An entrepreneur mother starts a project to help her kids face life challenges
An interview with DIna Barakat, a mother of three and owner of "The Youth Journal" project.
By: Leen Mkhaimer, from 360moms team.
Motherhood is not only a duty or a bunch of responsibilities that a woman carries out at a certain point in her life, it is a way of life, something that changes your outlook on everything you were doing before having a baby, it is a totally new formula for living.
Today, many moms all over the world are entrepreneurs, initiative-takers and amazing leaders, all inspired by their motherhood journey.
Dina Barakat is one of them. She is a 37-year-old wife and mother of two girls and a boy: Masa, 11, Sireen, 8, and Saif, 2.
Like any other ambitious woman, she went to university worked in her specialty for some time until she became a mother.
Until she realized how important it was to spend time with one’s children and to be more present in their lives. So, she made a career jump and started to work as a school teacher.
That’s when Dina used her passion for learning new things to introduce kids in the Arab World to a new learning concept: “Growth Mindset”. And she is now trying to spread this concept and pass the knowledge through her project “The Youth Journal.”
I spoke to Dina about her unique project, the challenges she faced along the way and the way her new concept can help kids perform better in life.
- How do you perceive motherhood? And what parenting challenges did you face with your kids?
Motherhood to me is the biggest challenge a woman can face in her life, mixed with the purest ever emotion that´s unconditional love. It is an endless dedication that we, as mothers, give to our kids every single day.
The most challenging moments to me as a mother of three circulate around teaching them how to choose what´s good and useful for them and their growth, and how to prioritize and balance their daily needs and wants.
Plus, trying to teach them how to be mindful and how to appreciate what they have in life.
- Talking about kids’ personal skills, what has motivated you to look for more advanced new learning concepts like "Growth Mindset"?
To be honest, I was first trying to work on my own personality and skills, searching for ways to adapt to life, ways to help me stay strong, positive and optimistic through difficulties, whether at my workplace, at home when raising my kids or even when dealing with my family and friends.
Then in 2018, I was searching for different resources to help me motivate my eldest daughter to accept the new challenges she was starting to face as she was turning 9, which is a very critical age for children because it´s a turning point from childhood to preadolescence and it brings up lots of internal and external pressures both on me and on her.
That’s when I came across the concept of “Growth Mindset.” I started reading about it and I found a lot of different sites that help build this concept in children.
I bought story books, printable pdfs and journals and started applying that concept at home with my daughters for almost two years.
- In a nutshell, what is "Growth Mindset"?
Mindset is the way our brains see and perceive ourselves and the world around us.
It was developed by the psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, who says that Growth Mindset is when we believe that our intelligence and abilities can be improved with effort, hard work and using the right strategies.
Dr. Dweck identified two types of mindsets: Growth and Fixed Mindsets. For example, a person with a Fixed Mindset believes that some babies are born with a specific characteristic, say intelligent or patient or kind, and others are not, or maybe need to work hard to become intelligent, patient or kind. This person is most likely to give up when faced with a challenge, saying, “I´m just not intelligent enough.”
On the other hand, a person with a Growth Mindset believes that he has the ability to confront and overcome any challenges. He or she accepts failure and has a passion for learning new things.
Growth Mindset has shown that it is strongly linked to greater achievements and happiness in life. It also builds resilience, confidence, kindness, and a strong will in our kids and makes them grateful for anything that comes their way because they see it as a chance to grow.
- Tell us about your project "The Youth Journal" How did it start? And what references did you rely on to introduce this new concept to young Arab children?
After experiencing different Growth Mindset strategies at home through activities and writing, I loved the impact it had on my girls’ mindsets, and what I mostly loved about it was the writing part!
I then thought why not implement this concept in small groups in Amman targeting kids and not parents. So, I took two certified online courses on Growth Mindset and an online certified child psychology course. I also obtained a license from the “Big Life Journal” foundation, giving me access to their Growth Mindset materials.
This is when I created my own movement and gave it the name “The Youth Journal,” as it targets kids and early teens and takes them on the Growth Mindset journey.
My plan was to create a workshop for children and everything was prepared. However, my plans had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. And having a Growth Mindset myself, I moved to plan B and decided to start online with materials that introduce the concept and some of its activities to kids and parents.
I built my Instagram page and started posting simple introductions to what it is using posts and videos. At the time, I was also working on the first Growth Mindset kit for kids.
- What does your Growth Mindset kit include? And what are the main qualities you wish to convey through the kit?
My “Growth Mindset Kit” is just the beginning to introduce parents and kids to the importance of building this mindset at an early age. It helps them understand how our brains work and grow as we learn more.
The kit includes a story that talks about either a child´s emotional well-being, an important value in life or about the different things a child can do to handle tricky situations. The stories are diverse.
It also includes a group of Growth Mindset activities, a positivity game of my creation, a poster, stickers and other materials containing motivational quotes and affirmations that boost a child´s self-confidence.
My main goal behind the kit is for kids to understand and embrace their emotions, to be aware of their dreams and goals and to work to achieve them.
My intention is also to let them understand the incredible power of their brains and to empower them to find different strategies to solve any problems they may face.
One of the most important things I want them to learn is the “power of yet.” These three magical words emphasized by Dr. Dweck immensely help kids learn that we as humans can keep learning and trying no matter what the difficulties are.
- Is the kit only available in English or is there an Arabic version on the way?
The stories and the positivity game are available both in Arabic and English and the parents can choose the language they prefer.
The activities, however, are in English only, but I´m working on creating Arabic materials using different resources, and I´m in the process of creating our own genuine “The Youth Journal” activities to be available in both languages.
The new activities will include a fun writing element. I won´t include any details now but this is just a teaser and hopefully it will be ready by December.
- When you tried this approach with your kids, what positives/ improvements did you see in their personalities and their perceptions about life?
The improvements that I saw in my kids as a result of applying this concept are several. I noticed their willingness to keep trying to achieve what they want despite some disappointments they faced, whether at school or outside school. I saw a bigger enthusiasm to show kindness through different volunteer activities.
Something I also loved was that they created their own journals where they share with me their thoughts and feelings. At the moment, I´m working on boosting their resilience, confidence and sense of gratitude through reading and activities at home.
One thing I want to emphasize here is that there are three main key ingredients needed in order to see a real Growth Mindset improvement in our kids. These are: time, age and being a role model as parents.
The earlier we start with our kids, the better results we´ll see, and that’s actually something I personally experienced.
The impact on my younger daughter, who´s eight-years-old now, is more apparent in her way of thinking and behaving than that it is on my eldest daughter.
Any action needs consistency, patience, and time until we begin to notice that our children are starting to understand and apply this kind of positivity and growth mindedness.
It is essential that we, as parents, be a role model to our kids by seriously adopting, ourselves, a Growth Mindset in front of our children in order to really make a difference.