I hope the title of this article caught your attention. It’s certainly a conversation that we need to have over and over again. With the world moving in double time, information travelling at the speed of light, technology developing quicker than we can adapt to the latest and greatest piece of tech in our hands. Coupled with the ability to peak into the lives of everyone around us through social media, we’ve become consumed with knowing what’s happening in an instant. We hear about things quicker than the news is reported on TV or Radio. We are so aware of the world around us that I believe the need for mental strength is paramount for our children and incumbent upon us to teach them how to develop mental strength.
Where does this start? With us – the man or woman in the mirror. Which means, we need to live in a way that allows them to build on what they see. A definite case of actions speaks louder than words.
5 Strategies to Raise Mentally Strong Kids
1. Allowing FEAR to teach: We all want to keep our kids safe and (indeed) it is our responsibility. However, it can be easy to raise them in a bubble helping them avoid fearful situations. And, living this way probably keeps parents blood pressure down. But, what does that do long-term? Teaching our kids to avoid fear doesn’t equip them to live wholeheartedly. I remember when my boys were young and they took up surfing, in fact, any action sport you can imagine.
There were days when I had to force myself to be excited about their ‘next adventure’. I never knew who would come home needing to be stitched or bandaged up. Fear is simply FALSE EXPECTATION APPEARING REAL, and when we understand that, we will parent differently, we acknowledge the feeling/emotions attached to fear, but we show our kids how to conquer their fear by coming alongside and helping them walk it out.
2. Allowing PAIN to teach: Pain is a reality of life. Whether we feel it physically, mentally or emotionally, at many points in our life we will feel pain. Often we brush pain away or sweep it under the carpet to ‘get on with life’. I’m not suggesting that we wallow in pain, but I’m suggesting we acknowledged it and then move on. For example, if your child’s fingers get caught in the cupboard door, it’s okay to say, ‘that must hurt, let’s give it a rub and see if that helps take the pain away.’ Or, if it’s an emotional pain acknowledging it by saying something like, ‘That must have hurt when (so-and-so) said that to you. Would you like to talk about it?’ Or, for the ones who don’t use as many words you can ask leading questions like, ‘That would have hurt when (so-and-so) said that to you. Tell me how it made you feel.’
Through this, you’re helping your kids to do three things that will equip them for life. Firstly, you are acknowledging the pain which is super healthy. Secondly, you are helping them process the pain again, very healthy. And, thirdly, you are teaching them that when they encounter painful situations, they will make it through and that the sun will come out tomorrow. You are equipping them for the inevitable which is just that there will be the pain in life but you are giving them tools to make it through the pain.
3. Instilling VALUES: I’ve heard it said that if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. We want our kids to have a strong moral compass and a values-based ethos to travel with them through life. Whether it is through faith or something as valuable as the golden rule, it’s important to give them something to stand on so that when the winds of change and life hit, they aren’t swayed. This can be hard because the day-to-day of life calls out and begs for our attention but we need to maintain vision on the bigger picture.
At Little Miracles, one of our values is creating a Culture of Honour. Through this, we do our best to instil the beauty of honouring oneself, one another and the more important world that is beyond the Little Miracles walls. There is great intent in creating this culture and seeing our little ones thrive in a system of honour.
For our family, it has been our faith. Rob and I have done our best to expose our children to what we believe and why we believe. For us, it has been something that we can collectively go back to, rest in and draw from. What is it for your family?
4. Not Allowing Children to become the Centre of the Universe: We’ve all heard of helicopter parenting, and most of us have witnessed the over-involved parent who ends up smothering the children. If children become the centre of your universe, they will begin to think that everything revolves around them which will lead to very disappointed and frustrated teens and adults. The world doesn’t revolve around any of us and nor should it. Imagine how exhausting it would be to have your every need catered to? Although that may sound nice for a spa day or a weekend break – the sheen would wear off the charm quite quickly if it was a daily, moment by moment thing. Or, if the shine didn’t wear off and you become accustomed to it, you risk becoming a demanding individual who throws a tantrum when things don’t go your way.
Using our minds and critical thinking is so important from a young age. Figuring things out and working through challenges sets us up so well for the future. Life will throw some curve balls our way and in the direction of our children whether it be on the playground, on the sports field or perhaps eventually in a boardroom. Although the boardroom seems like an extended forecast, these are the things we are preparing them for. Allowing our kids to see the bigger picture of the world and recognising that they are here for a purpose and to be part of this big, expanse, helps take the focus off of them. Exciting.
5. Guilt-Free Parenting: Is there such a thing? I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a parent who isn’t riddled with guilt. This is probably the hardest one for all of us to swallow and to live out. I know the pain of guilt well. We’ve all travelled the road and asked questions like: Have I worked too much? Are my hours too long? Should I go back to work? Is staying home the wrong thing? Am I spending too much time with one child and not the other? Am I spending too much money on me? Have I done it all wrong? Do I make the worst lunches? Have I ruined their life? Oh, how we are riddled with guilt and how quickly can we parent out of guilt and how well does it feel because we feel better (ourselves) when we make amends through guilt.
But, what is that teaching our children? If we parent out of guilt are we not showing them that guilt is something we give into all the time? If that’s the case, it almost goes back to our values conversation. If we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything. If we, as parents, give into the emotions of guilt and parent from that place, we are teaching our children that the emotion of guilt is so strong that it can overtake us and we succumb to its needs and will cause us to make wrong decisions albeit that seem good to the kids and beneficial. On the flip side, if we deny the emotion of guilt (and I know how hard that is) we are teaching them that even though it’s hard we aren’t letting that emotion get the best of us and we continue to make wise decisions.
As always, I hope that these ideas and thoughts will sit with you and that you will take time to soak them in. Good parenting is one of the hardest jobs on the planet yet one of the most rewarding. A good reminder for all of us is that we are raising adults. Who do we want our children to become? What we do shapes today and forms them in so many ways and our actions speak so much louder than our words.
You are all fantastic and as always, if you have questions or comments, I am available and will do my utmost best to help.