The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity

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“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity” got reminded of the lines by George Carlin.

– A beautiful one, isn’t it?

-Yes meem, replied my 12 year old. Its a butterfly invitation card. Its Angel, my friend’s birthday tomorrow.

-She should have verbally invited. Why do you think she spent time on this? Anyway nobody gives credit to the caterpillar…In this case its Angel. You just mentioned such a nice butterfly card. A compliment to the card, but not the hard work of your friend.

-Guess she wants to make more memories. Doing crafts with mom is fun meem. And its not hard work, its spending time together. Remember that day, the printer stopped working! And instead of print outs, we had to draw the maps. It took time to finish the project but loved it a lot to get to spend time with you. Everybody in school said that the project was nice. No body complimented the hard work.

– Nobody complimented the hard work? The perseverance? The caterpillar of all success? Angel’s mom is so much forward thinking I thought. Through a small craft project she taught her daughter 5 important skills. They are the following:

1. Bonding and fun: Kids love to spend quality time with parents. And especially, they love any event related to their birthday. Preparing birthday cards is a great way of making memories.

2. Perseverance: Craft projects are effective tools for illustrating  perseverance to kids. Completing a craft requires  the kid to stick to the task over an extended period of time. It requires a good deal of patience and concentration. And provide hands-on opportunities for developing this important moral value.

3. Self esteem: It is important to help kids discover their own unique talents and qualities. Also, to learn to value their own strengths. Completion of birthday invitation cards for friends would definately boost her self esteem.

4. Completion of short term goal: Angel must have learnt to work towards a goal. Making the cards would have given her a sense of accomplishment.

5. Reliance on self: Its an important skill in today’s world. One must let kids do what they’re capable of doing on their own. This boosts confidence.

“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity”… its ok. Because the butterfly is the creation of the caterpillar!

Imagination is more important than knowledge

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-“Mama can two twins take birth in different years?”

-How is that possible? Twins are born on the same day and year. That’s why they are called twins.

-Possible mama, one has to be born on 31st December before midnight and the other one few minutes after that!

This is a common trick question. And still I feigned ignorance, just to see if she gets excited to tell/teach something new to her mom! And excited she was. Quite excited indeed when she could pass me some knowledge.

This little play-acting got me thinking. How did she come up with this? And how she was so excited at having shown me something that I didn’t. Probing a bit, I found that she and her friends were discussing twins when one of them came up with the question. Perhaps the child heard it somewhere earlier, or may be it was a sudden brainwave. Either way, it is always good to be thinking, asking questions and breaking assumptions.

Many times our education system encourages rote learning. Learning is relegated to what’s taught by the teacher. Rather than what intrigues the mind. And stories abound how questioning, probing are discouraged in the classroom. Not just the education system, the habit is ingrained in our psyche as well. Often, questioning the wisdom of elders is considered disrespect. So this little play-acting of mine was fun. It was clear that she did not mind asking questions, and I also failed the intelligence test.

Everyday life with your kids you will find such scenerios. Sometimes, parents are bombarded with too many questions. Sometimes questions are innocent ones like “Where does Hanuman live?”. And sometimes tricky “Where did you get my little brother from?”… Kids ask questions because they imagine and try to relate themselves to the real world. So, is imagination a bad thing for kids?

Definitely not. Kids learn through imagination. Imagination is the foundation for school readiness and life skills such as critical thinking; problem solving; and social interactions.  Preschool kids imagine and role play cooking, giving bath to their dolls, making calls through toy phones, doing grocery at the super market, or visiting a doctor’s chamber. Older kids pretend to be teachers, singers, artists, beauticians, superman etc. Imagination is within us. It’s true that knowledge is learnt through schooling and experience. Imagination motivates to acquire much more knowledge and to use it in creative ways. Like Einstein had mentioned “Imagination is more important than knowledge” The Wright Brothers had imagined voyage before they knew it was achievable. When device after device failed to see them travelling through the clouds, the two brothers predicted how they could better their airplane. Finally, one day they established the world’s first aircraft.

