6 Things Parents Say about Their Kids that Makes Me Cringe
Throughout my eight years as an educator, I have conferenced with hundreds of parents. I
have sat across from them while they cry, while they worry, while they brag about their child, while they predict their child’s future, and while they set their child up for a life of a fixed mindset.
I am an educator and a true believer of mindset being the true indicator of future success. There are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset individual believes that abilities and aptitudes are inborn and cannot be changed. A growth mindset thinker knows that brain plasticity allows you develop and strengthen current abilities with hardwork and some serious dedication. While people do have natural abilities like singing- for example- it does not mean that people without these natural aptitudes can never improve in that area. The belief that “you can” do something is the first step in being able to it.
6 Things Parents Say about Their Kids that Makes Me Cringe
1. He is just not a math person. I was the same way. I was always a reader.
Well, this comment is two-fold. The fact that this parent believes they were never a math person has obviously stuck with them. They laugh about it now, but it’s obviously changed the trajectory of their adult life. This fixed belief probably affected the career they have chosen. I could predict that their job has very little to do with math and a lot to do with reading and literacy. I think, “What would have been different for this person if someone believed he was a math person? What if he believed he was?”
As for their child, I now understand why this child gives up when they “just don’t get decimals”. Somewhere along the lines, this parent has imparted a fixed mindset on their child. They consciously or unconsciously let their child know that not being good at math is okay. They sent the message that success can happen even without math.
A growth mindset parent would sit down with this child. A growth mindset thinker would ask, “How can I become better at math? What can I do to become faster with multiplication?”
2. My child was upset when you didn’t compliment their work.
When your child came to me and asked me if I liked their story, I responded with, “Do you like it? What do you like most about your story?” I was not trying to ignore your child’s need for praise. I was not trying to be hard on your child. My goal- as a growth mindset teacher- was to divert your child’s need for praise to an opportunity for them to take pride in their work. I wanted your child to think critically about what they created. What would happen if I responded, “That’s amazing”? Your child would walk away knowing that I liked what they did, but what does that really matter? What I like is my opinion, and I do not assign grades based on opinion.
As an adult, we have specific genres we read. We have probably read outside our favorite genre and hated the book; it was too gory; it was too happy; it was too sci-fi. Well, even though you might have not liked the book does not mean it was not well-written. Just because you did not like the storyline does not mean someone else will not.
Praise and feedback are not the same thing. Praise implies that the work is done. Feedback implies that the work has just begun.
3. Practice makes perfect!
Does it? Does practice really make perfect? Was Michael Jordan perfect at the end of his career? No, and I am sure he did not believe that either. Has Yo-Yo Ma reached musical perfection? No, and I am certain he does not believe that either. Now, according to many, Yo-Yo Ma has reached musical perfection. I am not saying he is not utterly amazing, but he is still improving. If he did not believe that, he would not practice regularly. He would be complacent with his ability and just perform. Instead, Yo-Yo Ma practices. He physically plays his instrument; he envisions himself playing; he lives his music. That is not someone with a fixed mindset. Yo-Yo Ma is a growth mindset thinker. His ever-improving skill set is proof of that.
4. I see my child’s work hanging in the hallway, and it’s filled with errors/mistakes.
My response, “There are some misspellings, some missing capital letters, and the entire piece is one sentence, but did you notice the volume?” I have had parents’ jaws literally almost drop as I cheerily support the imperfect work hanging in the hallways. Parents do not understand why I put their child’s work- for all to see- if it was not manicured to perfection. These parents are fixed mindset thinkers. It seems they are almost ashamed of their child’s effort and current ability. They are more worried about what other people are going to say about their child’s work. They are comparing their child’s work to that of the student next to them. I do not do that. I remember that this child started the school year only writing two sentences at a time. Now, this writing piece is proof that this child can write whole paragraphs.
It takes hard work to reset the way we think. These parents just cannot understand why I am not correcting every word a child writes. Well, if I mark up their paper with red pen, I am doing all the work. That is not what I want as a growth mindset teacher. I want my students to work hard. I want them to be proud of their work. I want students to be able to find their mistakes. What this parent does not know is that their child went through their story seven times before it made its way into the hallway. She found 12 misspelled words, capitalized ten letters, and she almost stopped writing after she filled three lines on her paper, but she kept writing. I am proud of this child. I want her parents to be proud of her, too.
5. She has all A’s so we are not worried about her.
I have had parents sit across from me at conferences and they say these exact words. I try to control myself and not physically cringe. What do A’s have to do with the success of your child? Now, teachers become a second set of parents to their students. We spend countless hours with our students and thinking about our students. Their well-being is important to us. When parents come to me and tell me they are not concerned about their child because their report card is filled with A’s or A+’s, I get concerned. These parents do not see what I see. I saw this child break down in hysterics because they earned an A- on an assessment. This child’s first reaction was to ask if this grade was going to keep them off Honor Roll. I am concerned about this child. I worry because she does not know how to use failed attempts as springboards for improvement and success. An A- practically debilitates this child.
