Not knowing what to say when your child is having academic trouble is the worst. It’s so hard to maintain a positive attitude when deep inside you are questioning if it is your fault. After all, you are homeschooling, which makes you both the parent and the teacher.
Never is this more true than when I’m homeschooling my very own perfectionist. This child is an amazing, wonderful, bright little person. Many things come easily. When they don’t, this sweet kid struggles—a lot. The results are tears and phrases like “I can’t do this!” or “I’m too stupid!” It’s heartbreaking!
In front of me is this amazing child who can do all kinds of things, but who doesn’t know what to do when facing a challenge. There is a strong desire to avoid it any situation that challenges. More accurately, there is refusal to attempt the task. There is also lots of drama. This attitude hurts our homeschooling, but more importantly it also risks damaging our relationship.
Sometimes, I honestly can’t tell the difference between refusing to do something out of rebellion and not being able to complete the work.
- Is it that they really don’t understand?
- Have they tuned me out?
- Do they simply not want to work hard enough to get it right?
This situation is frustrating for both of us.
When Kids Resist Hard Work Out of Fear of Failure
While searching for answers and strategies, I came across a fantastic Sonlight blog post called 10 Brilliant Tips for Homeschooling Young Perfectionists. Among the great advice is the recommendation to cultivate a growth mindset. This approach encourages the child and the parent to focus more on the effort and the process as opposed to the end product.
Utilizing a growth mindset is working so well for my little perfectionist that I wanted to share a three key phrases that are doing wonders to help re-frame our homeschool approach:
- “Mistakes are how we learn.”
- “This is hard, and you can do hard things.”
- “What should we do?”
Using these phrases seems to unfreeze my child from concentrating too hard on the end goal. They help us slow down and rework mistakes without it a perception of failure.
I admit that these phrases aren’t a no-fail cure-all, but they give me something to say when my child’s composure starts to crumple. They have been said enough in our house now that my kids often repeat them to themselves and to each other.
Growth Mindset Phrase 1. “Mistakes are how we learn.”
I use this phrase often when I point out mistakes I make as well as my children's mistakes. I bring this up during times that are not emotionally turbulent. Then when a mistake occurs I gently remind the kids that mistakes happen, and it’s okay. In fact, it’s how we learn.
I don’t stop there. In order to learn from our mistakes we have to do our best to correct that mistake. This refocuses us from merely recognizing that a mistake was made to problem solving a solution.
Growth Mindset Phrase 2. “This is hard, and you can do hard things.”
Historically, I tried to acknowledge that some of what my child was trying to do was hard. It wasn’t enough. I was missing a key component. My kids also needed to know that they could do hard things. Now, if something is hard ,we don’t just acknowledge that it is a difficult task, but we also recognize we might need to make more of an effort to get it done. But achieving it is possible. Giving up isn’t necessary because it can be done. It just may take more work.
Growth Mindset Phrase 3. “What should we do?”
Giving my child choices about how to address mistakes has been a game changer. For instance, if my child has mistakenly written a d instead of a b, I can offer several options:
- Would you like to try to correct this answer on your own, or would you like some help? If my child chooses to do it on their own, I tell them to let me know if they change their mind.
- Would you like to use the eraser and rewrite your answer?
- Would you like to write the correct answer next to your first attempt? Sometimes my child likes to keep the original answer and then write the preferred answer next to it for later review.
As a bonus, these phrases don’t work only for perfectionists! I have another child who is more than happy to stop with mediocre work. Reminding this child that mistakes are for learning helps reinforce that we don’t just leave a mistake. Acknowledging that doing hard things is possible encourages renewed effort.
Moms benefit from fostering a growth mindset, too.
- Sure you’ll make mistakes when homeschooling; it’s how you learn.
- Yes, homeschooling is hard, but you can do it!
I highly recommend investing time and effort to foster a growth mindset in your homeschool. Let these phrases, and others like them, transform your family into one that faces challenges with confidence and mistakes with perseverance!