Here are three ways to help foster your kid’s imagination:

1.Story-telling: Kids love to listen to stories. They love to know about their favorite characters, places,  relationships etc. Stories also allow children to know about their own cultural roots. Also, its a great way to enhance the listening skills, and excite creative sparks in them.

2.Play-dates:  Play-dates with kids of a similar age support each other’s imaginative play. They learn from each other, and get better at socializing skills also.

3.Art and crafts: Kids enjoy art and crafts. Some kids color the leaves of a plant with traditional green, while others yellow, red and what not. Whatever it is, they should be provided with a lot of materials to keep busy with art and crafts. This way, creativity and imagination receive strong stimulation. And in the long run, they become well equipped  with confidence and knowledge.

Imagination is more important than knowledge…A child’s imagination is infinite. Parents can help children to nurture their imagination, and ignite the creative genuis inside them and betterment their knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

Were you worried about fear of failure?

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And I tried to skip to my own personal space. Her words were echoing “Were you worried about fear of failure mamma?” I was the first child to my parents. Often my parents would be told, “But you have daughters…”

“Were you worried about fear of failure mamma?” – This was such an unexpected question from my 12 year old. She has always been an inquisitive child right from her baby days, and a chatter box too! Her vocabulary is full of Why/How/Where/When/Who/What? She keeps asking questions till she gets totally convinced about clearing her doubts. But, this…. this seemed like an entry point to a little serious discussion.

“Were you worried about fear of failure mamma?” Why are you asking? Are you worried? “Not exactly mamma…but some of my friends are. They keep saying what if they score bad marks?” This reminded me of a story shared by my colleague. His daughter goes to Montessori. The kids mom wanted her to color a flower. She colored a few petals and lost interest. Her mom mentioned to the kid that she will fail in school if she gives up a task like that. “Dad will admit me to a different school”…the kid had responded! Both parents were spellbound by the thought process of their kid :)

– “Were you worried about fear of failure mamma?” 

– What about you?

– No mamma, I am not worried about failure…may be I am like dad. He once mentioned that he didn’t worry about failure.  Why do some people worry so much?

– May be they are not like their dads. When do your friends talk about fear of failure?

-Whenever there is some exam or some performance. I really don’t know why they worry!

-They don’t know that FAIL means First Attempt In Learning! Enough of discussions…if you are clear of your doubts now, please concentrate on studies. You have an exam tomorrow…

And I tried to skip to my own personal space. Her words were echoing “Were you worried about fear of failure mamma?” – I was the first child to my parents. We had a big extended family with lots of cousins. My cousin brothers were all good in studies. The family had high hopes of their successful careers. When it came to the daughters of the family, no one really asked them to study well, or have a career of their own. Growing up, the distinction was clear to me. Often my parents would be told, “But you have daughters…”. Given this setup, I somehow wanted to do well myself…and make my parents proud of having daughters. And I used to fear failure. Because I wanted to prove that daughters can achieve everything like sons.

I went up to my daughter. Sat her down and shared this. She was taken aback. Took some time to absorb it.

-But how did you overcome this fear?

-I used to do a lot of positive self talks whenever I felt down! Once I started to do well, I kept thinking about the successes. And that helped me prepare well without worrying about failure. Often, one single incidence of success can help kids break out of the shell of fear of failure. In my case, may be it was that…

Kids must learn to overcome fear of failure. As parents, we need to listen to their worries, and discuss to assuage the fears. We should share our own childhood stories with kids. It would make them see that they are not the only ones to experience fear of failure. And through personal examples show that most of the times the fears are unfounded. Or they can be overcome with a bit of diligence and hard work.

5 tips to ignite your little genius

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No kid is unsmart. Every kid’s a genius at something. Our job is to find it and then encourage it” – Robin Sharma

I wholeheartedly support this quote.  I believe kids are genius in one or the other thing. I have observed that a few kids are good at painting, coloring, drawing and a few are excellent in dancing, singing, sports, and  other extra curricular activities.  Also, a few kids perform very well in academics. Thus every kid is a genius at something.

