10 Tips for Cultivating a Healthy Parenting Mindset

Dr. LeeshaMD, MPH

What to Know

Stanford psychologist, Dr. Carol S. Dweck, has written extensively about mindset over the last several decades and particularly how mindset predicts achievement and success. I think of mindset as an individual’s set of beliefs and attitudes that predetermines his or her interpretation and response to life’s circumstances and especially challenges and difficulties. In her mindset theory, Dr. Dweck describes two types of mindset – fixed and growth.

With a fixed mindset, intelligence is something you are born with and does not change. The primary goal is to appear smart. Challenges are to be avoided. Disappointment and failure lead to discouragement and choosing to give up. Criticism is taken personally.

With a growth mindset, intelligence can be honed and developed. The primary goal is mastery. Challenges are embraced. Disappointment and failure represent an opportunity to try something new or do something a different way. Criticism helps you see areas for improvement rather than proof of your ineptitude.

Cultivating a healthy parenting mindset is so important. Otherwise you run the risk of feeling like a bad parent when your kids misbehave or when you yell at your children or miss an event like I did when I missed a Mother’s Day tea one year (ultimate parenting fail).

What to Do

Here are 10 TIPS for cultivating a healthy parenting mindset:

  1. Acknowledge the truth: Parenting is wonderful and all, but it is also ridiculously hard sometimes. Yes, there are children’s books, but your children don’t come with instruction manuals – only “on the job” training.
  2. Be flexible: Things are constantly changing and so are the needs and demands of our children. Being able to pivot is a lifelong skill and one we all need to practice. Flexibility makes the unexpected doable.
  3. Remember that one size does not fit all: Every family is different, rather you are a parent to one or many children, single parent or blended family, you home school or your kids attend school – you have to do what works best for you and your family. And, while you’re at it, stop comparing.
  4. Remind yourself daily that there are no perfect kids and no perfect parents: I have worked with thousands of families over my career and haven’t met one yet. You will make mistakes as will your kids, and it’s okay.
  5. Extend lots of grace to yourself and your kids: We will all have bad days and challenging seasons along this parenting journey. Be kind to yourself and your kids. 
  6. Practice healthy communication: Strong relationships require healthy communication. This looks like treating everyone in the family with respect, active listening rather than listening to respond, and validating feelings even when they are in stark contrast to your own. Healthy communication reduces family conflict and makes you feel more effective as a parent.
  7. Develop an attitude of gratitude: Take the time to appreciate the good things in your life, the big and the small.
  8. Take some child development classes: Understanding the stages of your child’s development can be quite helpful in figuring out why your child may be acting a certain way. Then it becomes much easier not to personalize their bad behavior.
  9. Breathe: Sometimes all we need to do is to press pause, stop, and then refocus.
  10. Create a judgment-free zone: I believe that most of us are doing the best we can with what we have in the moment. It doesn’t mean that we would handle a situation differently at another time or under different circumstances, but don’t beat yourself up for past decisions you made – good or bad. Own it and then move on. There is no place for shame.

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