It’s never too early for parents to foster mental resilience in their children. Yet there are so many common, easily avoidable parenting mistakes that can jeopardize the process.
Kids with well-developed mental resilience stand a greater chance of feeling empowered to follow their dreams, and take failure on the chin, as they enter adulthood. So what are some of the ways parents can nurture, rather than hinder, their kids’ mental development?
According to therapist Dr. Tracy Hutchinson, there are seven major parenting errors to avoid.
1. Invalidating a child’s feelings
Children tend to express their emotions openly, by default. A parent who resorts to phrases such as “Don’t cry,” or “It’s not worth getting upset over,” is invalidating their child’s experience of the world. The child will learn to suppress emotions.
By validating a child’s emotions and asking them what they need, the child will feel heard and will learn to become solution-oriented. “This teaches them how to manage and cope with emotions on their own,” Hutchinson explains to CNBC.
2. Sheltering them from failure
Parents know that failing is hard, and understandably want to protect their kids from this experience. But a child who learns how to fail will develop the resilience to try again, and try harder.
Finishing a task on a child’s behalf may get the job done, but the child will not have learned that skill for themselves; a valuable teaching moment will have been lost.
3. Spoiling your child
Spoiling a child reinforces the ego-driven need for instant gratification. “You want your kids to grow up knowing that it’s possible to achieve what they want, if they work for it,” says Hutchinson.
By adding conditions to rewards, like, “You can have 15 minutes of screen time after finishing your homework,” a child will gradually learn to self-discipline and nurture a sense of pride in themselves.
4. Setting the bar too high
A child who is always expected to be the best runs the risk of developing self-esteem issues.
When expectations are made more realistic, the child will learn both how to succeed and how to fail (and learn from their mistakes). Their mental resilience will skyrocket.
5. Never pushing a child out of their comfort zone
Much like sheltering them from failure, many parents have a tendency to want to keep their children comfortable. But making new friends, trying new foods, moving home, or attending a new school could add a whole new dimension to a child’s life.
After taking the crucial first step under a parent’s loving guidance, a child may realize that trying new things is very exciting.
6. Not enforcing boundaries
As temping as it may be to be a playmate for your child as opposed to a rule enforcer, the latter is sometimes necessary if a child is to feel safe and cared for, and respect proper conduct.
Ultimately, kids need to know you’re the boss, says Hutchinson. “For example, if you set a curfew for your 12-year-old, make sure they stick to it every night (or as much as possible),” she explains. “Caving in and allowing rules to be negotiated too often can lead to power struggles between you and your child.”
7. Abandoning self-care
If you cannot care for yourself, how can you care for somebody else? Not only is a parent better equipped to care for their child when they themselves are happy and healthy, but they are able to model good self-care habits for their children.
According to family physician Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, there are certain parenting practices that can actively encourage kids to be mentally resilient. Among Chatterjee’s best tips are having plenty of parent-child quality time, plenty of outdoor play time, and modeling gratitude for your child.
“Crucially, [these tips] don’t require you to overhaul your parenting style,” Chatterjee tells The Guardian, “but simply to make a few tweaks that will help your children thrive.”
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