What will really help your children become their best selves and get through life’s toughest challenges is to teach them to be mentally strong. Mental strength requires you to pay attention to three things: the way you think, feel, and act. Of course, it takes practice, patience, and constant reinforcement to do these things naturally, but there have been many young people to successfully achieve it over time. Here are five things mentally strong kids always do, and how to help your kids get there if they haven’t already:
1. They empower themselves
If your kid says, “My friend got a higher score on the quiz, which makes me feel bad about myself,” they’re essentially giving someone else power over their emotions. But kids who feel empowered don’t depend on other people to feel good. Mentally strong kids are supportive of their peers, and they focus on performing their best without worrying about how everyone else is doing. Work with your kid to come up with phrases that they can repeat to themselves using words that show they are in charge of how they think, feel, and behave— regardless of how those around them are doing. Your child can even write it down as a visual reminder of their motto. The most effective catchphrases are short and easy to remember:
• “All I can do is try my best.”
• “Act confident.”
• “I choose to be happy today.”
2. They adapt to change
Whether it’s moving to a new school or not being able to play with friends during the pandemic, change is tough. Your kid might miss the way things used to be or worry that what’s happening might make their life worse. But mentally strong kids understand that change can help them grow into a stronger person, even though it might not feel that way at first. Teach your child to put a name to their emotion because that simple act can lessen the sting of these emotions. When your kid is faced with a major change, have them talk elaborately about how they’re feeling and help them find—and define—the right words to describe.
3. They know when to say no
Everyone struggles to speak up, say no, or express their feelings every so often. Depending on the situation, choosing not to say yes makes you stronger. We struggle to say no because it can feel awkward and weird. By finding the courage to do it more often, however, you’ll find that it gets easier over time. Try the “give up” test: When your kid is faced with a decision to say yes or no, ask them what they will have to give up if they say yes. If they decide they don’t want to, then help them find the courage to say no by coming up with polite ways to turn someone down:
• “Thank you so much for inviting me, but I’ve got other plans.”
• “I’ll have to check and get back to you.” (Use this if they need some time to think about it.)
• “I don’t really feel like doing that today, but I appreciate you asking.”
4. They own their mistakes
Kids are often tempted to hide their mistakes because they don’t want to get in trouble. Kids who are brave enough apologize and find ways to avoid making the same mistake again. Help your child by creating an environment for success. If your kid is disorganized, they probably have a hard time remembering all their assignments. When your kid makes a mistake, remind them that they can change their environment in a way that will prevent them from making the same mistake again. For example, they can set up time every day to tidy up their room and write down assignments as soon as they receive them.
5. They fail ... and try again
Failure hurts but the most accomplished people reached their goals by failing along the way. Kids who do well later in life focus their attention on what went wrong and how they could fix it. They have growth mindsets that help them turn failures into positive learning experiences. Mentally strong kids will continue to work hard even when they don’t feel like it. Often, they eventually succeed and discover that they’re stronger than they initially thought. Experts have found that kids actually perform better when they learn that many success stories began with failure. The next time your kid feels down because they feel they’ve failed at something, educate them about people who made similar mistakes, like Thomas Edison. Edison helped invent the lightbulb, in addition to many other great things. But he also had more than 1,000 inventions that didn’t work. This will give your kid confidence, and they’ll know that one poor grade, for example, doesn’t mean they’re bad at science.
A. Morin. “A psychotherapist says the most mentally strong kids always do these 7 things-and how parents can teach them”. CNBC, 17 March 2021. Retrieved 18 March 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/17/psychotherapist-parenting-tips-what-the-most-mentally-strong-kids-always-do.html