4 ways to toughen up your kid

Spark your child’s fighting spirit and help him weather the toughest of times ― especially when you’re not around.

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As parents, you may feel like your child’s hero, doing everything you can to protect your child from life’s ups and downs. Truth is, you won’t always be around and there’ll come a time when junior will just have to go at it alone. Building his ability to bounce back from setbacks will ensure that he’ll be able to ride out the roughest times.

In the worst case scenario, without strength and resilience, your young ’un might turn to substance abuse like drugs or alcohol to deal with the fallout from failing. Explains Geraldine Tan, a psychologist at The Therapy Room, “If we do not help the child build up [resilience] in childhood, [the person] may also perceive themselves as incapable of working through things and would even be dependent on others to “save” them all the time.”

“Resilience comes from the confidence of knowing he or she can make things right. If they think only mum and dad can fix it, how will they stand on their own two feet?”

Your child’s fear of failing may prevent him from building his resilience as this quality is enhanced only when a person continues to prevail every time after he encounters failure. Dr Hana Ra Adams, a psychologist at the Change Group LLP, explains that this fear of failure leads a child to underperform in a task. This will, in turn, impact the way he approaches future challenges.

Daniel Koh, Insights Mind Centre psychologist, also points out that getting scolded for and lacking support and understanding from parents and peers may worsen your kiddo’s fear of failing. Here are expert strategies to boost your child’s courage and resilience:

1. Don’t fix his problems for him

As we don’t like seeing our children suffer, you may feel compelled as a parent to step in and help your mini-me solve his problems. But when you do so, you’re depriving him the chance to learn critical coping strategies and vital problem-solving skills.

Dr Adams explains, “Resilience comes from the confidence of knowing he or she can make things right. If they think only mum and dad can fix it, how will they stand on their own two feet?”

She adds that you need to encourage your child to be independent and try different solutions before asking for help. If he is uncertain about the next course of action, remind him that you are always open to discussing his options but he has to be the one to make the decision. Koh adds that you can remind them that you are always around if they need someone to talk to.

While you may feel guilty leaving your child to find his own solutions, Dr Adams reminds you that you aren’t necessarily helping your child in the long run by fixing things. “Most of us grow through trial and error. If we don’t allow our children that same process, how can we expect them to develop and grow and to learn from experience?”

Three more top tips coming right up!

 

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2. Get them to do simple tasks

Let them help you with household chores such as doing the dishes, cooking or folding the laundry. Besides imparting useful life skills, you’ll show that you trust their sense of judgment or that you know they can do a good job. Remember to offer specific praises like “I really appreciate when you fold the clothes for mummy.” These words can influence and change the way they think about themselves. Dr Adams points out that absorbing a positive message can boost their confidence.

Just discussing the solution makes them feel they have better control of the situation. It also gives your child the vocabulary he needs to talk about his problems.

3. Fix his inner voice

What you say as a parent has a huge impact on the way your child thinks about himself. Tan stresses, “Words may only be one part, [but] many of the children who have a fear of failing are afraid of ‘looking’ stupid in front of others.” How prior failings are handled can also influence the way he approaches the next challenge and the others that follow.

If a situation doesn’t go well, Dr Adams suggests using humour to relieve pressure. When your child has calmed down, discuss with him how to make it better the next time or what we have learnt from this incident. Just discussing the solution makes them feel they have better control of the situation. It also gives your child the vocabulary he needs to talk about his problems. Make it a point to let your child drive the conversation ― let him offer solutions before jumping in to give positive feedback or your suggestions.

4. Help him see that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world

Sometimes all your child needs to realise is that no matter how difficult things may look now, it will get better. Dr Adams says, “You could use a scale of one to three or one to ten. Sometimes, scaling can help your child to understand that in a grand scheme of things, the current problem may not be that bad.”

Dr Adams adds that you resist telling junior that what they are feeling is no big deal either as they will find it harder to talk to you about other goings-on. So, avoid rushing to brush aside their feelings ― validate their emotions by being empathetic. Use phrases like “I understand how you feel” or “It is okay to feel that way.”

Photos: iStock

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