The 3-Pronged Approach Helping Kids Build Mental Strength

Mentally Strong Kids
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We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of being physically strong, but there’s a lot less emphasis on mental strength. But without mental strength, many kids won’t have the skills necessary to reach their full potential. Whether a child faces a bully on the playground or he struggles to understand his latest homework assignment, mental strength helps kids deal with problems productively.

Mental strength isn’t about raising a “tough kid” who never cries. Instead, building mental strength is about helping your child develop confidence in his abilities and the determination necessary to reach his goals.

Mentally strong kids are better able to bounce back after failure. They learn from their mistakes and they’re willing to take responsibility for their behavior. They’re better equipped to deal with life’s inevitable hardships and they’re prepared to face their fears.

Role modeling mental strength serves as a wonderful teaching tool. But, kids don’t always develop all the skills necessary to be mentally strong simply by watching others. Instead, they also need someone to proactively teach them the skills they need to grow stronger. Here is a three-pronged approach that will help your child build mental strength:

1. Teach Your Child to Silence His Negative Thinking

While everyone experiences exaggeratedly negative thoughts sometimes, some kids are more prone to pessimism than others.

Children who frequently think things like, “I’m stupid,” or “No one ever likes me” will struggle to feel good about themselves and will have difficulty performing at their best.

Teach your child that just because he thinks something, doesn’t mean it’s true. Point out times where your child’s reflections and expectations may be harmful.

Teach him to think more productively by evaluating his thoughts and replacing overly negative thoughts with more realistic ones.

Provide authentic praise for your child’s efforts and point out his best qualities. Help him identify his strengths, while also making it clear that we all have areas where we could improve. Talk about mistakes openly and honestly and discuss strategies for overcoming failure.

2. Show Your Child How to Manage His Emotions

Teach your child that emotions – even the uncomfortable ones – are okay. It’s normal to experience feelings such as anger, sadness, embarrassment, and fear. However, it’s the choices we make when we feel those emotions that makes all the difference.

Some kids struggle to tolerate the discomfort associated with certain emotions. While one child may behave aggressively every time he feels angry, another child may avoid anything that raises his anxiety. With coaching however, kids can learn how to control their emotions – so their emotions don’t control them.

Validate your child’s feelings by saying, “I understand you’re feeling really angry right now,” or “I know you’re sad that we can’t go to the park today.” Then, help your child to find healthy ways to deal with those emotions.

3. Encourage Your Child to Behave Productively

Behaving productively – despite the circumstances – is a skill that will help your child throughout his life. Learning how to make healthy choices however, takes practice. Provide plenty of feedback to help your child learn to take appropriate action.

Use positive reinforcement to encourage your child to make good decisions. For example, praise him for showing kindness to others or provide extra attention when he’s following the rules. Reinforcing good choices encourages your child to keep up the good work.

Sometimes parents accidentally reinforce negative behavior.

Giving into temper tantrums, for example, teaches a child that throwing a fit is a productive way to get his needs met. It’s important to use negative consequences to deter unproductive and unhealthy behavior from being repeated.

Teach your child how to make healthy choices even when he’s faced with difficult circumstances and uncomfortable emotions. Provide your child with the skills he needs, such as problem-solving skills and self-discipline skills, so he can recover from mistakes and find healthy ways to deal with his feelings.

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