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Part II: The Antidote to Raising the Wimpy Child

The first article in this series may have been an eye-opener for you. I pointed to research that proves that many children are raised in ways that actually weaken their potential, and create wimpy children and teens.  The antidote:  parent with the intention AND the tools to give  your kids the gift of inner  strength and resilience.  In this article, we will review several key principles that nurture resilience and strength in children.

Parenting Tools To Build Inner Strength and Resilience

  1. Prepare kids for reality; don’t protect them from it.

Reality is tough; in fact, it’s often very tough.  The best preparation for that tough road ahead is to build toughness, and that can’t be done by protecting children.  Yet, the tendency is to raise children who are repeatedly protected from the normal developmental lessons that come with their choices at their age. For example:

  • We give kids a trophy regardless of their efforts. Not real.
  • We finish their homework so that they still get an A. Not a real A.
  • We fabricate excuses for a skipped practice, so your son isn’t benched. Not reality.

What happens when children hit the real world, after being protected from the consequences of their choices?  They fail.  They struggle.  They wimp out.  They give up.

Why?  Because their model of the world is false.  It’s based on false ideas, and delusional expectations.

Instead, prepare them for reality by refusing to protect them from their choices (if life and limb are not at risk, of course!).  In other words, life is set up to teach us about the rules, through the choices and the consequences that come from those choices.

We must (if we want resilient children) give them the gift of learning so they’re able to handle disappointment, frustration and the pain of poor choices.  They will survive and learn from each of these lessons, which are fundamental to thriving in life.

  1. To build strength and resilience you must require some strength.

How do you require STRENGTH?  You do this by doing less for them, and having them do more for themselves.  Fewer and fewer teens expect to work during their high school or college years, and expect free education.  More and more children expect mom to stop life instantly, to fulfill their latest offer for a sleepover or playdate.

We keep allowing, and, in fact, supporting the easy way out over the growth-producing choices.  If we want strength and resilience, then we must turn this around.

Require more contribution for the goodies they want, and trust me…they like the goodies.  Require more personal effort for the play dates and outings that arise instantly, so they do more planning and preparation.  Require more effort at taking care of daily life, such as cleaning rooms and raking yards.  Engage in family outings that require some effort in helping others, and making a difference in the community.  These are key lessons in teaching resilience.

  1. Refuse to engage in (repeated) excuses, complaints and negative whining.

If complaints and excuses are repeatedly engaged by parents, the child learns that the world will care about these excuses.  And guess what?  The real world is not really interested in excuses and disdains a whiner.

More importantly, perhaps, if we engage these patterns, we inevitably discover that a very powerful ‘victim’ mentality emerges over time.  Because the excuse always gives them a way out that does not involve taking responsibility, the child grows to see themselves as victim to others who don’t like them, don’t treat them fairly and have some advantage.   The ‘giving up’ or ‘quitting’ comes with an excuse that then tacitly reinforces the wimpy mentality, and the absence of STRENGTH and resilience.

The antidote here is simple:  Do not show interest in these patterns.  Simply disengage, and allow the whining, the complaints, the excuses to be of complete disinterest to you.  Reflect a model of the world that is more real, as this will prepare them for that reality.

Too harsh, you say?  It’s only too harsh if you are harsher that the real world will be.  And simply walking away from an excuse you have heard 100 times is not that harsh.  In fact, walking away will be the kindest action you can do so that your child learns the value of these flimsy excuses.  If you keep engaging and explaining and listening, they will think those excuses and the victim mentality that comes with it has value, when it does not.  Unless we seek more wimps.

  1. Keep your heart open, know your child can handle these moments.

Having watched the magic of these parenting changes, it can be easy to get lost in strategy and lose touch with the power of love and belief as the essential catalyst of change.  In teaching these tough lessons, do so with a sense of kindness and love in your heart.  There is no need for tension or that ‘bull dog’ mentality here.

Be easeful, loving and kind as you remind your son or daughter that you have faith in them.  And, tell them, with deep sincerity, that, ‘’You can handle this sweetheart.” Your belief in them must be grounded in love and in the sense of certainly you have in their inherent ability and strength.

These are the keys to building resilience and STRENGTH, but it does take time.  These deep changes evolve over months, not weeks, so be patient.  And be resolved in your actions…not just today, but everyday.