PCI Certified Parent Coach, Nita Talwar, on how to approach parenting challenges using Mindset techniques
My journey through life has led me to many unexpected places, from various roles in the apparel industry to an executive position in the home industry, then later into freelance photography. Now, as a PCI-certified Parent Coach, I feel that I have come closer to my authentic self and found my ideal vocation. Although I truly enjoy my role of helping others, I have arrived here through successfully overcoming bumps in the road both professionally and personally. Setbacks ranging from career disappointments to health crises have taught me the importance of a Growth Mindset. I have now progressed into a vocation that I am passionate. Would you say that I have a Growth Mindset? I say yes, and no. It is a something that I continuously work on.
After reading Carol Dweck’s research, I intentionally changed my language when speaking with parents about the challenges they encountered with their children; I discussed how they were addressing challenges, as well as the effort they would need to put forth in order to reach their preferred futures with their children. I emphasize that the process of working towards something is what’s important, whether it’s potty training, making the team or acing an exam. I have found that parents who focus on the process instead of the outcome will see their children grow and flourish. In line with this, I encourage parents to develop a Growth Mindset, which in turn will help their children develop one.
How does a Parent Coaching journey begin?
As a Parent Coach, my goal is to partner with parents so that they feel happy, inter-connected, and in harmony with their children. In short, my dream is for parents to enjoy their parenting journey. Having lived in Europe, Asia, and North America, and with clients all over the world, I realize that there are some similarities that parents encounter in their challenges raising children.
Within a coaching context, I begin by discussing the strengths of the parent, the child, and the family unit: Let’s discover what’s working. From there, we discuss challenges, and can look for common threads regarding what has and hasn’t worked in the past which may be applied to the current challenge. It is this process that I am interested in, of teasing out patterns and tendencies that lead to progress, regardless of the specific challenge. Through these discussions, I am able to emphasize that we are all living systems; we change and adapt to our surroundings. People are not static, nor are we machine-like; we are dynamic and filled with possibilities. This discussion opens the door to the Growth Mindset concept.
Once a challenge becomes clear, there are several ways that a parent can approach it using Growth Mindset techniques. For instance:
- Gain greater awareness of how the brain functions. When I begin working with parents, I am careful to explain that the brain is not yet fully developed at birth. It still needs to develop many connections and structures which can only happen through interactions with the environment and a range experiences. Although the brain’s plasticity is greatest from 0 to 8 years old, the brain is actually not fully developed until age 22 to 24, and it continues to have plasticity throughout one’s lifetime. Also, since the brain is a muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it grows! Children love to see images that illustrate these concepts and connections. It is important that parents understand these ideas for themselves as their brains still have plasticity and that their children’s brains will continue to grow throughout life, and that intelligence is not innate but can always be developed. Once parents internalize this knowledge, they tend to approach situations differently and they do not assume that their children will stay on the current trajectory. This information alone can be eye opening to many parents.
- Embrace an effective praising style. I find it helpful to explain to parents that it’s important to be aware of the importance that is placed on praise, and how it tends to correlate with self -esteem. For instance, that there may be a more effective and less effective ways to praise, and for praise to be most effective, it should be specific and sincere. Praising effort helps children to gain an ability to try again when setbacks occur. I work with parents on re-framing situations, which provides an opportunity to learn from the experience, and allows children to further identify their own strengths and weaknesses. In one instance, one of my clients relayed a story about her son coming home with disappointing test results, 16/20 correct. He was afraid to tell his mother, my client, about the result, as it was not 20/20. In the past, the mother would have emphasized the four missed problems. I asked my client if, in this instance, she would be willing to praise the effort it took him to get 16 right answers, and ask her son what he had done to get the correct responses. As her son explained to her how he solved the problems, he became excited, and we could see the light in his eyes. My client then asked her son, “I can see that you like solving these problems. Are curious to see why you didn’t get those other four questions right?” My son’s client then said, “Sure mom! Would you sit down with me to go over it?” This illustrates how effective positive framing can be, showing us a Growth Mindset in action!
- Take ownership and responsibility. As individuals, we all make decisions in how we choose to act and react. As parents, we have countless opportunities to model healthy behavior for our children. I encounter this myself, for instance, the other day I was writing an article, and had to go through all the steps for writing that I encourage my son to do so often. When my first attempt did not meet the vision of the publisher, I found myself going through the steps of pre-writing, writing, revising, editing that finally lead to presenting and publishing. I took in the publisher’s comments, took ownership of my work, and went back to the drawing board several times. I could have labeled myself as a person who ‘isn’t good at writing’. Instead, I learned from the process and progressed through to the final product that did get published. Every step of the way, I allowed my son to observe the process. He saw me put in the effort required to get an article published! Later, when my son took his own writing class, I witnessed him applying the effort needed to continuously tweak and edit to get the end result that he desired. As he carefully went over each paragraph looking for grammatical errors and synonyms, I praised him for being persistent and diligent, promoting the development of his own growth mindset!
It is important to note that transformational takes time. We encourage parents to appreciate the small steps taken towards positive change. In line with this, there is a PCI Living Systems Principle that states, “What you focus on grows.” Once you get into the habit of focusing on the learning as opposed to the outcome, intelligence will follow. As a coach, it is wonderful to have so many tools at my disposal to use when partnering with parents to achieve the lives they desire for themselves and for their children. I feel very fortunate that I get to learn something from each and every client that I coach. This is one of the ways I am continuously working on adopting a Growth Mindset in all aspects of my life.
If you have questions for me, or any comments, or would like to share your own ideas for enjoying the parenting journey, please start a discussion below!
For more information about Nita and parent coaching, please visit www.peakexperienceparenting.com