To what extent should children be free to ‘follow their own curiosity’?
What advice would you give to your younger self?

Every problem has a solution


"Growth mindset is about learning from mistakes and unlocking potential."

Jim Knight, TES


I didn't do well on the 'growth mindset' front this Monday morning gone.

8.23am, over breakfast, my son told me he needed his English notebook, which he'd taken away on half-term holiday to France, ostensibly to do his homework during the holiday week (as opposed to Monday or Tuesday evening before the hand-in deadline, as is our usual wont).

The English notebook, clearly, was nowhere to be found. Nor were the practice SATs test papers he was supposed to be correcting for Wednesday. A quick search of the car, his suitcase, my husband's briefcase, and any other spot we could think of, yielded nothing.

Had we left them at our holiday place? Had they been thrown out by mistake? I had no recollection of seeing them at any point during the holiday, even though I'd done a fairly thorough (I thought) sweep of the place before we left.


  Angry face

My rage at myself for neglectful, distracted parenting I hid under sarcastic fury towards my son for not 'being more careful with his stuff, not caring about his homework,' etc.. There was barely concealed irritation towards his father too for leaving the mundanities of domestic life, such as homework-tracking, to me.

'This is a disaster!' I wailed, head in hands.

My son looked as though he were going to cry.

'I will probably have to stay in at lunchtime and breaktime to re-copy all the work we've done in English since the start of the year,' he said, face pale. He hates getting into trouble at school.

'I thought I'd put them in [my sister's] suitcase,' he said.

'Why on earth would you put them there??! In any case, I opened her suitcase and I couldn't see them, and she didn't know what I was talking about when I asked her.'


I walked him to school as though I were leading him to the gallows. Dear oh dear, what WILL the teacher say?




On the way back home, I thought to myself, hmmmm.

'What a performance, Elizabeth. Bravo. You say it's ok to make mistakes, then you project all your OWN panic about years of mislaying papers and important documents onto your 11-year-old son. What is REALLY going on here?'

A second internal voice piped up, scattering woes.

'I can't believe I didn't pay more attention to his stuff! I've failed him! Why did I think it was a good idea to take homework on holiday anyway? I should have known we'd forget the minute we got there! Why is it I can write essays about 'my 25-year life goals' but I am so DISASTROUS at taking care of the small details of everyday life - like my children's homework?'


And so on and on, the verbal hair shirt.

Once I'd calmed down a bit, I re-set my mind to the problem, and reminded myself of one of my favourite affirmations:


            Every problem has a solution.



Tinkerbell pic


Perhaps it was divine intervention, or a more problem-solving frame of mind, or our Finder of Lost Things - our resident Tinkerbell, my 7-year-old daughter (who was off school sick that day) - but somehow the solution appeared.

I knelt calmly before my daughter, who was playing in her room, next to her still unpacked suitcase.

'Darling, we REALLY need to find your brother's school papers. There is a purple notebook with his name on it, and a couple of other test books. Do you think you might have seen them?'

'Oh!' she said, and turned to her case, from which she unearthed the SATs papers and the notebook from under a stack of Barbies and soft toys.

'You asked me earlier, but I didn't know what you meant,' she said.


A problem solved.

A heartfelt apology due.


A lesson or two learned... maybe??



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Oh my dear, I RELATE!!!!! I react exactly like this with my kids - and with myself - when any of us loses anything... And it is not right, is it, to scream at someone for making a mistake! So what would have been the correct response? To remain completely calm, and explain to your son how to handle the situation - i.e. explain to the teacher that he had lost his notebook and ask what he could do to catch up with the misplaced work? But then would your son have learnt the lesson that he needs to take better care of his stuff? Or would he think Oh well no big deal if I lose stuff, I can just explain it away and nothing bad will happen (actually, is this a bad outcome?). Are any of us less likely to lose stuff / make mistakes if strongly reprimanded when we do? I know that I clam up and make more mistakes if I perceive I am being judged somehow, and will probably perform better if supported with kindness and tolerance... And yet it's bloody hard to put this idea into practise when handling last-minute crises with kids. I think part of my problem is that my kids appear very nonchalant about losing things / making mistakes, so I feel I have to over-react to get through to them. But perhaps their nonchalance is actually a protective mechanism developed to offset my hysterical reactions? Eeeek!

The Writing Parent

It's a really good question. I wonder about that too. With preternaturally calm parents (do those actually exist??) do the children get the authentic emotional feedback that teaches them about what is expected in this particular culture/ family/ society? I remember reading in Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt that the mother's/ carer's response to the child's behaviour gives them the cues they need to understand what behaviours are expected of them. This may be why babies of mothers with post-natal depression, who may be calm but not expressive, struggle more emotionally and socially.
That said, there is obviously a big gap between being super calm and screaming and passing on fear and panic as I did...
Hmmm. There is definitely something about 'wanting them to get it'.

The comments to this entry are closed.