Teaching Kids to Fight for the Strengths
In last week’s article, we discussed how easily we can, inadvertently, teach children to ‘fight’ and argue for the limitations and their misery. While seemingly impossible for many well-intentioned parents, this disastrous outcome happens when we find ourselves repeatedly arguing or encouraging our children with a ‘you can do it’ message. Is the message wrong? Of course not.
However, the problem arises when we are the ones repeatedly arguing that ‘you can’ WHILE they repeatedly argue ‘I can’t.’ It’s that sense you feel in your gut that you are the one working hard to get them to see the truth while they simply keep fighting for misery. These appear in different forms:
- I can’t do it.
- I am stupid. I’m dumb.
- I am ugly.
- No one likes me.
- Math is too hard for me.
- Life isn’t fair.
- I always get the short end of the stick.
Just last week, I conducted an intake interview with a 25-year-old woman coming from out-of-state to get help with her intense depression. During most of the interview, she rejected any suggestions as ‘not working for her.’ Yet, she had no data to suggest that she had ever attempted any of these suggestions more than once or twice. I asked to speak with her parents who were waiting for her, and upon joining the session, it became clear who was working harder for their daughter’s happiness: They were! Still at twenty-five.
The key is to stop now if this is happening in your home.
Four Steps to Having Your Kids Truly Fight for the Happiness and Success
1. Have Faith in Your Child
When you lack confidence in your child, it’s impossible to hide it. As much as you might try, it just doesn’t work. Inevitably, you will try to protect, save, problem-solve, and fix problems for them. In fact, you will try to anticipate normal life challenges, and coach them to avoid the problem or take action to offset the challenge. These moments limit their ability to learn from life.
Also, when you lack faith in them, your anxiety and fear-based worries tend to come out. Too much talking about issues, and too many constant questions arise…all of which suggest doubt.
Finally, you end up in these futile word battles where you are the one fighting for capability and happiness. They say I can’t in a hundred different ways while you argue that they can.
So, what to do? Start now with one simple choice: Have faith. Have faith in their ability to learn and grow from life. This will allow you to…
2. Let Them Learn from the Challenges of Life
Each challenge and problem in life is an opportunity to learn. The more we allow children the chance to learn from early challenges and struggles, the more we can promote resilience.
Does this mean we just dump them out in the world? Of course not! We prepare and explain, and we remind them (once or twice) that they can do it. Then, we allow them to learn.
We may see struggles on the horizon, but instead of jumping in to help them avoid the struggle, just let it be. This is the fodder for developing personal strength. When they complain or whine in any form…
3. Show No Interest in Repeated Self-Criticisms or Complaints!
Here is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. When children want to complain about themselves and how ‘I am so stupid,’ show no interest in this. Give it no energy.
When they insist they can’t do the math, don’t say a word. When your child refuses to put any effort into their homework, don’t repeatedly coach and plead with them to work harder. When insisting they are ugly, do not insist that they are beautiful.
In the very moments of the fighting for their own personal limitations, you do not argue with them. Of course, you don’t agree with them. You just walk away. Don’t give this the slightest energy or attention.
Please keep in mind: There is no relief from the homework or task in front of them, however. So, complaints about math will not mean you get out of the math. It’s still their work to do.
And still, you can and often must help them. But how do you do this? The key is to distinguish between complaints and a problem to be solved. Here’s my simple guiding question:
4. Only Answer Questions Reflecting Self-Effort at Growth and Learning.
Children who are fighting for their misery are stuck. They are asking questions, making complaints, and whining about their limitations or perceived short-comings. Do not answer these.
Instead, learn to attune yourself to questions and comments reflecting a desire to learn, grow, and evolve. Be attention to comments that reflect confidence and self-certainty.
For some children, they may gain self-confidence by putting down others or claiming superiority. This is equally toxic. This is not oriented toward growth or learning. Again, walk away.
Thus, your focus must shift to thoughts, comments, and questions that will serve them in the years ahead, and make them strong and resilient. This is where your attention and energy will turn, and the results will astound you.