Helping your child be mentally strong
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13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do
It's time to give up parenting habits that rob kids of mental strength.
Raising mentally strong kids 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 is 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, avoid these 13 things:
1. They don't condone a victim mentality.
Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class 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 their children identify ways in which they can take positive action, no matter their circumstances.
2. 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.
3. They don't make their children 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.
4. 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.
5. They don't give their children power over them.
Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or who orchestrate how the family will 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.
6. 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. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.
7. They don't let their children 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 assign them age-appropriate duties.
8. They don't shield their children from pain.
It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But kids need practice and first-hand experience with tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need when coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their own ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.
9. They don't feel responsible for their children's emotions.
It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or to calm them down when they’re angry. But regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining important social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions, so they don’t have to depend on others to do it for them.
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10. They don't prevent their children from making mistakes.
Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework, or forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. They don't lose sight of their values.
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. Mentally strong parents know their values, and ensure that their family lives according to them.
Build Your Mental Muscle
Parenting is never perfect. But the key to becoming a mentally stronger parent is to learn and grow from your mistakes. By making mental strength a top priority, you'll give your children the skills and confidence they'll need to reach their greatest potential.
Want to learn more about how to give up those unhealthy parenting habits that rob kids of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do.
Morin, A. (2017). 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success. New York, NY: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.