Building a Growth Mindset

 

The other morning, we sat outside on our porch and I gave Madi a notebook to write in. She sat down willingly but then began to shut down and I could see her anxiety building. Writing comes easily and naturally to me, it always has but Madi struggles with both reading and writing. Writing is an instant stressor for her and often creates feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Knowing this, I decided to use soft music, a tool that has worked with her before, to help her feel relaxed and focused. At first she sat there stuck and frustrated then I told her that she didn’t need to write anything in particular and she didn’t need to spell everything correctly. I encouraged her to write whatever came into her mind and as an English teacher I once knew said, “throw up on the paper and edit later.” So she began to write …

IMG_9276

She finished writing and handed this to me and I cried. I was so proud of her for processing her big emotions and not giving up. I gave her a hug and told her that I appreciated that she stuck with it even though it was hard. Then I said, “Look! Do you see how your mood changed as you wrote?” She smiled and nodded. Then we sat down together and edited the words she misspelled and she was open and receptive, feeling completely positive. It was a beautiful thing.

I have always found writing therapeutic, especially in terms of processing difficult emotion and anxiety. I struggled with anxiety from the time I was a child but did not know what I was dealing with until I was an adult. Because of this, I lacked the tools I needed to successfully and effectively process through my anxiety and this negatively effected many areas of my life and relationships. To this day, I am continually navigating this aspect of myself and learning to channel it in a positive way instead of allowing it to process through me as a destructive force.

Now as a parent, I have a child who deals with anxiety as well. Often, my own experiences with anxiety have helped me to model and facilitate the use of effective coping strategies for her. However, there are times that our anxiety bounces off each other and I struggle to maintain the calm composure she needs to learn how to process these heavy and challenging emotions. We have begun to refer to this as “crashing cars,” because sometimes when we are both struggling our emotional responses “crash” into each other.

Parenting has challenged me on every level of personal growth and development. It has made me aware of the areas in my life that are not so pretty and require intentional work to heal and create new path ways for negative emotions to become positive growth.

Recently, I’ve begun to use Carol Dweck’s Fixed vs. Growth Mindset research with Madi – the goal is to change the “I can’t” headspace to the “I can’t yet but if I keep trying, I will succeed.” In her book Dweck states, “For students with the growth mindset, it doesn’t make sense to stop trying … working harder was not something that made you vulnerable, but something that made you smarter.”

I am working to help Madi build a growth mindset while also giving her effective coping skills to help her process through the anxiety she experiences when things become challenging.  When challenges become a positive rather than a negative, it releases the pressure of perfection and allows for creativity to flourish. Fear of failure causes the brain to shut down and stifles the ability to process. We remove the fear of failure when we allow for mistakes and see them as stepping stones to growth and success. When we operate from a growth mindset, we can step back and take our anxiety for what it is – a feeling. No matter how genuine, difficult, and valid a feeling it is, we do not have to allow it to control us and dictate our life. We can simply sit with it, allow it, and know it will pass. Then move forward and tackle the challenge head on.

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
— Carol S. Dweck

 

Grown into Grace

 

IMG_3369

 

Caught in a whirlwind or two.
Divinely, my sail caught the winds of you,
and changed my point of view.
Never hopelessly lost, you see.
Spirit wind set its course for me.

And calmed the waters of a troubled soul.
Pulled the anchor from the depths below.
Set a horizon of direction
in this heart of mine.

– Watermark

 

I left organized religion a few years ago. When I say I left religion I do not mean I lost my faith or belief in God. However, the damage that organized religion caused in my own life set me on a path to seek out what faith really means and just how far God’s love and grace actually extends.

I’ll never forget the beginning of my divorce. I remember crying and saying, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever done, this is the worst thing I’ve ever done to someone.” I also remember thinking that this was too big, too big for grace to cover. I was so scared I’d never heal, never be forgiven, never find restoration.

I had no idea that the very grace I doubted could cover me would ultimately be what has carried me through some of the hardest moments of my life.

These years have been hard. I’ve struggled emotionally, physically, financially, and of course spiritually. I lost my house and then my puppy in the same year. I have had my heart broken over and over again. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so much in my entire life.

But I found a grace so much bigger than I ever imagined in all the little moments that were still beautiful despite the heartache and pain.

I completed my degree and received high honors while parenting, working, and finalizing a divorce.

I gained a village to raise my child with, a friend and an ally in my daughters Step Mother. This is one of the most beautiful gifts. Our family may not be made of blood but it is most definitely made of LOVE.

I found a new passion in Sailing. It has been one of the most therapeutic parts of this journey, both empowering and calming to my soul.

I have met some of the most wonderful people along the way. I would never have had the opportunity to know them if I had not set out on this journey.

I have grown and I have changed in so many ways. I’ve found my voice and comfort in my own skin. I have solidified my core values and learned what it means to stand my ground despite my fear.

