Think about the difference, emotionally, between these two statements:
- I can’t ride a bicycle.
- I can’t ride a bicycle, yet.
For me and, studies show, for a lot of other people, the first sentence communicates a limitation. The second sentence is full of possibility. That’s not to say that everyone who says that they can’t ride a bicycle believes that they will never develop that ability. It just means that the second sentence clearly leaves the door wide open for growth to occur.
Psychologist, Carol Dweck, is a professor and researcher at Stanford University. She has spent a considerable amount of her professional life focused on trying to deepen our understanding of motivation. What makes people do what they do? In the TED talk below, she speaks about the results numerous studies, all lending significant support to the idea that, when students know that intelligence/skill is something that can be nurtured and improved upon, they are more likely to:
- be curious and want to learn new things (throughout your entire life)
- put a lot of effort into trying to learn more and more
- confront uncertainties rather than avoid them, allowing yourself to take chances and make mistakes for the sake of eventually getting better
- take constructive feedback as an opportunity to improve rather than as a personal criticism
- be inspired by others who are better than you rather than intimidated by them.
In one of her studies, a large number of students were divided into two groups. One group was told, simply, that they were smart kids. The other group was taught scientific facts about the brain and learning. It was explained to them that, “when they step out of their comfort zone to do hard things and they stuck to them, the neurons in their brains can form connections, stronger connections, and over time, they [the kids] could get smarter.” The current term in the literature for this is “neuroplasticity.” The study found that students who learned that trying things helps them become smarter showed greater motivation in school, better grades, and higher test scores.
For more information regarding this way of thinking, be sure to check out the other items in Skills Worth Working On, by clicking on the “Growth Mindset” tab.
The teen years are tough ones, for both the teens and their parents! So many exciting things are going on in the brain as it develops during the teen and young adult years. Due to advances in medicine, particularly the availability of functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans, researchers have been learning so much in the last two decades. The field of psychology has been studying this information and working to shape it into practical recommendations and approaches for parents, teachers, and the teens, themselves.
In the video below, we get to benefit from the knowledge from two insightful and gifted people in the field. The first is Marsha Linehan, PhD. She is the psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and is highly regarded in the field of psychology. DBT was developed to work with people who meet the criteria for Boarderline Personality Disorder. (Note: If you haven’t yet read my view of the strengths and limitations of labeling a person with a diagnosis, I encourage you to check that out.) Over time, research has shown that DBT concepts also work well with other people who generally experience intense emotions that make them feel out of control. Not surprisingly, a lot of her ideas apply quite nicely to raising teens, particularly those teens who are having a difficult time keeping their emotions in check. Not an unusual concept in the world of adolescence, right?
The second presenter is Laura Kastner, PhD. This is the first I’ve come across her but I enjoyed her approach and her presentation. She is a developmental psychologist and able to talk a lot about what the latest research is telling us regarding what the strengths and challenges of the developing teen brain are. She goes on to give examples of how parents can most effectively intervene with their teenagers, particularly during high emotion times.
Note: I want you to be aware that Dr. Linehan’s speaks extensively about suicide. This is because, in its original form, DBT was developed to work specifically with individuals who had frequent suicide attempts. In the clinical world, these are individuals who are often intolerant of their own intense emotions and have no coping strategies to help them through. DBT helps them through. Now that DBT is an established form of therapy, research is starting to show that the techniques are just as powerful a way of helping people who struggle with intense emotions for a variety of other reasons not the least of which being the turmoil of adolescence. Just because you or someone you love struggles with “regulating” their intense emotion does not mean that they are suicidal or risk of committing suicide but because Dr. Linehan set out to make her life’s work out of working with people who experience the incredibly deep emotional pain, it is through that framework that she describes some of the many techniques that are a part of DBT therapy.
This talk explains some of the concepts you will find in a book that I recommend and wrote a review on, Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors by Pat Harvey, ACSW, LCSW-C. The talk does get fairly technical at times because both of these women are not only therapists, but research scientists too. Try to not sweat over some of the more complex terms they use and just focus on the stuff the more concrete examples they give. This is a talk that was given to an audience of parents and professionals.
This is the first time that I have come across Dr. Kastner and I enjoyed her perspective so much that I’ve added her (and a co-author, Dr. Jennifer Wyatt’s) book, Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens, to my (increasingly long) reading list. I am grateful to both of the speakers for allowing this talk to be available for free to the general public.