything to make negative feelings dissipate.

This is...

Continue Reading...

Prod the Bear

Do you revisit conflict when tempers have cooled?

Or …

When your child has a giant emotional meltdown, do you breathe a sigh of relief after it passes and go about your business?

Don’t prod a sleeping bear, right?

The truth is, the gold is in the second half. When you and your child revisit a conflict with clear heads, you can find solutions. This is where growth happens. It is where you and your child can begin to appreciate each other’s perspectives, and it is where you can find solutions absent of the flood of emotions that were clouding your thoughts in round one.

Continue Reading...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Receive the first five chapters of Kristin MacDermott's book: It Takes Two Minutes to Shift Your Mindset and Build Resilience.