No doubt raising children as miniature adults has many benefits. I understand that the world has changed so much that today’s children need different skills, even to get through kindergarten. Nevertheless, I still get nostalgic thinking of times when we allowed children to be children. The psychotherapist, Amy Morin, says the most valuable strength parents can teach their children in modern times is mental strength.
Mental strength is what will help children deal with the toughest challenges in life. The three things that build mental strength are how they think, feel and act. Mental muscles grow stronger in those children who think big, feel good and act brave. Most importantly, it does not come naturally, and the goal is for mental strength to become second nature. It requires practice, heaps of patience and ongoing reinforcement to reach a stage where it comes naturally. Mentally strong children do the following seven things.
Self-empowerment brings mental strength
When children feel bad about themselves because a friend scored higher on a quiz, they give away power over emotions to the friend. Parents can help their kids to understand that they don’t need others to make them feel good. For example, self-empowered children would remain in a bright, cheerful mood, regardless of a friend’s bad mood. Even if the friend focuses anger on them.
The secret is to create catchphrases and repeat them mentally to confirm their own power over their thoughts, feelings and behavior. They may question their ability to succeed because, subconsciously, negative voices in their minds will want them to believe they don’t have the potential. However, repeating the positive phrases in their minds will fade away the negative thoughts. “I can only do my best,” “I am good enough,” “I am confident,” and “I choose happiness for myself today” are short, easy-to-remember phrases.
They have the mental strength to adapt to change
Change is never easy, whether it involves isolation from friends due to the pandemic or changing schools. Without the necessary mental strength, children might wish for things to go back to what they were. Similarly, they might have negative thoughts of the changes making their lives worse.
In contrast, mentally strong children see change as something to help them grow stronger, even if it doesn’t feel that way initially. The psychotherapist says naming the feelings lessens the sting. For instance, they should think about how they feel and put a name to it, like “uncomfortable.”
She says even adults tend to spend more energy on fighting emotions instead of thinking about their feelings. Parents can help kids to identify their feelings and to find the words to describe them. For example, happy, sad, frustrated, eager and nervous.
Mental strength helps kids to know when to decline
Even adults sometimes struggle to express their feelings, speak up or say no in some situations. The power comes from having the mental strength to say no. Children often do things that they don’t really want to do because saying no feels awkward. Parents can help children by encouraging them to do it. The more they say no, the easier it will be.
As an example of how parents can help them say no, they can help them understand that typically, saying yes means giving up something else. When asked whether they want to go on a playdate, saying yes would mean giving up playtime with siblings. Making a choice to say yes or no is easier if the consequences are clear.
Furthermore, kids need to learn how to say no politely. They don’t necessarily have to explain their reasons for turning someone down. “No, I’m unable to” is a good enough reply, or “thanks for the invitation, but I have other plans” might be more polite. If they want to think about it, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “thanks, I’ll get back to you.”
They need mental strength to own their mistakes
A child who broke an antique vase or forgot to do homework might want to hide it for fear of punishment. However, learning to own their mistakes builds character. When they practice owning their mistakes, they can prepare mentally for admitting to doing wrong. The strength found in admitting will allow them to apologize and avoid repeating the error.
Mentally strong children celebrate the success of others
Jealousy is normal, but learning to turn it into something positive is what builds mental strength. Parents can encourage children to perform at their best ability and support others who do better. Encourage children to discuss the traits they admire in others and work to achieve something similar. They could admire somebody’s confidence and another person’s optimism. The best way to move toward such a goal is self-belief. Without being someone they are not, they can act as if they have already achieved it. Children who feel good about themselves have no problem celebrating the success of others.
Failure simply means try and try again
Nobody enjoys failure, and the embarrassment, frustration, disappointment and hurt could be overwhelming. However, mentally strong children will use failures along the way as opportunities to learn from on the way to reaching their goals. Analyzing failures and working on fixes are what change the negatives of failures to positives. Parents can use the example of Thomas Edison. He is famous for helping to invent the lightbulb, but the 1,000 or more of his inventions that failed did not make him a failure.
Persistence is the key
The hard work and time necessary to reach a specific goal could seem like an impossible prospect, and the brain will be quick to try to convince the child to give up. However, children who have developed mental strength will persist, regardless of the magnitude of the challenge. Their own mental strength will often surprise them. Amy Morin suggests parents could encourage their children to write themselves short but powerful encouraging notes. The notes can motivate them along the way in pursuit of tough challenges they encounter.