I’ll start tomorrow.
I don’t have the time.
I’m not feeling too well.
I don’t have the money.
I’m not talented enough.
I need to wash my hair.
Any of these sound familiar? They are common responses which get in the way of us reaching our goals. These responses are more commonly known as excuses, which in reality... lead to bridges of nowhere.
Kids experience this too, which is exactly what happened in the book The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do. The main character, Lou, doesn’t know how to climb a tree, but her friends wanted to play in the tree. Some “reasons” Lou said she couldn’t climb up the tree included - attending a slug’s funeral, finding out she was part fish so she had to spend time in her bathtub, running from an asteroid, and her tummy hurting - until she finally admitted she did not know how to climb the tree.
Our kids will also think of various “reasons” to avoid doing things. They may obsess over a new game or toy, they may pick a fight with someone to divert attention, and more often than not, they will claim illness. In all reality, in attempts to avoid something, a child can literally make themselves sick. The fib that starts off with their stomach hurting can turn into an actual painful stomach ache.
As parents and educators we can do a few things to help our kids conquer excuses.
1. Read between the lines. There is always something that is holding us back. It can range from lack of knowledge, fear of failing, to fear of what others will say. Sometimes kids (and adults) may not be conscious of the hurdle standing in their way. We can be there to acknowledge it, in efforts to conquer it.
2. Create a safe space. It may be difficult to try something new if we feel we may fail and be ridiculed. Let your kids know - with words and actions - that you’ll be there to “catch them if they fall.” With that, normalizing that making mistakes and “falling” is part of the growing process is also important. It is through mistakes which we learn and grow.
3. Find what motivates. Kids (and adults) are all motivated by something! Whether it is to ride bike like the big kids, to impress friends, or make a teacher or parent proud… there is always something that motivates our actions. As children grow we want them to shift from extrinsic motivators to intrinsic motivators, to make themselves proud.
4. Encouragement. Once a child seems to have crossed the tipping point of giving something a try, having a cheer squad to encourage and show support can be helpful, especially if not immediately successful.
5. Be conscious of language. This tip can make the biggest impact. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” or “I don’t know how,” we want to create a growth mindset by changing our statements to “I don’t know how to do that now, but I’m going to figure it out.” Or, “I may not do it well the first time, but I’ll get it with practice.” This can also be done by adding YET to the end of a sentence. “I can’t do this, YET.” Our kids soak in the way we speak; let’s give them stellar examples!
At the end of the story, Lou finally tries to climb the tree and falls. “She knew it. She CAN’T climb. NOT YET, anway. She’ll be back. Maybe even tomorrow.”
The goal is always to be proud of ourselves as we take steps toward reaching our dreams. Our kids can do it… and so can you!
Helping you Learn, Grow & Inspire... Mindfully,
Counselor De Jesus
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Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a former teacher, school counselor and licensed associate counselor serving children and families in the northern New Jersey area.
To learn more visit www.freetobemindful.com.