Updated: Jul 27, 2022
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. Watching kids struggle, pushing them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes can be tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need, to reach their greatest potential.
Parents who train their children’s brains for a life of meaning, happiness, and success, try their best not to sucumbe to parent guilt, victimising their child, giving too much power to their child or encouraging self pity.
"Oh my poor little baby". Well, there's a time and a place for saying this and most people in the developed world should not be saying it to their child unless your child has suffered a great loss or has some sort of maladie or dissability and even so it should be well measured.
Not being picked for the football team or not being selected for a central role in a play or not being invited to a party or even failing a test doesn’t make your child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Rather than allow kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortune, mentally strong parents encourage their children to turn their struggles into strength. They help them identify ways in which they can take positive action, despite their circumstances. Henry Ford (the car guy) is known as a succesful business entrepeneur, philantropist and business magnate but few are aware that he failed several times and burnt considerable amounts of money with failed businesses. He later said "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently". Ford Motor Company is still a successfu business venture and is known for having shaped car engineering, assembly line production and business education. Allow your child to fail and teach them to self regulate and analise what went wrong so they can do better next time.
Parental guilt is a tricky feeling that can strike from the moment you bring home your little bundle of joy to the moment they leave home to childcare. You're always second guessing yourself and overanalising your actions. But sometimes, most of the time really it is best to leave it alone, to not be so harsh on yourself, and instead, focus on the task ahead. Always focus on what you can do better next and how. You see, 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. 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. Over indulging is the same as neglecting, well, you get the same results in the end.
Don't make your child the centre 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. Because let's face it the world does not owe your child anything and quite frankly does not give a damn about them.
Don't allow fear to dictate your choices. We know the world can be a dangerous place and every parent wants to protect their child and keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety, however, keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not just protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go. And it is. I know.
Don't give your child too much power. Children who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, or where they want to go because they'll be bored at so and so's house, have too much power. Becoming more like an equal to their parents, or even the boss of their parents, isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower their children to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy. Sometimes in life we have to swallow frogs and the earier we learn that the better we will be able to navigate through life without to many hicups.
Don't expect perfection, it becomes a burden to your child and leads to demotivation and giving up because that is an unatainable standard. 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 kids to be better than everyone else, focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves. Know your child's capacity, talent and strenght and help them develop and use it to their best ability. They can try different things but be real with yourself and your child and don't force something that they don't have a knack for. That piano lesson you're killing yourself to pay, if you don't see enthusiasm and after a while they can't even play 1 single song? Don't pay for it anymore. Find something else they might be good at. It's ok to try but do not force it.
Don't let your 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.
Oh this is a tough one. I know. I know, It's your first instinct to protect your child but please do not shield your child from pain. 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. “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” —C.S. Lewis
Sometimes your child will feel sad or grumpy and you won't know why. Maybe they themselves don't know why. Don't feel responsible for their emotions. Talk to them for peace of mind and tell them that you're there if they need to talk and if they need help dealing with whatever they are going through. 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. What does that mean? Well, teach your child that they do not need to depend on other people to be happy. “Happiness comes from within. It is not dependent on external things or on other people. You become vulnerable and can be easily hurt when your feelings of security and happiness depend on the behavior and actions of other people. Never give your power to anyone else.”Brian Weiss
Don't prevent your child from making mistakes and do not help them disguise their mistakes. Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his maths homework or he forgets to pack his PE kit for school, 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. They'll get detention and next time they'll remember their PE kit without you having to nag them.
Discipline your child without punishing them. Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. Discipline teaches your child that choices and actions have consequences. And mentally strong parents do give out consequences, with the ultimate goal to teach kids to develop the self discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.
Don't give in. Don't try to avoid your own 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 but in the long run it will benefit your child.
Don 't lose sight of your values. In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get lost in daily tasks and chores, and after school activities. Hectic schedules, combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media can 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. It's not easy and you will fail a lot. And I mean a lot. But if you persevere in the end you will get human beings you can be happy to live with and who will be able to contribute to society. And that's basically what you are trying to achieve. Well…I think.
See, the point is...parenting shouldn’t be that taxing. When we dissect it, it really is a simple thing. Your children learn from you. You’re nice, they are nice. You’re nasty, they are too. You’re happy, they are happy. You’re sad, they are sad. You're scared, they are scared too. You lie, they lie. You wallow in pitty parties, they will too. You give up, they do too.
Your kids copy you, this is not genetic - its learned behaviour. They’re taught by you.
Think about it.
Be a better person to create better people...It starts with You.