1 | Build a sense of empowerment, not a victim mentality
- No matter how difficult things feel, they can do something to help themselves or their situation.
2 | Parent with a sense of values, but not with a sense of guilt
- All parents can feel guilt over mistakes we have made, but guilt can make life very intolerable if it is allowed to rule our minds. Teach kids to learn from their mistakes and to listen to their remorse and how to allow but not become hooked by guilty thoughts and feelings.
3 | Make kids feel important, without feeling they are the center of the universe
4 | Pay attention to anxiety but do not allow fear to dictate your choices
- As you push back against your own comfort zones, you will demonstrate to your kids that limits can be uncomfortable, but yes, they can be overcome.
5 | Listen to your kids thoughts and opinions, but don’t allow kids to have power over their parents.
- Considering kid’s opinions or input is healthy. But letting kids decide on meals, activities, musical choices, where you go on vacation, who comes over is giving kids too much power. They won’t learn how to live with others, how to compromise and how to listen to other’s who have power or influence in their lives (like bosses, teachers, customers).
6 | Expect kids to do their best, to work hard and to persist. But leave behind perfection.
- Teaching our kids to work hard even when things don’t work out is one of the best life-lessons they can ever learn. The challenge is that usually if parent’s insist that their kids stick with something, kids will make it about parent’s being controlling. Control is not the issue, but persistence is. If parents or families can find things where kids don’t feel pressure from parents directly but from a group or an event it may help to redirect their energy (participating in a school play or school event where they need to fundraiser, community groups or teams, learning a skill that they want to master like an instrument or snowboarding/skateboarding).
7 | Teach your kids to be accountable and to take responsibility.
- Chores may sometimes feel like they are not worth the reminders… but chores will pay big dividends in teaching responsibility. Especially when families don’t let kids do sub-par work.
8 | Allow kids to experience developmentally appropriate disappointment and pain.
- Pain and uncomfortable feelings are a challenge to work through, but they can teach us how to face and work through hard things.
9 | Know that you are not responsible for your kid’s emotions, but you can teach them how to feel and what to do with their feelings.
- Sometimes parents send the wrong messages when it comes to feelings: “Be a man, don’t cry.” “Don’t make such a big deal about it.” “Get over it.” “Cry baby.” These messages may be communicated with the intention of having kids build their sense of persistence. What kids hear is that they need to ignore, avoid or stuff their feelings. This can undermine motivation and create patterns of avoidance and not listening to our own signals. This can be devastating in relationships. Some of the most powerful experiences happen when families listen and encourage kids to stick with what is important, anyway.
10 | Allow your kids to make mistakes.
- Without question, mistakes are one of the best teachers that any of us can have.
11 | Recognize the difference between discipline and punishment.
- Discipline is teaching, punishment is more about “paying” for what we have done. Punishment creates fear and secrecy.
12 | Don’t support shortcuts to help avoid discomfort.
- Delay of gratification can be a challenge to learn in our tech-obsessed culture but staying with things that are hard, uncomfortable or difficult can teach character. Demonstrating our own delayed gratification as parents can also help with this.
13 | Teach kids to hang onto what is important.
- Taking time to share stories, talk about and invest energy in activities that teach our values will help kids to learn about how to build a more meaningful life.
14 | … What would you add to the list? We would love to hear from you in the comments!
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I invite you to read some of my other work: The Post-Apocalyptic Guide to Teenagers.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Juhan Sonin