Parenting mistakes to avoid if you want to raise happy and resilient children

Parenting mistakes

It’s something I’ve been thinking for a while – we have become far  too protective of our children. Sure, it’s only natural to want to shield our children from the harms of an increasingly complex world, but at what cost? Will this really help them be competent and mentally strong individuals in the long run, or are we in fact making a slew of parenting mistakes which dock their wings by being so protective of our children, and squashing their resilience and their ability to reach their greatest potential?

Today I have a Q&A Amy Morin, the author who identified the characteristics that mentally strong people share in her international bestselling book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do who has a new book out – 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, to help signal the parenting mistakes we should avoid if we want to raise happy and resilient children.

What do you see as the greatest challenges of parenting today?

For most parents, the biggest challenge seems to be in finding just the right balance between providing enough support and allowing kids to practice their skills on their own.

Good parents want their kids to succeed. But in order to help your kids succeed in the long-term, you have to let them fail, make mistakes, and flounder in the short-term. It’s tough to stand by and allow that to happen but real-life experience best prepares kids for the real world.

As parents we seem to have become preoccupied with keeping our kids safe – but what are the repercussions of this?

While it’s important to teach kids about danger and risk, being overprotective can backfire. Kids need to experience some pain in life. That may mean letting them get their feelings hurt or it may mean allowing them to get bumps and bruises. They need to know how to deal with pain and childhood is a great opportunity to teach them the skills they need to learn and grow.

Kids also need to learn how to evaluate risk on their own. Going outside without a jacket on a cold day teaches kids life lessons. Natural consequences can be some of life’s best teachers.

What are some of the biggest parenting mistakes we are making?

One big mistake is that many parents take responsibility for their kids’ emotions. They calm their kids when they’re angry, entertain them when they’re bored, and cheer them up when they’re sad. Their kids grow dependent on their parents to regulate their emotions for them.

Another big mistake is losing sight of our values. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of homework and afterschool activities that we forget to think about what we’re actually role modeling for kids. And sadly, the messages parents are trying to teach kids get lost in the day-to-day hustle and bustle.

parenting mistakes

How is this impacting on our children’s mental strength?

Many children aren’t entering the adult world with the mental muscle they need to thrive. For example, 60% of college students say they wish there had been more emphasis on teaching them emotional skills but they felt unprepared to deal with uncomfortable feelings, like loneliness, anxiety, and sadness on their own.

It’s important to send kids off into the adult world with confidence that they can solve problems, deal with self-doubt, and handle whatever life throws their way. But, before they can be confident in themselves, they need the skills and life experience to back it up.

What should we be doing instead to ensure we are raising healthy, strong and empowered adults of the future?

We can make mental strength a bigger priority. We spend a lot of time focusing on the importance of taking care of our bodies, but much less on caring for our minds.

There are tons of mental strength exercises we can teach kids. Many of them are quite simple. But, they’re really effective in helping kids learn how to regulate their thoughts, manage their emotions, and take positive action.

How can we improve our own mental strength as parents to facilitate this?

Make mental strength training a priority in your life. Mentally strong parents raise mentally strong kids.

That may mean changing a few simple habits, like exchanging complaining for gratitude. Or, it might mean labeling your emotions in conversations so your kids see that it’s important to be aware of your feelings. These little things take less than one minute per day but they could change the entire course of your child’s life.

Can you give us your five top tips for avoiding some of the parenting mistakes above?

  • Use discipline, rather than punishment. Give your child consequences that will help her learn to do better next time, rather than a punishment that is simply meant to make her suffer.
  • Know your values and get proactive about teaching them. Would you rather your child be the smartest kid in the class or the nicest? When you answer that question for yourself, ask your child what she thinks you’d prefer. You might discover you’re not actually teaching the values you think you are.
  • Focus on teaching your child skills, rather than shielding him from pain. You can’t prevent all hardship in life. So rather than prevent your child from having hurt feelings or disappointment, give him the skills he needs to handle it.
  • Refuse to attend your child’s pity parties. Don’t get swept up into joining your child when he’s feeling sorry for himself. Refuse to let him develop a victim mentality.
  • Establish a clear family hierarchy. While it’s healthy to show your child that you respect his opinion, make it clear that you’re in charge. Kids need to learn how to take orders and how to do things they don’t want to do.

parenting mistakes

What are your golden rules of raising mentally strong children?

  • Be aware of what you’re role modelling for your children. Your kids will learn far more from what you do rather than what you say.
  • Take five minutes every day to build mental muscle. Make it a family priority to become mentally stronger. Pick an exercise or two to practice every day.
  • Reflect on your progress and keep learning. Remember that mistakes are part of the learning process. But in order to learn from your mistakes you have to spend some time thinking about how to do better. Teach your kids that they can bounce back from failure, mistakes, and rejection by learning to do better.

Can you leave us with your final words and a mini pep talk for parents wanting to do the best they can for their children?

Helping kids build mental strength can sound overwhelming. But a few simple exercises can make a big difference.

It’s never too late to begin building mental muscles, either. So no matter how old you are, or how old your child is, you can still make a difference.

Thank you to Amy for her inspirational advice which I will certainly be taking on board in our family. What do you think of the insights she shared above? Do leave a comment and let us know.