Most of us parents focus largely on the academics. But, the success of our kids is not only in getting good class scores. The real success is in following one’s passion, following what one loves to do. Take the case of Robin Sharma. He was born to a family of education minded parents. He first studied biology, and romantic poetry as a minor subject. He then graduated as a lawyer.  While practicing law, he discovered his passion for inspirational writing. He mentioned “Every moment I’m sitting in this law office, it’s a moment I’m away from my dream.’”… his quest  lead him become a successful internationally acclaimed leadership expert. Trust his parents never dreamt of such a career for Robin Sharma!

Thus,  we parents must try to “give birth to the joy” that is within our kids. We must not compare kids with their friends.  Comparisons  demotivates kids. We must boost our kids confidence level,  motivate and support them towards their path of  success. Here are a few tips to ensure your little genius makes it big in life.

1. Learning through activities at home:  Involve your kid in household activities. Say “Let’s prepare 5 glasses of lemonade”. During the process, they can learn about measurements, about mixtures, and ingredients. In the long run, they will learn to be independent, will be able to think critically, and come up with new ideas.

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2. Be a role model:  Kids usually mimic their parents. Set an example to them by pursuing your hobbies. Let them understand about dedication and determination. Encourage them when they finish their home-work. Share the joy of finishing timely deadlines. Follow a healthy life-style, and let them copy yours.

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3. Allow self-learning: Allow kids to come up with ideas for project work on their own. Provide a platform for discussion but do not spoon feed. This will ignite their inner creativity.

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4. Ensure ample opportunities to create: Let them consume less, and create more. If they have watched a cartoon movie, let them write the story. images

5. Give regular doses of Vitamin N: There are so many examples from nature to marvel at and learn from. The perseverance of the spider as it spins a web. The team work of ants as they store food for winter. Many plants depend on bees to spread pollen, helping them to reproduce. Nature thus enriches life.

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“Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success” – John Hays Hammon

Let’s focus on our child’s success and motivate them to get better character and lead a very good life as a successful human.

What’s the fuss about 4C skills for Kids?

4c

21st-century skills” refers to the 4C’screativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Educationists throughout the world feel that students need to be oriented to these skills to thrive in today’s world. The 4C’s compliment the traditional 3R’s of education i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic towards academic success.

Today’s students are fortunate enough to have powerful learning tools.  They locate, acquire, and create knowledge quickly. Thanks to the advances in internet technology, and search engines. When I was a medical student, the resource for more information was the Institute library. The library used to have fixed work hours. We had to wait to get to dig into the huge books for additional information. We used to pick the brains of seniors and visit the hospital during odd hours to get a hang of interesting cases. We also used to meet our teachers to clear our confusions. Microbiology was the only class where the teacher used an overhead projector. We would look at the white screen, eyes wide with wonder!

Has learning become easy now-a-days? The answer obviously is yes. It is easier to learn about things, get in-depth videos and tutorials, and prepare write-ups and presentations. The 3Rs of education has been greatly enhanced by modern technology. So, what’s the fuss about 4C skills? (www.p21.org) To me, this question holds the secret to differences between academic success and real-life success. A student succeeds in academics by mastering the content in the core subjects. In real life scenarios, success depends on the knowledge of the content plus the execution. And here, knowledge bolstered with the 4Cs – creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration come to the fore.

Let me tell you an incredible real-life experience of mine. This is in my final year of MBBS. I was posted in the emergency department. A patient was brought in. He was choking, was unable to speak, and looked terribly pale. The attendant told us that he was fishing when he suddenly got sick and fell down. To my surprise, the senior doctor immediately gave a nick, and inserted a catheter to clear the airway. And then we took the patient to the OT. And to the utter surprise of all of us, a live fish was extracted from his throat! Apparently, he had tried to unhook the fish with his teeth when it escaped his clutches and lodged itself in his throat!

