If you’re a parent, you might have wondered, how the heck do I not mess up my kids?
Should I force them to go to this event even though they’re anxious about it? How do I teach them to stand up for themselves? Are they kind enough? Do they have friends? Are they working hard in school? How do I guide them and teach them what I need to know?
So many decisions and many of them don’t have a clear right answer.
Today’s blog is all about how to raise kids that are healthy, happy and can roll with the punches of life.
1. One of the best ways to do this is to model healthy behaviour.
If you’re trying to teach your child to behave a certain way, but you’re not doing this consistently in your own life, your child will pick up on this, often at a much younger age than you’d think.
In a non-judgmental way, think about whether you might model some behaviour that you wouldn’t necessarily want your child to copy. It might be not managing your anger well, avoiding things you’re afraid of or speaking negatively about others in front of your kids.
If you do notice that you could do a better job modelling good behaviour, be easy on yourself about it, but start taking some healthy steps toward how you want to act.
“Teach through the clarity of your example.” ~ Abraham-Hicks.
When you do make good choices, it’s a great idea to describe this to your kids. For example, if you’re facing your fears in some way, let them know that you feel afraid to do this, but you’re pushing yourself to do the activity anyway. This normalizes their feelings and models a healthy response.
2. Help them to be more aware of their thoughts, feelings and body sensations.
Many problems stem from a lack of awareness, so teach your kids early on the valuable skill of self-observation.
Every so often, when you notice an emotion in your child, ask them “what do you think you’re feeling right now?” Teach them that feelings are temporary…they come and go all day long.
You can also teach them that you can change your feelings using different strategies like meditation and visualization. You can help them to recognize how their body feels when they’re relaxed versus when they’re sad or afraid. You can ask them what they’re thinking about to help them recognize the relationship between thoughts and feelings.
3. In quiet moments at home, teach them strategies to relax.
All kids benefit from learning how to calm their bodies and mind. They can learn to do deep belly breaths, visualize fun experiences from the past and shake or dance their stress out of their body.
If you practice these experiences regularly together (right before bed is a good time), they can draw on that skill in stressful times. It also makes them much less likely to experience stress when their bodies and minds are more relaxed. There are lots of great apps or Youtube videos out there for meditation and relaxation so do some googling together and have fun with it.
4. Teach them how to regulate their emotions.
This is a biggie. Honestly, it’s such an important skill and it’s one that many adults struggle with as well. This one is particularly important if you have a child that tends to be more on the sensitive side of the spectrum and might be prone to cry easily or get upset about experiences that you might not see as particularly troublesome.
First of all, when your child is upset, you need to comfort them before all else. This helps to soothe the right hemisphere of the brain, which is in overactive mode when strong emotions are present. Give them a hug and soothe them. Acknowledge their feelings.
Children need us to be loving, nurturing and calming to them when they’re upset. This is a huge step in teaching them to regulate their emotions.
Next, as you’re soothing them, let them describe what they’re upset about. Sometimes you’ll want to just tell them that it’s not a big deal, but resist parents, resist! It’s extremely helpful to just listen to what they’re saying without solving, interrupting or dismissing their feelings.
Often, this is all that needs to be done. And by doing these two steps, you’re teaching your kids the skill of comforting themselves and talking openly about their feelings and experiences.
Last, depending on the reason for getting upset, the child’s developmental stage and the timing of the situation you can do a few things. You could discuss what happened and give them a chance to talk it through and decide what to do going forward or in a similar situation in the future. You can tell them a story about a comparable experience you’ve had and how you got through it. If you need to move on to somewhere or something else, you could redirect them. You could practice some relaxation strategies together (see #3).
5. Don’t swoop in and rescue.
Kids thrive when they’re taught to manage challenging situations on their own. This doesn’t mean that you just abandon them, but if they’re having a hard time with something, give them a chance to work it out themselves. Remember that your goal in raising them is to help them become healthy, independent, successful adults. By solving too many problems for them, you’ll be working against that longer-term goal (Unless you want to solve their problems forever. No? Ok, read on!…)
If they’re facing a challenge, have a talk with them about it. Let’s say they’re upset about a friendship situation. Discuss with their different options for dealing with it and practice the options together. Encourage them to behave with confidence and speak their truth clearly with simple language. Ask them about it after school. Problem-solve what happens and teach them that it’s OK and normal to go through difficult experiences.
“We can do hard things.” ~ Glennon Doyle Melton.
On the topic of friendships, help them to spend time with friends who are kind and supportive to them. Teach them to stand up for their friends when needed and discuss why it’s important to do so. This helps build their confidence and their empathy for others.
6. Help them cultivate a “growth mindset.”
Many people believe that those who are exceptionally successful were born with innate talent or intelligence in their chosen pursuit. This is referred to as a “fixed mindset,” meaning that our abilities, character and intelligence are something that we’re born with.
Research shows that a person’s true potential is more related to effort and experience, not initial talents and aptitudes. This is the basis of the “growth mindset”- that hard work + persistence in the face of challenges make a huge difference in one’s level of success.
What you want your kids to recognize is that if they want to do well at something, they need to practice it regularly. Show them examples of people they admire and the amount of time and effort these people put into their chosen pursuit. Use examples from your own life about how you’ve overcome a relative weakness through perseverance.
Another important aspect of a growth mindset has to do with one’s perspective about making mistakes. Those who ascribe to a fixed mindset tend to be more cautious and try to avoid any possibility of “failure.” Those with a growth mindset are more adventurous and view challenges as a way to improve.
So to encourage the growth mindset in your children, you want to consistently send the message that it’s OK to make mistakes. You want to encourage them to “mess up” because this helps them to learn and grow. My kids love to hear funny stories about how I tried something new and it didn’t go well the first, second or third time. This is a great way to show them that mistakes are no big deal. Teach them that there’s no failure- there’s only success or a learning experience. Make sure they feel safe and comfortable to push themselves out of their comfort zone.
So there you go! Some tips for helping guide your children to become healthy, happy adults. I hope you find these helpful and start using them with your kids.
Comment below with the strategy that you’re going to work on first!