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  • A Key to Resilience: Teach Your Child to Think 'I Can Do Better'

    To raise him with grit and resilience, it pays when your child knows how to be his own cheering squad.
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .

  • You've heard it before. To overcome a difficult task, sometimes you need to give yourself a pep talk. You have to be your own “I can do better” cheering squad. And a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology found the motivational technique promising. 

    In a study that involved an impressive 40,000 participants, researchers tested three motivational methods to find out which yielded the best result: self-talk (telling yourself “I can do better”), imagery (imagining yourself improving) or if-then planning (which has a basic structure of “if I do this, then this would happen”). 

    The researchers asked the participants to play an online game, do a motivational method, and see which one helped the participants improve the most. Self-talk came out on top and if-then planning proved to be one of the least successful despite being an effective tool in weight management and other real life challenges. Researchers also found that watching a short motivational video also improved performance.


    Being fired up even if it’s via a screen works, after all. 

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    Practicing to tell oneself that “I can do better” when faced with challenges is an easy technique that parents can teach their kids. It teaches children grit and to be resilient. It also fosters a “growth mindset,”coined by psychologist Carol Dweck as the idea that effort leads to success and that believing that performance can indeed be improved by having the right attitude. 

    Want to promote a growth mindset in your child? Here are other ways to do just that as given by Dr. Sarah McKay, neuroscientist and founder of The Neuroscience Academy:

    1. Embrace failures.

    Mistakes are part of the learning process. Teach a child not to be discouraged by mistakes and failures but to see them as opportunities to find out how to do better the next time around.

    2. Let your child know when they’re demonstrating a growth mindset.
    You can use child-friendly phrases like “You’re showing you can do and be better.” Pointing it out helps them identify and become familiar with what having a growth mindset really means.

    3. Explain that the brain is a muscle.

    And, like other muscles in the body, it can grow and be stronger with hard work and lots of practice. 

    4. Avoid telling a child she’s “smart,” “talented” or “gifted.”
    It does not encourage putting effort or growth. Instead...

    5. Praise the process not the results.

    It’s through effort that allow children to achieve. It’s this that should be encouraged. The growth mindset tells us not to dwell on test scores or report card grades but to emphasize the role of effort and studying well. 

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