The emergency insertion of the catheter in his airway saved the patient! And no medical textbook could ever teach this! Only because my senior had applied his critical thinking skills, we could save the patient. This creativity and collaborative spirit was there in our studentship days. And communication was incredibly important too. Information was not always available readily. We did not have access to huge online library, computers, and other gadgets. We did not have classes where teachers could show videos, or project pictures of rare cases. We could not clear our doubts over internet, learn the subjects by using simulation, or virtual lab work. So we needed to communicate, collaborate and brainstorm with our peers to understand, grasp and find answers to our questions. Not every building block of a concept was available. So we needed to apply critical thinking to connect the dots.

Today, information and answers are readily available. Today’s kids can instantly curate information on google. Learn through various apps and videos that abound the internet.  And in a way, that can come in the way of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication. The ‘dots to connect’ are often already available. The mental exercise, wrestling with pieces of information and critical thinking may not get enough practice. And as kids get concepts on their fingertips, collaboration and communication with peers may not get the importance that it deserves.

It is a rapidly changing world! What we learn today, is going to be obsolete in a not-too-distant future. This is why 4C skills are even more relevant today! Children must be able to learn new things. Things they are not necessarily taught in the classroom. Critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication come in handy in picking up new things.

So, how do we help kids master the 4C skills? Each kid is born with varying degree of the 4C skills. If someone is naturally creative, we have to see that this never withers away. If a child loves to work in groups, discuss things with friends, then these inherent collaborative and communication skills need to be nurtured. As parents and teachers, we must encourage the natural inclinations of kids. Like any other, these skills also can be practiced. We must find ways to give our kids more practice to develop these. Let’s empower our children so that they can thrive in the rapidly changing world.

Dr. Ananya Chakraborty

What is the best thing parents should know about their kids?

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Parents want their kids to grow up to be successful adults. They desire that their kids should excel in academics. As a parent I am not an exception to such a wish. Many a times, I asked my 11 year old about what she would love to choose as a career in future. When she was around 4 years, her reply used to be a ‘Teacher”, later on “Beautician” to “Pop star” to a “Scientist”! I would want her to choose a career that would make her happy. The other day one of my friend asked me “What is the best thing parents should know about their Kids?”. And I started thinking. Yeah I had never thought about that. The question seemed to be quite interesting!

After a day’s thought, I zeroed on one thing. I as a parent would love to know first about my kid’s character traits. Sir Albert Einstein had mentioned “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” So what are the character traits should a parent look forward to in his/her kids? I thought about “TERRIFIC” Kids! Whether my kid is Thoughtful, Enthusiastic, Respectful, Responsible, Inclusive, Friendly, Inquisitive, and Capable?

Thoughtful kids

Kids need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others. When a guest arrives with a kid, they need to learn to share their toys. They need to make them feel comfortable. Few days back had met a friend’s kid, a 7 years old, who was making plans to share her room with grandparents on their arrival.  The other day, our daughter cleaned her wardrobe for donation as we had scheduled a shopping for her the next day. On my inquisitiveness, she mentioned that those clothes will be helpful to those kids who do not have many.

Kids must learn to contribute to others’ lives. They need to practice caring for others, and learn express gratitude whenever required by saying “Thank you”.  Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy. Health and happiness are two important indicators of success in one’s life.

Enthusiastic

Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, loved science from the time he was very young.  He was interested in the science of sound. When he was a child, he used to sit in a field and listen to the sound of wheat growing. Later in his teens, he spent his  time studying the way the way our voices work. His enthusiasm lead to a successful discovery. I know of a teen who used to be enthusiastic about his travel by an aeroplane as a kid. He would ask tons of questions to his parents, and later try to find answers from various other sources, including teachers and internet. He started making his own gliders, and aeroplane models. He finally got a chance to visit NASA as an awardee, and is currently preparing to take up career in aerospace engineering. The real secret of success is thus enthusiasm.