This child is a fixed mindset thinker who believes that grades define her ability. This child is upset because her parents are going to find out about her “bad” grade. What these parents do not see is that I am concerned. I am concerned that this young girl did not even look at the questions she answered incorrectly. The grade at the top of the paper was all she saw.
I am trying to instill the growth mindset in their child. I want her to know she can always be better. I want her to know that her value is not determined by a number at the top of a paper.
6. We do not force him to continue sports/activities if he wants to quit.
I quit the clarinet in 4th grade. I was in the chorus, and I wanted to be in band with my friends, too. After just four weeks of “practicing”, I quit. My fingers just did not reach the proper position to hold the notes. I could not remember where the notes were. My parents were not the type who let me quit easily. However, they knew my true talent was singing. To this day I regret quitting an instrument. Ten years ago, I was given a guitar by my parents. I have yet to successfully play anything, but I have not given up on my dream to be able to sing while playing guitar. I never say, “I can’t play guitar.” I say, “I can’t play guitar … yet.”
To the parents who let their children quit, do not let them quit until you understand why they want to quit. If your child is doing an activity that does not bring them any joy, then let them quit. If wrestling is just too aggressive for them, let them stop. But, if they hate that they cannot pin anyone because they are not strong enough, do not let them quit. Help them practice. Give them the tools. Teach them that getting pinned is making them stronger because they are learning what not to do. They can use that knowledge to successfully pin their opponent in the future.
Our success, our abilities, and our aptitudes are all related to our mindset. Our mindset affects what we do, the choices we make, and our belief in ourselves. As Henry Ford said: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.
Are you a fixed or growth mindset thinker? Do not be discouraged if you have labeled yourself as a fixed mindset thinker; you are just not a growth mindset thinker … yet.
What to consider before taking the Flexible Seating plunge:
- How do I get my administration/teachers/parents on board?
- Where am I going to get the money?
- How do I pick the right size products?
- How am I going to help my custodial staff?
- What if flexible seating does not work?
- Which furniture should I buy?
How do I get my administration/teachers/parents on board?
Education! Educate everyone around you. People do not support initiatives they do not understand. Offer to prepare a presentation about flexible seating. You can present your ideas/learning philosophy to the Board of Education, your administration/teachers, and your class parents. The classroom setting is something that has been fixed for centuries, so changing up something that is not “broken” might be a tough battle at first. When I started receiving my flexible seating furniture, my colleagues thought my main goal was just to make my room look “cool” and new. Once I began spending whole class periods talking to my students about flexible seating- what it means, its purpose, my goals- the students started conveying that information to their teachers. I also invited teachers into my room and encouraged them to ask questions.
I made posters to hang in the hallway about flexible seating. I want to highlight how the furniture is used. I want to explain how flexible seating gives the power to choose back to our students. I wanted teachers to know that my initiative is founded upon research that proves flexible seating leads to increased student achievement and performance.
Where am I going to get the money?
The money portion could be a major hindrance in achieving a flexible seating classroom. To redo my entire classroom, I spent $3,000.00. I personally find DonorsChoose to be a little confusing, so I went another way. I hosted a school-wide fundraiser with the company Whooo’s Reading. I was able to raise $2,000.00 from this fundraiser from a total of about 230 students. The fundraiser was manageable, but it did take a lot of my time in terms of extra communication with the school business office, extra communication with teachers, calling parents/relatives who donated, etc., but it was worth it! I was also able to get a third of what I needed donated by my school’s Parent-Teacher Association. I am sure a grant proposal for flexible seating to your school’s Educational Association would also be granted. ***If you need sample language for a grant proposal, leave a comment below with your email, and I’ll send you some documents!
How do I pick the right size products?
Many websites like Kaplan, Lakeshore, SchoolSpecialty, and School Outfitters give you size recommendations for your purchases. I physically measured my students at various sample workspaces to decide on my sitting table height, the height of my kneeling table, and the size of stability balls I ordered. Do not be hasty when you purchase. Read the reviews and the product descriptions thoroughly because exchanging items is not a simple task! Also, keep all boxes, bags, etc., that come with the product until you are certain that the size, shape, color is right for you. Keeping original packing makes exchanging/returning much easier.
How am I going to help my custodial staff?
When you get rid of your desks, that means there are desks with no home! One thing to consider before taking the flexible seating plunge is to check with your custodial staff. Ask them if there is room to store the unused desks. If the desks are in disrepair, they will most likely dispose of them; however, if the desks are usable, they will most likely store them for the future. If you know your school’s storage space is lacking, check with your Business Administrator about the possibility of getting the furniture put up for auction. This would need to be approved by the Board of Education, so it takes some time to set in motion.
When you get rid of desks, there is a lot of “stuff” on the floor. This makes nightly cleaning a more time-consuming task for your custodial staff. Think of ways to store your furniture off the floor to make clean up even easier for your custodial staff. I have several tables in my room. I wanted hard workspaces for my students, but I also wanted a solution to the issue of everything being on the floor at night. Think about storage before buying your furniture.
What if flexible seating does not work?
It will work if you want it to! Flexible seating makes your life a little more hectic at first, but if you stick with rules/limitations/high expectations, it will work. Believe that it will work, and it will. Do not give up on this dream. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about for months/years, you are ready. If you truly believe in what flexible seating is meant to accomplish, everything will fall into place!
