Raising kids is hard enough. And given the multitude of things kids are exposed to, just trying to keep them out of harm’s way is tough enough, yet trying to provide the types of experiences that lead to resilient, strong, hard working, and kind individuals can feel like an insurmountable challenge. Then parents turn to the endless array of parenting books — everything from Tiger Mom’s to Deeprok Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parent’s — and everything seems incredibly confusing.
No one said raising kids is supposed to be easy, and so it goes that raising mentally strong kids is even harder. And yet, there are three things that we know do not lead mentally strong kids. Here they are:
Coddling them. Nobody wants to see their kid suffer. Yet when parents go to extremes, protecting them from everything, they do suffer in the end. Kids who are taught that when life is tough, someone will just change the rules, put you in an easier class, convince the teacher to give you less work or more time, argue with the coach for you, and ultimately make that tree you are trying to climb shorter, learn that not only do people not believe in their ability, but their ability doesn’t matter. Because when we don’t let kids struggle enough to develop the skills it takes to overcome hardship, we don’t put any faith in them, or their ability. While it may be tough to see, hardship is a part of life, and it’s also what gives us the opportunity to grow. And last time I checked, bosses weren’t reducing employee workloads because they looked like they were struggling.
Telling Them They Are Great All Of The Time. Most things are mediocre, some things are good, and few things are truly great. And when parents tell their kid that everything they do is great — from drawing a stick picture of themselves to running the right way on the soccer field — they don’t learn what is really great and what isn’t. Instead, when everything is great, it makes no difference what they do, the response is always the same. Kids parented this way learn not to try because it doesn’t make any difference and there is nothing to strive for. Parents who don’t take the time to teach their kids what is truly great — and who can’t bear to tell their kids that they are not great (and just good) — have kids who don’t take the time to strive for greatness, because they don’t know what it is anyway.
Shielding Them From Reality. Reality is hard. Life is hard. And the truth is, no one is going to bail you out. And no one should. Yet when kids are constantly shielded from reality — everything from replacing the toys they break for the seventeenth time to the illegal act their parents didn’t call the authorities about — they learn that the rules don’t apply to them, and reality doesn’t either. Instead, they make their own rules, and expect others to accommodate them. And not only does this not work when trying to attain employment — unless of course you work for your parents — but it doesn’t work in relationships either — unless you are the only one involved.
The truth is raising mentally strong kids is supposed to be tough — just like the kids. Yet when we put in the enormous amounts of time and energy it takes — and choose the hard road no matter how challenging — we also show them just what toughness is.
More information on cultivating mental toughness can be found in my new book LEVERAGE: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards.