It’s something I’ve been thinking for a while – we have become far too protective of our children. Sure, it’s only natural to want to shield our children from the harms of an increasingly complex world, but at what cost? Will this really help them be competent and mentally strong individuals in the long run, or are we in fact making a slew of parenting mistakes which dock their wings by being so protective of our children, and squashing their resilience and their ability to reach their greatest potential?
Today I have a Q&A Amy Morin, the author who identified the characteristics that mentally strong people share in her international bestselling book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do who has a new book out – 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, to help signal the parenting mistakes we should avoid if we want to raise happy and resilient children.
For most parents, the biggest challenge seems to be in finding just the right balance between providing enough support and allowing kids to practice their skills on their own.
Good parents want their kids to succeed. But in order to help your kids succeed in the long-term, you have to let them fail, make mistakes, and flounder in the short-term. It’s tough to stand by and allow that to happen but real-life experience best prepares kids for the real world.
While it’s important to teach kids about danger and risk, being overprotective can backfire. Kids need to experience some pain in life. That may mean letting them get their feelings hurt or it may mean allowing them to get bumps and bruises. They need to know how to deal with pain and childhood is a great opportunity to teach them the skills they need to learn and grow.
Kids also need to learn how to evaluate risk on their own. Going outside without a jacket on a cold day teaches kids life lessons. Natural consequences can be some of life’s best teachers.
One big mistake is that many parents take responsibility for their kids’ emotions. They calm their kids when they’re angry, entertain them when they’re bored, and cheer them up when they’re sad. Their kids grow dependent on their parents to regulate their emotions for them.
Another big mistake is losing sight of our values. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of homework and afterschool activities that we forget to think about what we’re actually role modeling for kids. And sadly, the messages parents are trying to teach kids get lost in the day-to-day hustle and bustle.
Many children aren’t entering the adult world with the mental muscle they need to thrive. For example, 60% of college students say they wish there had been more emphasis on teaching them emotional skills but they felt unprepared to deal with uncomfortable feelings, like loneliness, anxiety, and sadness on their own.
It’s important to send kids off into the adult world with confidence that they can solve problems, deal with self-doubt, and handle whatever life throws their way. But, before they can be confident in themselves, they need the skills and life experience to back it up.
We can make mental strength a bigger priority. We spend a lot of time focusing on the importance of taking care of our bodies, but much less on caring for our minds.
There are tons of mental strength exercises we can teach kids. Many of them are quite simple. But, they’re really effective in helping kids learn how to regulate their thoughts, manage their emotions, and take positive action.
That may mean changing a few simple habits, like exchanging complaining for gratitude. Or, it might mean labeling your emotions in conversations so your kids see that it’s important to be aware of your feelings. These little things take less than one minute per day but they could change the entire course of your child’s life.
Helping kids build mental strength can sound overwhelming. But a few simple exercises can make a big difference.
It’s never too late to begin building mental muscles, either. So no matter how old you are, or how old your child is, you can still make a difference.
Thank you to Amy for her inspirational advice which I will certainly be taking on board in our family. What do you think of the insights she shared above? Do leave a comment and let us know.
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