10 Tips for Raising Mentally Strong Kids

Teach your child the lessons he needs to become mentally strong.
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Mentally strong kids are prepared for the challenges of the world. They’re able to tackle problems, bounce back from failure, and cope with hardships. 

To be clear, mental strength isn't about acting tough or suppressing emotions. It's also not about being unkind or acting defiant.

Instead, mentally strong kids are resilient and they have the courage and confidence to reach their full potential.

Helping kids develop mental strength requires a three-pronged approach: teaching them to replace negative thoughts with more realistic thoughts, helping them learn to control their emotions so their emotions don’t control them, and showing them how to take positive action.

There are many parenting strategies, discipline techniques, and teaching tools that help kids build mental muscle. Here are 10 strategies that will help your child develop the strength he needs to become a mentally strong adult:

1. Teach Specific Skills

Discipline should be about teaching your kids to do better next time, not making them suffer for their mistakes. Use consequences that teach specific skills, such as problem-solving skills, impulse control, and self-discipline. These skills will help your child learn to behave productively, even when he’s faced with temptation, tough circumstances, and difficult setbacks.

2. Let Your Child Make Mistakes

Teach your child that mistakes are part of the learning process so he doesn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed for getting something wrong. Allow for natural consequences when it’s safe to do so and talk about how to avoid repeating the same mistake next time.

3. Teach Your Child How to Develop Healthy Self-Talk

It’s hard for kids to feel mentally strong when they’re bombarding themselves with put-downs or when they’re predicting catastrophic outcomes. Teach your child to reframe negative thoughts so she can think more realistically. Developing a realistic yet optimistic outlook can help kids get through time times and perform at their peak.

 

4. Encourage Your Child to Face Fears Head-On

If your child avoids anything scary, she'll never gain the confidence she needs to handle feeling uncomfortable. Whether your child is afraid of the dark, or she is terrified to meet new people, help your child face her fears one small step at a time. Cheer her on, praise her efforts, and reward her for being brave and she'll learn that she's a capable kid who can handle stepping outside her comfort zone.

5. Allow Your Child to Feel Uncomfortable

Although it can be tempting to help a child whenever she's struggling, rescuing her from distress will reinforce to her that she's helpless. Let your child lose, allow her to feel bored, and insist she be responsible even when she doesn't want to. With support and guidance, struggles can help your child build mental strength.

6. Build Character

Kids need a strong moral compass to help them make healthy decisions. Work hard to instill your values in your child. Create opportunities for life lessons that reinforce your values regularly.

For example, emphasize the importance of honesty and compassion, rather than winning at all costs. Children who understand their values are more likely to make healthy choices—even when others may disagree with their actions.

7. Make Gratitude a Priority

Gratitude is a wonderful remedy for self-pity and other bad habits that can prevent your child from being mentally strong. Help your child affirm all the good in the world, so that even on his worst days, he’ll see that he has much to feel thankful for. Gratitude can boost your child’s mood and encourage proactive problem-solving.

8. Affirm Personal Responsibility

Building mental strength involves accepting personal responsibility. Allow for explanations—​but not excuses when your child makes a mistake or misbehaves. Correct your child if he tries to blame others for how he thinks, feels, or behave.

9. Teach Emotion Regulation Skills

Don't calm your child down when she's angry or cheer her up every time she's sad. Instead, teach her how to deal with uncomfortable emotions on her own, so she doesn't grow to depend on you to regulate her mood. Kids who understand their feelings and know how to deal with them, are better prepared to deal with challenges.

10. Role Model Mental Strength

Showing your child how to be mentally strong is the best way to encourage him to develop mental strength. Talk about your personal goals and show your child that you’re taking steps to grow stronger. Make self-improvement and mental strength a priority in your own life and avoid the ​things mentally strong parents don’t do.

Sources

Morin A. 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 Publishers; 2017.

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