Which furniture should I buy?
Here are the links to the items I purchased:
Café style table
for 1st-3rd grade (or for small 4th – 5th graders)
for 3rd-5th grade (or for big 2nd graders)
FitPro Stability Ball w/ Legs
25 1/2” diameter
for 5th-6th grade (or for big 4th graders)
Height: 19” – 30”
for 2nd-6th graders
(for big 1st graders)
(Bean bag type)
Ages 4 yrs+
(Bean bag type)
Ages 4 yrs+
for K-6th graders
for K-6th graders
for K – 6th graders
for K-6th grade
I’ve started my journey as a flexible seating classroom. Yes, it’s a journey. I do love hyperbole, but that’s not what’s happening here. Flexible seating is a mixture of bumps, smooth trails, and hills while embarking on the arduous journey to what I think of as the Emerald City. I view true flexible seating to be a classroom Utopia. That’s why I made the change. When I started teaching eight years ago, I always wanted my classroom to resemble my home. I’m comfortable there; I love to spend time there; I get so much done when I’m there.
Flexible seating. I love it; I’m scared of it; it makes me smile; it gives me the nervous butterflies. This mixture of emotions might seem extreme to you non-teachers out there, but it’s not. For those teachers who haven’t taken the “flexible seating” plunge, you probably know what I mean.
You might be asking, “What is so scary about flexible seating?” Well, like with any educational initiative, it takes time, energy, and a whole lot of procedure/routines to handle. Most of all, it’s a risk. Now, to you, it might not seem as high stakes as investing in that stock, but it is for me. I have a lot to lose. Norms. Procedures. Routines. Expectations. Order and organization. Sanity. Just to name a few.
If you’re not a teacher, you might be thinking, “Is this girl serious? Does she really think changing seats is this big of a deal?” Well, here’s my best comparison. For those of you in the medical field- it’s like changing your patient’s meds from a tried and tested medicine to a trial drug. You’ve researched it. It has worked before, and it’s worked extremely well. But, you’re not sure how it’s going to work for your patient. You’re not sure if it WILL work, but everything you’ve researched shows it’s the most effective means. My circumstance is not life or death, but it’s challenging the century-long norms of education. That’s kind of a big deal. The well-being and success of my students is my responsibility.
In Education, establishing norms is paramount to the successful classroom management of any teacher. Changing up those norms mid-year is a risk. It’s a risk for me as an instructional leader. My classroom management procedures, routines, and expectations will have to be different. I am going to have to be different. This flexible seating model is going to test the Type A side of my personality that craves order and organization.
As of one week ago, I had “assigned seats” in my classroom. Students sat at the numbered desk that matched their alphabetical order number. Seeing 250 little ones each week takes management … some serious classroom management founded upon routine, procedure, organization, and high expectations. That’s all before you add flexible seating to the mix. Students need to know where they sit. They need to know where their space is. The need to have boundaries about who they sit next to. At least that’s what I used to think. With flexible seating, things are much different. A child’s space is where ever they feel works for them. Their space is where they feel comfortable. Their space is where they can get the most work done. Their space is where they can focus the best. Their space is not fixed; it’s fluid.
I had so many questions and concerns when I started researching flexible seating a few months ago. What happens when there is a substitute? How do I explain this philosophy to a teacher who went to the same type of school I went to- one with rows and columns of desks? What if my administration comes to observe me, and they view children changing seats during class a distraction? The novelty of new furniture. What if it never wears off? What if this model only works with a few classes? Well, I shared all of these concerns with my students. I wanted to be open with them. When I asked them what my concerns would be, they understood. At one point, I had a 7 year old child say, “I think you’re nervous because what if it doesn’t work?” What if this doesn’t work? Right there. She just … got it. That exact moment reassured me in so many ways. While I was thinking about my concerns, I forgot why I originally wanted to make this change. My students are amazing. My students astound me every day. My students work hard. Above all, my students and I are a team. I care about my students just as much as they care about me. These kids deserve a classroom that they want to come to. They deserve to not sit in a hard plastic chair all day when their little bodies are craving movement. They deserve the best.
I got rid of all my desks and chairs. Every. Single One. Like I told my students, those plastic and metal pieces of furniture are certainly durable, but they are by no means comfortable. I traded my traditional furniture out for bean bag couches, ottomans, stability balls, a café style table, wobble stools, giant pillows, a kneeling table, a sitting table, and the carpet. It sounds like a lot, and right now it is. But, it’s one step closer to my Emerald City … my Utopian classroom.
After years of continuing with the status quo, I’m breaking out. Flexible seating isn’t just a change in furniture. Not at all. This is a fundamental shift in how I view my students and OUR classroom. It’s not “my” classroom anymore. It’s “our” learning environment. We are a team. I know this new approach will be successful because I have so much faith in the little learners I see every day. I have faith in myself. I have faith in change.
I love change. I love to create change. Flexible seating is change. I’m ready for it.
I missed those nervous butterflies. I’m glad they’re back.