For some kids, they have a zero-sum mindset.
In these instances, someone else has “to lose” for them “to win”. This type of thinking is self-centered, dangerous and can lead to isolation, on-going conflict and zero growth.
Many students fail to see the benefit of truly supporting another classmate. This can be due to a few reasons: low confidence, low self esteem, fear of failure, and limiting beliefs - to name a few.
Kids need constant reminders that it’s far easier to positively cheer on your peers than to work in isolation. Learning how to “give to receive” is a timeless principle that is as old as time. This concept is worth re-visiting today.
Let’s look at four ways to change our thinking here.
1. Sharing the Spotlight
Every kid loves to be the center of attention and shine as an individual. However, there are times when this individual approach is not the right recipe. We need to remind them that sharing can go a long, long way.
Each student has a different point of view here - depending on their comfort level and experience. Some students are always first to take full credit for a task, presentation or a good deed. It’s a skill to recognize someone else’s contribution to something and to allow them to shine alongside you.
Making this fun & normalizing this approach can be a game changer. Kids can feel such positive flow when the magic of working together happens for them. This is a scenario that we want to foster. Selflessness is something to be encouraged.
2. Supporting Another Student’s Work / Accomplishments
There is a big difference in looking at something positively, negatively and objectively.
Most kids will easily be able to point out the (perceived) negative aspects of someone else’s work. Criticism comes quickly and easily.
We must model how to look at something objectively and without criticism.
Going one step further - towards seeing the positive - can be even more difficult. How do we teach zero-sum mindset kids to explicitly look for the positive things that someone else has built? This skill comes from a place of humility and open-ness to learning.
We need to model encouragement through positive praise. Next, we need to show how to communicate these with sincerity.
3. Teach Collaboration - Explicitly
Let’s not mistake cooperation for collaboration. I have seen many situations where these two ideas get mixed up. True collaboration comes from sharing ideas, conversations, points of view and experiences.
For kids, taking turns can often be mistaken for collaboration. Alternating between tasks to be done is not true collaboration. We must go deeper. How do we do this? We foster this from conversation, asking good questions and listening with intent. When we ask good questions, we must also be really curious about the response.
Good collaborators know that part of this process is the struggle. We need to remind kids that struggling when working with someone else or someone new is a natural part of the process. This way, we keep expectations realistic and they don’t get discouraged because their first idea or suggestion isn’t automatically accepted.
4. Open-Mindedness is Key
As kids learn to broaden their friendships, they will start to understand more clearly that we are all wired very differently.
Learning how to factor this into situations can be difficult at first and requires an open mind. If kids feel that the only way is their way, they will never experience growth. For this to happen, they need to see other ways of learning, doing and being - that are different from their own. This means being open to new & different.
When kids reject new ideas & perspectives of others, it automatically backs them into a corner & they’re unaware that this is happening to them. Their natural response is to feel that everyone is out to get them. This mindset leads to so many other unnecessary challenges.
We don’t want kids feeling isolated because they don’t know how to cheer other people on. The perception of scarcity of success i
s not something we want to promote. Kids need to know that there’s lots of levels & type success to be shared - and celebrated!
What many kids learn far too late is the importance of connections & building a network of friends. Working in isolation will only take you so far.
We want to genuinely support others in whatever they are working on. If we create an atmosphere of rooting for others by default, it will create mutually beneficial friendships & relationships along the way.
And remember, it’s a good idea to remind kids that comparing their own success against someone else’s is a useless exercise which leads to nowhere. Instead, they need to see that there’s plenty of success to go around - if we choose to look at it in the right way.
Celebrating with others is definitely the right place to start!
That’s all I have for now.
Thanks for reading.