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Episode 15: Why (and How) to Give Kids Control


[00:00:01] Today, I want to talk to you about control. Usually when we're talking about control with kids, it's about how your kids are OUT of control and how that's a really bad thing. But actually, there's a lot of benefit to giving kids a little bit of control in their lives. And a lot of this is related to growth mindset.

[00:00:25] If you follow growth mindset, what I'm about to tell you is basically a summary of what growth mindset is just in case there are some listeners who don't know what it is. But stick with me even if you follow growth mindset, because what follows will definitely be new info for you.

[00:00:45] Growth mindset is basically the idea that if we work hard, we are able to develop our skills and we can succeed.

[00:00:55] It's basically the opposite of saying, "I suck at math." Instead, you say "I'm not good at math YET, but if I try hard, I can develop the skills and I can do it." So instead of giving up easily, we're more apt to try hard and persevere through all kinds of hard things. People with growth mindset tend to say things like, "I can learn anything I want to," or, "when I'm frustrated, I keep trying," or, "when I fail, I learn." Versus people who have a fixed mindset might say something like, "I'm either good at it or I'm not." Or, "I don't like to try that hard. I don't like to be challenged." They want to be told that they're smart, they want to feel smart, and they feel like intelligence is something that either comes naturally to a person or it doesn't. And if you are good at something, it's because you're smart, not because you tried hard.

[00:01:56] Growth mindset has become a "buzz" term, in part because studies have shown how beneficial it can be to develop a growth mindset.

[00:02:07] People with a growth mindset will persevere more in the face of failures. They recognize that their effort is required to develop new skills. They find inspiration in other people's successes. And there are a lot more apt to accept criticism because they realize it's not a reflection on who they are or their intelligence. On the other hand, a fixed mindset, which is the opposite of a growth mindset, is limiting. It makes you feel like you you don't have any control over whether you're good at something or not. You giving up easily. You don't think there's a point in working hard or trying hard at something if you're not naturally good at it right away. People with a fixed mindset are also often threatened by other people's success. You may have seen the meme online that says success isn't pie. There's enough for everyone. Well, people with a fixed mindset look at it more like . . . there's only enough success for a few people. And if I'm not good at it right away, I'm not one of those few people. So that's kind of a bummer, right?

[00:03:23] What I want to talk to you about today is how a sense of control is related to having a growth mindset, and how giving our kids some control really helps them to succeed in life and make it easier for them to overcome difficult things.

[00:03:44] When our kids are babies, we do a lot for them. Well, we do EVERYTHING for them, right? Including making all of their decisions. But as time goes on, they're able to do more and more things for themselves. And sometimes as parents, that can be hard for us to recognize as it's happening.

[00:04:02] Like I remember when my daughter was five and I was still showering her. My boyfriend came into the picture and he was like, "why don't you let her take a shower by herself?" And I was like, "oh, my God, she's so smart. I didn't even think she could do it." So as time goes on, it's hard for us to realize that our kids are developing into human beings who can actually DO stuff.

[00:04:30] Before we go any further with this, I want you to think about people you know in your life who are victims of their circumstances. And when I say that, I mean, we all have people in our lives who give up easily, who play the victim, who always ask, "why me? Why does this keep happening to me?" . . .versus the people who face hard things with determination to make things better. Those are the people who don't give up, no matter how hard life gets.

[00:05:02] Because life gets hard, right? Life gets hard for every single one of us.

[00:05:07] So when you think about the people who don't give up, who aren't playing the victim, those are people who believe that they are in control of their own lives. In science terms, this is called the "locus of control." If you have an internal locus of control, you make things happen. You believe that you are in control of your life and your circumstances and the things that happen to you in your life.

[00:05:37] If you have an external locus of control, you believe things happen TO you and you have no say, you have no power in any of it. You can imagine how going through your life feeling like things are happening to you — and you don't have any impact on how things turn out — is a pretty horrible way of going through life. The truth is, bad things happen to all of us, but we are able to make our own decisions about how we react to those things.

[00:06:11] Now, obviously, a lot of us have more privilege than others. So the things that happen to us are less awful than the things that happen to other people. But none of us — none of us — wants to have our children growing up feeling like they don't have any control. That sucks.

[00:06:32] As an adult, you can see how this would be a negative thing, right? You can see how it could lead to some pretty negative outcomes and depression and sadness and feeling like you are a victim and you you can't make your life better. And we don't want that for our kids.

[00:06:59] Life can be truly hard. I don't know that there's anybody who would say that life is easy. I truly believe that we're here to help our kids — while they are still children — deal with hard stuff so that when they grow up and the inevitable hard stuff happens to them, they're they're able to handle it on their own, and we're ALL confident they can handle it on our own. WE believe our kids can handle it and THEY believe they can handle it. And the reason that they believe that is because they've had practice while you were there to hold their hand.

[00:07:34] So.

[00:07:38] I really strongly believe that giving our kids some control WHILE they're kids is going to help them realize that life isn't happening TO them, and that they actually DO have control over some of the things in their lives.

[00:07:58] You can give them control in small ways. You can let them decide which chores they're going to do. So you don't get to choose that you have to do chores. None of us get to choose that — it's dirty if you don't do them, right? But they get to choose which ones they do. They can either set the table or they can clear the dishes.

[00:08:20] You can let them decide the order of their routine. We can't go to school with no clothes on, but you can decide whether you get dressed before or after breakfast. My daughter, when given this choice, decided that she was actually going to get dressed the night before and sleep in her clothes. So you know what? At the end of the day, I don't care if that's what she wants to do. You do, you, girl. So she's dressed in the morning when she wakes up and she's eliminated something that she has to do in the morning. And also I'm saving money on pajamas anyway, ha!

[00:08:58] You can also let them decide the order of their routine and involve them in the planning process. You can let them choose between two different options with what you're going to do each day. So if you've decided you're going to go to the park, you let them choose which park to go to, for example. That's especially good for little kids, because I'm not just talking about 10 year-olds. This is good for little kids! You can say, "do you want to ride in the cart at the grocery store or do you want to walk? Do you want your banana cut up into pieces or do you want it whole?"

[00:09:30] It might seem simple, but helping kids understand that they can make things happen in their lives even when they're little can have a big long-term effect. It helps them trust themselves by showing them that YOU trust them first to make decisions.

[00:09:47] So I hope that that's been helpful. And as usual, my theme on social media this week will also be about control and giving control to your kids. So I hope that you will reach out and let me know if you do this with your kids or if this has been kind of mind opening for you. You can email me at or on social media @mightyandbrightco. Talk to you soon.