Sometimes, it’s hard to look at our children as individuals with their own selves, rather than little beings that we are in charge of molding. However, when we step back and give them the freedom to explore their own abilities, we empower them and let them begin thinking for themselves.
There’s a psychologist named Carol Dweck who studied the power of our beliefs and found that one of our most basic beliefs about ourselves comes down to “mindset.” In Dweck’s view (and now in that of many other renowned psychologists), there are two mindsets: fixed and growth. People who have a fixed mindset believe that they were born with a specific set of talents and intelligence. People with growth mindsets view their natural qualities as things they can develop through effort and dedication.
What does this have to do with cheer and tumbling? Everything. Our children’s mindsets are not set; they can change. And while psychologists have yet to agree on exactly why people vary between a fixed versus growth mindset, we do know that people can shift mindsets to improve outcomes in both specific skill-sets and throughout life.
So much of what we do in life comes down to attitude; mindset ties into that. Think about the child who goes to school saying, “I’m not good at reading.” Odds are, they’re not going to excel at reading, a building block for so much of learning. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, really. And it can affect every facet of life. But, if we can work with our children (and selves) to shift the internal dialogue to more productive thought and discussion, over time, we can influence change to create better results for ourselves.
For example, a child enters the tumbling program and is just not quite getting it. The coordination and balance aren’t really there yet and, as a result, they’re having trouble with landings and execution. That child with a fixed mindset might think “I’m not good at this,” which will likely result in resistance to practicing or even want to quit. As a parent, this is where a teaching moment comes to light. Instead of saying “Ok,” teach them to take action and set goals. Instead of looking at the whole, help them develop an improvement plan. Perhaps their initial goal is to hold a handstand for one minute; break that time down into smaller, attainable goals and encourage them to practice.
Eventually, they’ll achieve the larger goal – by focusing on the process, rather than the end result. This mindset and skill to focus on smaller steps that lead to the ultimate result is the defining difference between the most successful and the least. It isn’t about what someone can or can’t do or is or isn’t naturally good at; it’s about discipline and continual practice within smaller steps that encourage larger success. If you practice, growth and improvement will happen.
That’s the lesson that we need to teach our children. It isn’t just about hard work or the big win: it’s about practicing the little pieces that get us there.
CJ Pugh is the Owner of PCT Cheer & Tumble. He is a father of two young boys, a passionate coach and, a life-long learner.