We recently started tutoring for one of my kids.
Once a month or so, Will and I get to sit in on part of the session. It’s my child’s opportunity to show off, and the tutor’s opportunity to do a little bragging on their progress together.
We had one of these check-in meetings last week. While we were talking, the tutor made an offhand comment to my kid that I immediately folded into my everyday vocabulary.
The tutor was running my child through a numbers exercise that was pretty challenging. (As in, I had a hard time keeping up.) After my kid stumbled through the first column of numbers, the tutor asked if they could try the next harder column together.
My kid said, “I think that’s too hard.” No whining, no complaining: just a simple statement of fact. I wasn’t bothered by it.
But the tutor reflexively fired back with, “It’s too hard right now.”
Then he went on to explain that as my child worked hard at building skills, that column wouldn’t be hard anymore. They would learn how to do it, together. It’s hard today, but it won’t stay that way.
Before we left that day, the tutor pulled me aside for a second. He quickly explained how important it was for kids to approach their work with a growth mindset. They need to believe in their core that they can get better: that exercises that are near-impossible today will be possible tomorrow, if they practice.
I make my students do hard things, he said, but those hard things don’t stay hard. With lots of practice, those hard things won’t be impossible—they’ll become a stimulating and completely doable challenge.
I never tell my kids that the thing they’re struggling with—be it tying their shoes, or fractions, or catching a softball—is easy. When they complain about things being hard, I don’t argue with them. But I’d never realized how simple it could be to sneak a growth mindset into our conversations about their struggles. It’s hard is fact, it’s hard right now is hope.
It might sound like we’re just quibbling over vocabulary, but those with growth mindsets (as opposed to fixed mindsets) go further in life, and enjoy the process more, regardless of age. And kids with hope don’t cry over math.
This week, that’s enough for me.