Every parent wants their children to be happy and successful.
The best way to ensure this is to teach them mental toughness as early as possible, according to psychotherapist Amy Morin. Mentally difficult children are more likely to have high self-esteem, develop resilience that allows them to stay positive in the face of challenges and learn from their failures.
This means choosing your words carefully around your children, especially in stressful situations where it’s easy to say whatever you think will stop a tantrum or calm a worrying tantrum. Certain words or phrases could unintentionally send the wrong message, Morin says.
“All parents do these things sometimes or say them occasionally,” Morin, editor of Verywell Mind and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast, told CNBC Make It. “But it’s an opportunity to then teach your kids how you learn from your mistakes, how you can grow and change (and) do things differently.”
Here are seven phrases that parents of mentally strong children avoid using when raising their children, according to Morin:
1. “Calm down!”
It’s never a good idea to tell your kids how they should feel, even if you’re just trying to calm them down or cheer them up, says Morin: “We want to send the message, it’s okay to feel feeling. But it’s important to be careful what you do with those feelings.”
Instead, try something like this, she recommends: “It sounds like you’re really angry right now.”
Help your child understand that it’s okay to feel upset, and nudge them gently toward an activity that you know will help them calm down.
“Teach them what to do when you’re angry,” Morin says. “So instead of throwing something or yelling, maybe you color a picture or you go out and run or you listen to music for a few minutes.”
2. “Don’t worry.”
There’s no point in telling kids what to think, even if you’re just trying to allay their fears, Morin says.
“When someone says, ‘Don’t worry,’ our worries don’t automatically go away,” she explains. “A better strategy is to teach children: what can you do when you are worried? »
Instead, try asking a hypothetical question: “If your friend was worried about this, what would you say?”
Generally, children can think more rationally by removing themselves from the situation, Morin says. If their friend is worried about an upcoming exam, for example, they might tell them to work hard and you’ll be fine.
“When they learn to pass that same message on to themselves, they can learn, ‘OK, I can teach myself to manage my thoughts in a healthier way,'” she says.
3. “It will be fine.
A positive attitude can help your child gain confidence, but no one has a “crystal ball,” says Morin. You cannot predict when your child will succeed or when they will experience disappointment.
In other words, promising your child that they will succeed, only to see them fail, can actually damage their confidence – while also “damaging your credibility” for the next time you try to cheer them up. she says.
“Instead of saying, ‘You’re going to win!’ …the best message is, “Go ahead and do your best. And if it doesn’t go well, that’s okay. We’ll take care of that too,” Morin said.
4. “Don’t ever let me catch you doing this again.”
This phrase is often uttered out of frustration and a sincere desire to help children avoid bad or dangerous habits.
But “kids are sneaky,” Morin says — and if you just warn them of the consequences of being caught, they’ll just learn to hide bad behavior better from you.
“They’ll glue the lamp back together the next time it breaks, or throw away their paper (with a bad grade) before you see it,” Morin says, adding that if your kids are honest with you about their mistakes , you can help them learn and grow.
Instead, Morin suggests saying, “You’re going to do it again, and you’re going to be tempted to hide it and cover it up. Here’s what we could do instead.”
5. ‘You are the best!’
There’s nothing wrong with praising your child for doing well.
But if your kids think they only deserve praise if they outperform everyone else, they’ll suffer from unrealistic expectations and anxiety about finishing anywhere but first, Morin says.
In extreme cases, this can lead to kids trying to finish first at all costs, even if they have to break the rules. “It’s the kids (who) end up cheating when they get a bit older, because they think that’s what’s more important to mom or dad – being the best, rather than being the nice one or honest child,” Morin said. said.
Instead, praise your child for the process — studying hard or putting in a lot of effort — rather than the outcome, advises Morin. It can help children stay motivated to work hard and succeed in the future, psychologists often note.
6. “That’s perfect!”
Likewise, be careful not to raise a perfectionist: a child who thinks they always have to be “perfect” to earn their parents’ praise or love. Perfectionism in children is correlated with a range of mental health issues, from anxiety to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), research shows.
It may seem perfectly harmless to tell your child that his painting looks “perfect” or that he played “perfectly” in a football game, but these comments may be the start of a tendency that leads children to obsess over every mistake, says Morin.
“Praise their efforts rather than the result,” she advises. “Even if you think the picture is great, or they did a great job on the pitch, you could just praise them for working really hard, for trying. And, if they fell, for be picked up.”
7. “You drive me crazy.”
The idea that your feelings can be affected by someone else’s behavior is counterproductive, Morin says. This can make children believe that they are not responsible for their actions. It can even lead to manipulative behavior, such as when your child directs other children instead of processing their own feelings, she adds.
“We don’t want (kids) growing up blaming other people for driving them crazy, ruining their day, making them feel horrible all the time,” Morin says. “We want kids to know, ‘I am empowered to control how I think, feel, and behave.'”
Try using phrases like “I don’t like your behavior right now” or “I don’t like the way you’re acting, here’s what we could do instead,” she advises.
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