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Creating a ‘have a go’ culture in your school





By Michael Hawton

8th December, 2021

If the flip side of anxiety is resilience, how can school teachers and staff foster resilience in students? It could be as simple as creating a ‘have a go’ culture in your school. The Harvard Center on the Developing Child says “the essence of resilience is a positive, adaptive response in the face of significant adversity"[1], something that would set any child up for success in the future. However, how to foster resilience in today’s risk-averse society can be a challenge. By adopting a ‘have a go’ culture in your school, you will be setting children up to try, experience and sometimes fail at new experiences. What is this doing for a child? Building resilience thinking skills and capabilities.

In the 1980s researcher, Carol Dweck noticed that some children responded differently to challenges than other children.  She saw that in the face of challenges and adversity, some children were more prone than others to ‘give up’.  Dweck coined the idea of the ‘growth mindset’ and the ‘fixed mindset’.  Children with a ‘growth mindset’ were more likely to see challenges as opportunities for growth, were more likely to persevere even in the face of adversity, and were more likely to accept that they would sometimes fail.  Children with a fixed mindset often believed strictly in natural ‘abilities’ or ‘talents’ and were more likely to give up in the face of adversity. Teachers and significant adults in a child’s life can teach a child to alter their mindset and encourage them to a ‘growth mindset’.

It is important for us to instil a ‘have a go attitude’ or growth mindset in children. We can do this by shaping the way that they view challenges and setbacks and encouraging them to learn from their mistakes. A child’s development of healthy brain architecture is constructed by ‘serve and return’ conversations that child has with significant adults in their life. Teachers can help a child build resilience thinking skills when facing adversity. Here are a few of my
top tips.

Top Tips for creating a ‘have a go culture’ in your classroom or school.

  • Use failures as an opportunity to learn. When children experience failure, try to avoid fixed mindset reinforcement like ‘Not everyone can be good at Maths’.  Instead, ask curious questions with the child, ‘What can we learn from this? 
    What could we do better next time? 
    What other resources could I give you to learn the content better?’

  • Use SBI – Situation, Behaviour, Impact. SBI is an alternative to praise that effectively reinforces the growth mindset.   As a parent, you acknowledge the:
    Situation, ‘I noticed you were a bit scared about jumping in the pool’
    Behaviour, ‘But you did it anyway, with Molly holding your hand’
    Impact ‘And now I can see you’re having a great time swimming with Molly’.

  • Remind kids that good things take time and perseverance – we’re
    not going to be great at everything straight away
    . When kids get frustrated that they can’t accomplish a concept straight away, remind them that good things take time, all things are difficult without practise and no one is instantly amazing at anything. 
    Instill in them a ‘have a go’ attitude that will see them through to adulthood.

Parentshop has developed No Scaredy Cats, a program to teach teachers and teacher aides the skills to be able to effectively challenge anxious behaviours in primary-aged children.

Click HERE for No Scaredy Cats for Teachers and Teacher Aides teaching you to identify and challenge anxious behaviour in the classroom.

Click HERE to enquire about training your whole team in the No Scaredy Cats for Teachers and Teacher Aides program in your school.

[1] National Scientifc Council on the Developing Child. (2015). Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

National Scientifc Council on the Developing Child. (2015). Supportive
Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of
: Working Paper 13. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Recent leaked research by Facebook (the owner of Instagram) showed that 1/3 of young girls who had problems with their body – not only felt worse after using Instagram - they also felt compelled to go back and keep using it.

Not all children feel compelled to keep using something that’s bad for them. However, a sizeable minority are susceptible to being drawn into tech echo chambers.

Children, by definition, are dependent in nature. In other words, they are more affected by what their parents allow them to see than are adults themselves. The word tech ‘addicted’ is widely misused at present. Still, the reason we need restrictions on children’s use of social media apps and online games are to protect children from practices that are not good for them.

The dictionary definition of addiction is:



the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity.
"he committed the offence to finance his drug addiction"

While it may not be appropriate to label a child as ‘addicted’ to technology, as they
may still be in a development stage, we can however highlight the way addictive
design creates ‘habit-forming” behaviours in children.  Jenny Radesky, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School who wrote the guidelines for screen times for the American Academy of Pediatrics says of addictive design “I find that especially problematic when it comes to young kids because young kids have no meta-awareness about when a technology is trying to lure them in”. In addition, she highlights the other issues around technology use, such as the impact on a child’s sleep habits, development, and development of self-regulation.

If your child is having trouble detaching him/herself from a tech application, it could be he is at the beginning of a journey of over-use. Early-stage ‘over-use’ by your child at the expense of a more balanced life (e.g., socialising with his family or having face-to-face time with friends) might be something you can nip in the bud by developing a contract with your child. My colleague, Jocelyn Brewer, has some good tips about developing a family tech agreement you can find here.

The amount of unsupervised tech-time parents allow comes down to how much any parent wants their child’s time consumed by their devices and social media applications. There’s a reason it’s called addictive design. Knowing that those platforms are designed to be addictive
doesn’t mean your child will become addicted.

However, it is important that parents take steps to educate their child about how these applications are designed; it is also important that we discuss with our children the circumstances under which these tech giants will come into your home.

I have developed online parent courses on child anxiety - and how parents can find themselves too often accommodating their child’s anxiety. To find out more about the online webinars for Parents to help manage anxiety and build resilience in children and young people see the links below for an age-appropriate course.

No Scaredy Cats - for children aged 2-12 years-old: CLICK HERE.

Resilience In Our Teens - for teens aged 13-18 years-old: CLICK HERE.

About the author

Michael Hawton is the founder of Parentshop, providing education and resources for parents and industry professionals working with children. He has authored two books on child behaviour management: Talk Less Listen More and Engaging Adolescents.


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