Respectful

Respect is an attitude. Being respectful helps a child succeed in life. Teaching them to be respectful is important as a respectful child gets along well with peers, parents and figures of authority later in life. To teach respectful behavior to kids, parents must demonstrate respectful behavior, teach polite responses that include saying “Please” and “Thank you” often, avoid over reacting, lend a listening ear in case there is a difference in opinion, and set limits to disrespectful behavior.

Responsible

Many kids live a life of entitlement. Very little is asked of them in terms of responsibilities at home. Sometimes it is due to parental laziness or attitude problem. Kids need to be assigned small responsibilities like taking care of pet at home, arrange their toys, water plants, carry dishes to counter after food, help make dinner etc. This helps them to grow confident as adults, and take care of themselves well, again an indicator of success in life!

Inclusive

There are kids who  loves to include new kids in their team while playing. They  welcome cousins to the house, and share their belongings. Such character trait is very important when one has to work in a team.

Friendly

Friends are vital to the development of kids. The bonds that they develop with  peers bring pleasure, comfort, and  important opportunities to learn and develop in a social world.

Inquisitive

Came across a story the other day. A kid used to be scared of bees after getting bitten twice. Her mother suggested that she should learn about bees. She started doing that, finally became curious, and started visiting farms that nurture bees for honey. The Kid who is a teenager now has become an entrepreneur of a drink that uses honey as a natural sweetener. As I am writing this blog, our daughter asked me, “Why do not you write about Claude Shannon?” Who is he, I asked? “An American mathematician and engineer, its his 100th birth anniversary. Without his theories we would not have digital computers!”. How do you know that? “Learnt that from google when I was looking for Khan Academy”! Felt happy that she is inquisitive.

Capable

Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven.” – Edward de Bono. Capability is an important indicator of one’s success. Life is not a bed of roses. How capable a kid is in a situation of “bullying“, or when he/she faces “rejection” or “failure“! We have to remember that the absolute measure of success is through tenacity and hard work. Kids should be taught to foster their growth mindset. 

“What is the best thing parents should know about their Kids?”….to me the answer is CHARACTER TRAIT. I want my daughter to grow up into a “TERRIFIC” kid.

“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”…Bruce Lee

Do parents make the best teachers?

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The first teachers we have in our lives  are our parents. They teach us to feed ourselves, to speak, take baby steps and learn to walk, ride a bike, know the environment, and many more. They even teach their kids the values of friendship, empathy, social skills, and emotion regulation. They are no doubt the best teachers for their kids.

Some parents argue that other than the traditional school curriculum, like science, arts etc, school has a limited role to play in the overall well-being of  kids. The other day there were differences in opinion in an well known parenting group. The debate was on “Whether preschools should provide lessons on abuse to kids”. Few parents were of the opinion that such sensitive issues can be discussed better by parents!  I personally know parents who feel that abuse should be discussed with girl child only. In this era, where there are daily reports of abuse of kids in the media. Is this not the time to spread awareness through schools, malls, apartment associations, and various social medias? As we know that prevention is better than cure, why cannot the society be little liberal in discussing such issues?

I was invited by an International School to address kids on “The use of TV and Gadgets“. I oriented the kids towards the “20-20-20” rule. The kids learnt that every 20 minutes, they should gaze through the window (spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away). Also, they promised not to indulge in TV and Gadgets for more than 2 hours daily. The kids enjoyed the session. There were many kids who wanted to meet me after the session to discuss their queries. I remember one question by a young kid: “My grandmother wears spectacles, even then she always sits close to the TV. What should I do?” There were many such interesting questions. I was glad that they understood the benefits/drawbacks of TV and gadgets. I was sure that many of those kids would adhere to the 2 hrs duration. This was something that they learnt in school. I am sure parents also try to restrict the TV and gadget time of their kids. But that is mainly by enforcing a strict discipline. How many parents would teach about the drawbacks using games, and medical facts?