I am watching my daughter become an incredible person full of love, tenacity, intuition, and joy. She is brave, she is strong, she is kind.

I am still standing, I still have hope.

All of this … Grace, amazing, overwhelming, unfailing grace. God is not inside the walls of religion. God is not confined by tradition and expectation. He walks beside us, he is in the moments of every day, mundane life.

Grace never gives up, there’s nothing so big that it can not be covered by grace. I know because I live and breathe in it every day and I always have. Now I know. I have finally grown into grace.

In the darkest moments of the soul, I hope you too will find the beauty and the Grace.

One Loving Choice at a Time

One of things that parenting has brought to the surface in my own life is my need for healing. It has required me to take ownership of my life and not allowed me to play the victim card. My daughter is counting on me to give her my best not my brokenness. Have I failed, do I still fail? Yes, I do. However, every day I am striving to be a more balanced and whole person. To create the boundaries in my life that I need so that I can mirror for her what being healthy actually looks like.

One of the biggest lessons I am learning through Madi is patience. I am not patient by nature but my daughter has required me to slow down and dig deep inside myself for the resources I need to remain calm and present in the moment. Yesterday, Madi was exhausted to the point of complete emotional melt down. A year ago, I was still struggling to handle these situations with grace and kindness and my reactions were often harsh or too emotional. I began to see a pattern – she would get emotional, I would react instead of respond and in turn, her emotions would escalate. It was not healthy for either of us. It was destroying the connection that I have always worked so hard to create with her. When she is feeling out of control she needs me to be in control. She needs to feel secure in me when she is feeling insecure in her self. So I began to actively check in with myself and become more in tune with her needs.

Yesterday could have been a disaster but instead it became a time of meaningful connection for both of us. Despite her protest and tears, I removed her from a high energy situation – her cousins at the Mall play area – because I knew she need space to reset herself emotionally. I chose to remain patient even though I was frustrated. We cuddled in the car and read Harry Potter, we went into Trader Joes and I bought her flowers, we drove back to my sister’s house just the two of us listening to Norah Jones and before I knew it, she was happily and peacefully playing with her toys in the back of the car while I drove.

You can’t fight fire with fire, it only increases the damage. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and even the little ones have bad days. I have bad days and I want people to understand and validate how I am feeling. How can I expect my six year old to feel any different or to respond in a more mature way than I am sometimes able to? As parents and as people, we have the choice to feed into negativity and anger or to actively work to bring love and peace into our situation whatever it may be. It’s not easy; gentle parenting requires a lot of energy and deliberate choice. Reacting is always easier than responding. However, if the goal is love and connection we have to actively work to maintain our relationships.

Parenting is hard, relationships are hard and not all of us have had the best examples of what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. We are all broken – but it is our responsibility to find healing for our brokenness instead of using it to hurt others. We can find a way to take our brokenness and turn it into something beautiful, healthy and whole if we are willing to work towards the healing we need. Love will always win if you let it and connection is more important than having the upper hand.

Let’s change the world together one loving choice at a time.

img_0762

Sometimes Mama is Wrong

I was grumpy, I had a headache, and we were running late per usual. We were on the way to a birthday party for one of Madi’s best friends and had stopped to pick up a gift for her on the way.

We looked around at various things, I made different suggestions, all the while telling Madi that we needed to hurry. Madi finally found the gift she wanted to give to her friend, to me it seemed silly and I kept trying to redirect her to something else. She was insistent.

Instead of allowing her the flexibility to shop at ease and be free in her choice, I was stuck in my grumpy mood and did not honor her ideas or her feelings. In exasperation, I finally agreed to her choice.

At the party, when it finally came time for Madi to give her friend the gift, she was so excited! The gift was perfect – her friend loved it, all the children at the party were intrigued by the magical little music box with a plastic key.

As I stood there, my heart felt the weight of my mistake. When Madi had a moment, I called her over and I apologized. I said, “I am so sorry Madi, Mama was wrong and you were right.” Her face lit up with amusement at the fact that I had admitted I was wrong and she was right. We hugged each other and I told her I loved her and that her gift was perfect. Sometimes Mama is wrong.

It’s hard to admit that you’re wrong, especially as a parent, especially to your child, but it’s so very important to do so.

When parents apologize they are instilling a value system and a belief that it’s okay to be human and therefore imperfect. They are role modeling accountability. They are demonstrating that taking action to accept responsibility after a mistake is more important than the mistake itself. They are living the old adage “it’s not whether you make a mistake, it’s how you handle that mistake” … When parents overcome their fear of apologizing and say “I’m sorry” to their child, they give their child a gift of freedom to make mistakes. – Katie Roberts, Ph.D.

I am learning, learning to slow down, learning to listen, and learning to trust my child. Her heart and our connection is worth so much more than Mama being right.