Last year, I played PE teacher. I hadn’t taught in a classroom since before I had my own kids and wasn’t expecting the cultural shift that had since taken hold of both parents and school administrators. I walked into the gym in September expecting to provide fun fitness experiences and information that would be life-lasting. By October, I knew I had a literal fight on my hands. I had been called into the principal’s office consistently to redirect my plans. I couldn’t infer a child needed to improve their fitness since that would make them feel bad about themselves. As the weather chilled, I could no longer take them outside where they might get cold. I couldn’t use the fields in the morning since it would make their shoes wet. I couldn’t use the climbing rope since they might fall. I couldn’t use the trails because they might trip and fall on unpaved surfaces. I couldn’t insist that a child run, as they MIGHT have an underlying medical condition that MIGHT cause a problem. If a child’s face flushed or they breathed heavily, I was encouraged to have them sit out. I was called into question for children not being given A’s on their report card. It was offensive to suggest Pop Tarts and Lunchables should be replaced with healthier choices. It gave me a window into the environment being created for many kids today. Adults want to give kids a great life and do what’s best for them. They’ve created a calm, safe, easy, happy and….
… incredibly debilitating life for kids.
If I could have at least one do-over in parenting, it would be to have been a much more hard-core mom. In my quest to be the most loving mom, the one who provided as best I could, the one who would protect the hard blows, rescue, soften, make easier, I missed an opportunities to make them tougher. I could’ve strengthened my kids more, not only to handle elite levels of competition, but to thrive in real-hard-core-life.
Sports pyschologists have done research, but it doesn’t take a doctorate to figure out that one “IT” factor of successful people is their mental toughness.
So, do we just get mean? Nasty? Abusive? Is that what it means to be a tough parent?
Come on…. common sense, good judgement and balance…
It means that from the time our kids are toddlers, we need to become “velvet bricks”. It means to love them enough to let them experience the positive and negative consequences of the choices they make and the discomfort of new experiences. We need to allow them to take risks and feel the anxiety; stretch to feel pressure. It means working through challenges, obstacles and difficult things while handling distractions and interference. It means allowing them to feel the pain of falls, the frustration of setbacks, the anger of shortfalls, struggle of work and wrestling to figure solutions. It starts as they wobble across the room during their first steps and picking them up to go a little farther and progresses until they take their leap into adulthood as you smile encouringly. It’s only then, they gain the self-assurance and elation of their accomplishments.
Parents: Tough parents raise strong kids.
Toughness strengthens character, attitude and thinking needed to maximize potential.
Make it normal for kids to take appropriate risks and face challenges, work and figure out solutions to problems, resolve consequences, and make improvements.
Diminish externals and strengthen internals: don’t allow kids to blame or make excuses, but own responsibility for their effort and responses.
Focus on building the child, not the “star”, on the process, not outcome and responding objectively not emotionally as they develop.
Encourage with positive guidance. Help your child learn how to analyze situations and performance, determine how to improve, adjust, and move forward.
Acknowledge when it’s hard, but encourage them to overcome: “I know it hurts”, “I see that it’s hard.” “When that happens, yes, it’s frustrating..” “Yes, you’re sad”
“… but let’s move on and figure out how to make things better.”
When your kids face the hard things in life, to have equipt them with strong character, attitude and thinking helps them not just survive, but thrive in maximizing their potential.