Bullying is another topic that requires attention. Due to changing trends of the society, kids are overprotected. Many of them are not exposed to the adversities of life. They become vulnerable when bullied, also some enjoy to bully the weak ones. Our society has a reservation towards seeking the help of psychologists. I personally know parents who contacted me to connect to a psychologist for their kid who was regularly bullied at the play area, and facing low self-esteem. They contacted the psychologist but were willing for counseling sessions over phone, without revealing the identity. When we have so much concerns, why do we not equip our kids the skills to handle such situations before an actual scenario pops up?

The most important thing to realize is that we all have many teachers in our lives. Our parents teach us, our teachers also teach us, our peers books, newspapers, television, ipads, environment also teach us. All of them are valuable in their own ways! As parents we should identify our strengths and weaknesses, and seek help from experts whenever required. We have to remember that parents are the first teachers in the life of their kids, but they are not always the best teachers….

“Parents can only give good advice or put kids in the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”… Anne Frank

Hop-Skip-Jump!!!

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Hopscotch was one of my favorite games as a child. I played the game with cousins and friends at home, and with friends at school during lunch break. This game was like an addiction. I remember collecting broken chalk pieces from the floor of our classroom, and storing them in a box. Those chalk pieces used to be my most valuable possessions!

Later when my daughter started playing the game with her friends, I learnt that playing hopscotch  has lots of benefits for a child’s overall development.

  1. Hopping on one foot helps develop physical coordination.
  2. Leaping helps in strengthening the muscles.
  3. The game overall instills spatial awareness. 
  4. The game is a natural motivator for eye/hand coordination.
  5. Planning and strategizing are life-long skills learned through the game.
  6. Hopscotch creates the framework for learning about peer relationships.
  7. The game has hidden benefits like cognitive, emotional, and social growth.

Hopscotch is thus not only a lore of the playground. It is a simple game that has so many benefits for kids: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. Overall, fun for kids!.

Can I ask you a question?

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My younger one is a very curious child. She keeps on asking us lots of questions every day. Some related and some not so related to anything at all. I try to give some answer to her questions but sometimes, I become clueless.
The good thing is that she has an answer to the questions too. If I say, “I don’t know”. Immediately, she gives me an answer as if she was ready with it. The questions go on all day long, countless and endless.
There are so many questions in one day, that I don’t even remember half of them but here is a one which I remember:
Anvi- Mom, Why animals don’t wear specs?
Me- I don’t know Anvi. Can you tell me why?
Anvi- Because they don’t watch TV!
Me- Hmm, I would never have guessed it!
We are surprised that how kids imagine and how they become curious about things. We should encourage them to ask more questions as this shows that they are learning new things and are eager to learn more. As parents, it becomes difficult to answer all the questions all the time but try not to discourage them from asking. Sometimes, I ask her back, “Interesting question Anvi! Why do you think it happened?”
Curiosity is the best teacher which can help her learn more and gain more knowledge……

If Plan A doesnot work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet!

 

mindset

I can’t do this. I do not have the talent. Many a times, we come across situations where we face challenges. And we decide to give up. Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University carried out decades of research on “Achievement and success”. She discovered a groundbreaking idea—“The power of our mindset. Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

With a fixed mindset, one believes that he cannot change. This creates problems when he is challenged. People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.

Dweck’s theory has emphasized that growth mindset is very important for academic success.  So how can parents help develop a growth mindset in their children? There are few ways:

1. Praise effort, strategy and action, not results: Praise children for their effort (“You tried really hard”) rather than for their ability (“You’re really smart”) in order to get them to persevere.

2. Look for opportunities to stretch capabilitiesEncourage children to stretch capabilities. This can be done by suggesting them to add depth and breadth to their list of activities. Teach them that If “Plan A’ doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet!

3. Give honest feedbackProvide an honest feedback about his  performance.

Orientation of children towards growth mindset will help them recognize that people aren’t ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’. They will understand that discipline and hard work will take their abilities to the next level.