Watching kids struggle, pushing them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes is tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need to reach their greatest potential.
Raising mentally strong kids who are equipped to take on real-world challenges requires parents to give up the unhealthy — yet popular — parenting practices that are robbing kids of mental strength.
Of course, helping kids build mental muscle isn’t easy — it requires parents to be mentally strong as well.
Parents who train their children’s brains for a life of meaning, happiness, and success, avoid these 20 things:
One-Minute Video Summarising the Main Themes:
1. They Don’t Make Their Child The Center Of The Universe
It can be tempting to make your life revolve around your child. But kids who think they’re the center of the universe grow up to be self-absorbed and entitled. Mentally strong parents teach their kids to focus on what they have to offer the world — rather than what they’re owed.
2. They Let Their Kids Struggle
The worst thing parents can do, says Morin, is struggle for their kids rescue them too much. Such actions prevent kids from learning how to act on their own. It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But, kids need practice and first-hand experience tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.
3. They Let Their Kids Experience Rejection. For myriad reasons, it’s essential for kids to learn how to handle being told no. “If your kid doesn’t get picked for the baseball team, it can be tempting to call the coach, call the schools, try to get your kid on the team,” says Morin. “But failure can be one of the best opportunities to teach kids a life lesson. That lesson: Failure is not the end of the road, you’re strong enough to handle failing, and that when you fail, you have choices.”
4. They Don’t Condone A Victim Mentality
“When kids say they are having a problem, it’s tempting for them to blame other people,” says Morin. “They fail their science test and they say that their teacher didn’t explain it well enough.” It can be tempting for parents to give into this behavior and side with their children. But even if their teacher is bad or didn’t explain something, that instinct is dangerous. “Parents need to tell their kids that life isn't fair but that they are strong enough to handle the unfairness,” says Morin. “And I think for a lot of parents, our tendency is to make things fair: to advocate for our kids, to side with them, just reinforces to them that they’re the victim. It leads to learned helplessness.” Fight this instinct at all costs.
5. They Do More Than Tell Them to ‘Buck Up’ When Struggles Occur Letting kids struggle is important, but telling them to just deal with it, or ignoring that it could be tough emotionally is not the right way to go about it. “You want to make sure that you validate their emotions and you empathise with them,” says Morin. “Parents can find that balance of knowing when to step back enough to let their child face some of their own battles, but at the same time, empathize.” Talking to your kids about their feelings as they learn by doing is incredibly important. It will give them skills to talk about their feelings later on in life, as well as help them learn how to deal with difficult times. “Parents need to ask themselves whether or not they’re giving their kids the skills and tools they need to do things on their own,” Morin adds. “If they don’t have those skills yet, then parents step in. But parents make sure that you’re teaching them those skills, too.”
6. They Help Their Kids Learn How to Label Their Feelings and Emotions. “When kids can label their emotions, they are less likely to act them out,” says Morin. “If your kid can say Í'm mad', he’s less likely to kick you in the shins to show you that he’s mad.” In other words: Kids who can’t talk about their feelings tend to take those feelings out on others, which can lead to adults who don’t know how to cope with anger or sadness. By helping kids feel comfortable talking about their emotions out loud, you are also giving them the skills to think about (and cope with) what’s making them upset. It’s Resiliency 101.
7. They Give Their Kids The Tools to Self Soothe “I know some parents who created a ‘calm down kit’ for their kid,” says Morin. “They have a kit with a coloring book, and some Play-Doh, and lotion that smells good and they remind their kid to go get the kit when they’re upset.” While this specific technique isn’t for everyone, the concept should be as it helps kids learn how to take responsibility for their feelings, and calm themselves down. Using such tools and routines will help them manage and continue healthy coping skills as they get older. It’s invaluable.
8. They Admit Their Mistakes. And Then They Fix Them. Parenting mistakes, per Morin, are all opportunities for us to turn it around and show kids how to respond to errors and show that we all make them. Even the most well-adjusted parents screw up every once in a while. They get mad at the teacher or yell at their spouse or forget to do something critical. The important thing is that parents need to own up to their own mistakes in front of their kids — and then actually fix the problem. This shows kids that no matter how grave a mistake they may have made, if they are honest about it and try to fix it, things will get better.
9. They Always Connect Their Kid’s Self Worth to Their Level of Effort (Not the Outcome). “There is research that shows that when girls succeed, we say, ‘You did well because you studied hard.’ But when boys succeed, we’ll say something like, ‘You did well on that test because you’re smart,’” says Morin. For her, that’s a problem. Connecting a kid’s outcomes to their inherent talent, can lead to long term issues. “When we focus too much on outcome, kids will cheat in high school because they think the most important thing in the world is getting an A, and it doesn’t matter how they get there. We want to teach kids is that what matters is being honest, being kind, working hard. It’s really important to focus on their effort. The kid who grows up knowing that it’s all about their effort, rather than their outcome, is going to be more resilient when they fail or when they get rejected.”
10. They Don’t Parent Out Of Guilt
Guilty feelings can lead to a long list of unhealthy parenting strategies — like giving in to your child after you’ve said no or overindulging your child on the holidays. Mentally strong parents know that although guilt is uncomfortable, it’s tolerable. They refuse to let their guilty feelings get in the way of making wise choices.
11. They Don’t Give Their Child Power Over Them
Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, have too much power. Becoming more like an equal — or even the boss — isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower kids to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy.
12. They Don’t Expect Perfection
High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much from kids will backfire. Mentally strong parents recognize that their kids are not going to excel at everything they do. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.
13. They Don’t Let Their Child Avoid Responsibility
You won’t catch a mentally strong parent saying things like, “I don’t want to burden my kids with chores. Kids should just be kids.” They expect children to pitch in and learn the skills they need to become responsible citizens. They proactively teach their kids to take responsibility for their choices and they assign them age-appropriate duties.
14. They Don’t Feel Responsible For Their Child’s Emotions
It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But, regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.
15. They Don’t Prevent Their Child From Making Mistakes
Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework or he forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and they allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.
16. They Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment
Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. And while mentally strong parents do give out consequences, their ultimate goal is to teach kids to develop the self-discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.
17. They Don’t Take Shortcuts To Avoid Discomfort
Giving in when a child whines or doing your kids’ chores for them, is fast and easy. But, those shortcuts teach kids unhealthy habits. It takes mental strength to tolerate discomfort and avoid those tempting shortcuts.
18. They Don’t Lose Sight Of Their Values
In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of homework, chores, and sports practices. Those hectic schedules — combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media —cause many people to lose sight of what’s really important in life. Mentally strong parents know their values and they ensure their family lives according to them.
19. They Don’t Allow Fear To Dictate Their Choices
Keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety. But keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go.
20. They Let Their Kids Explore the World
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13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, Amy Morin.