Parenting mistakes to avoid if you want to raise happy and resilient children

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get your copy of 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PARENTS DON’T DO:  Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success here

39 comments

  1. I love this, what great advice! I think you’re right about not joining your children in pity parties, I am quite harsh with the kids in that way, I don’t pander to it!

  2. Oh I love this post. I am so guilty of previously not letting my daughter deal with things herself and from keeping her too protected in a bubble. Lately though I’m becoming more relaxed because I want her to be more resilient and less reliant on me. I’m definitely taking some of this advice very, very seriously. x

  3. Some good tips here. I have always been over protective and my older children try to make me let go more of the younger ones and let the go off and do things on there own. Sometimes it is hard as you do worry about them.

  4. Great advice and suggestions here. Totally agree with natural consequences to teach life lessons and if something goes wrong they would do it again! My mummy is letting me play out on the street – but its hard for her to let go!!

  5. Interesting ideas. For us, empathising works best, acknowledging why they are angry/upset/sad and then allowing them the space to master the emotion themselves, and the opportunity to talk it through or change things when they want to.

  6. Great tips! Remaining in charge and not being dictated to is so important and helping the kids to deal with negative emotions as well as happy ones is vital

  7. Definitely agree on trying to help our kids to be mentally strong. It’s so easy to try to protect them, or give into them to make life easier in the short tern, but I do want my boys to understand that they won’t always get their way and sometimes you have to take a breath, suck it up, and move on. (I know a lot of grown ups who would benefit from that too!) #coolmumclub

  8. Interesting and definitely a lot to think about! I think we can all relate to the part about regulating our kids emotions, we as parents feel so guilty for not being there for enough for them that we tend to overdo ourselves. It so hard to step back and look at the bigger picture when you’re sucked into it. Thanks for sharing. #CoolMumClub

  9. I think knowing what is right and wrong and being clear with boundaries are good attrributes to parenting X #coolmumclub

  10. This is an excellent post and one that mirrors one I wrote a while back just from my own observations whilst teaching. ‘Taking responsibility for their kids emotions…’ YES! We need to acknowledge their emotions but it’s not our job to take responsibility for them….this just means that, as adults, they will try to do this with their partners. I love this post lovely, xx #coolmumclub

  11. I like a lot of these ideas but totally dislike the phrase ‘mentally strong’ as even an inference of the opposite feels undermining. Mental strength is in waves depending on stages in life. How you can be at tip top mental strength if in grief, illness etc?
    So I think parents need a break from labels. This lack of pressure from each other can only help people be their best.
    I still enjoyed the post and it’s merits- I just had to say what I think! #CoolMumClub

  12. Some really interesting ideas. My youngest is going through the tantrum stage. We let her have her tantrum, then sit down and talk to her about how she was feeling and how she could handle it differently next time. She then has to apologise. I think it helps to teach her to recognise what is acceptable behaviour and what’s not and to take responsibility. #coolmumclub

  13. I love this post. I can recognise myself in some of the errors – certainly the taking responsibility for their emotions. I am totally guilty of that. Some great tips here for helping me to help them #CoolMumClub

  14. A brilliant post. So true. Must think about how to portray / share my values. It’s so true we can all be caught up in hustle and bustle. Even more what to dos would be welcomed

  15. I love the bit about children learning to evaluate risk – I think it’s really important to allow them to make mistakes (in a controlled way) in order to learn what not to do next time. Great post #coolmumclub xx

  16. Great advice there: I have been working on the notion of exchanging complaining for gratitude. And trying to get my teenage daughter to do so — with less success. She will come around in her own time, I guess. The advice you share is just as relevant for dealing with teenagers as with smallies #BlogCrush

  17. Some great ideas here. I am totally guilty of running everything to a schedule and not taking the time to actually show gratitude when I am with Cygnet. Pen x #coolmumclub

  18. “Mentally strong parents raise mentally strong kids.” Great advice and something I’ll keep in mind when I’m starting to neglect my own mental health and self care. #coolmumclub

  19. Interesting thoughts here. I think I’m probably quite good with N. He knows he can come to me, but he does tend to work things out on his own…except when he goes off for a sulk and ‘cry’ when he’s hurt himself (usually when he’s done something stupid to cause it), then he gets told to get over it and come and carry on what he was doing. Sometimes they don’t need all the attention, but maybe I’m more aware of avoiding this because he’s an only child. #coolmumclub

  20. I think a lot of parents want to be loved rather than valued so they avoid confrontation. My youngest and I are currently going through a battle of wills but he is starting to learn that he will get dressed before leaving the house or he will be taken on the school run naked! #coolmumclub

  21. This definitely sounds like it’s provided a lot of food for thought for so many of us – I am currently making my way through the actual book and it;s really making me think a lot about the how’s and why’s of how I parent x

  22. Some really good strong positive parenting techniques. I have found myself being particularly tested in the last week and had to really stand my ground and be firm. I did question my stance but now on reading this, reinforces my parenting technique. #coolmumclub

  23. This is all great advice, my four year old is particularly head strong and we are clashing quite a lot lately, I definitely think I need to learn how to teach him to deal with all his strong emotions. Think I’ll be buying this book xx

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