5 Ways to Toughen Up Your Child
By Heather Claybrook
It’s a parent’s job to prepare a child for the complexities of life, and the road ahead is a tough one. Olathe mom Jennifer Hamblin Robinson teaches her three children to focus on the solution not the problem. “I try to let them work out their own conflicts. It all starts with tattling. Unless someone is in physical danger, most times I encourage them to go back and try to find a way to resolve the problem on their own,” says Robinson.
Being tough is all in a person’s head—literally—and it has nothing to do with a child’s size or strength. It does have everything to do with their mental strength, according to Byron Alexander. He coordinates recreational and volunteer activities for the inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, KS, and organizes the Salvation Army’s Biddy Basketball League for kids in Kansas City. Alexander says being tough starts with developing character traits like discipline, responsibility and ownership at an early age. He says these traits will help children throughout their lives, no matter what obstacles they face.
Alexander grew up in the Calliope Projects in New Orleans in the mid 1960s through early 1980s, an area known nationwide at the time for its high crime rate and poverty. Alexander remembers what his grandfather use to tell him: “If a person beats your thinkin’, he beats your livin’.” Alexander says that statement rings true today for children no matter what their socio-economic background or zip code. “The kid that has the mental edge and gets along is truly the one that is strongest,” he says.
Try these tips to help give your child that mental edge:
- Acquire basic skills. Teach kids how to navigate basic skills, such as learning to swim, riding a bike and answering the phone. Helping them develop the skills to handle day-to-day kid life will prepare them for bigger challenges. For example, once they learn to ride a bike on a flat surface, tackle a hill.
- Try something new. Once they master basic skills, encourage them to try something new. For example, if they played soccer one season, try a different sport that incorporates a different skill set such as volleyball or basketball. And remind them it’s okay not to be perfect especially when learning something new.
- Discourage complaining. Children cannot always be in control of the situation. Toughness comes when a child learns to adapt to his circumstances and focus on a solution instead of the problem. For example, if they’re on a camping expedition and there’s rain in the forecast, have them focus on what they need to take in case of rain instead of focusing on getting wet.
- Find your voice. Put your child in situations where she has to use her voice, especially in front of adults. Delivering fund raising items like cookies is a great way for children to interact with adults. Discuss ahead of time what to communicate and remind them to speak loudly and clearly and make eye contact. Learning those skills in a safe environment helps them be assertive and use their voice when dealing with a bigger kid at school or on the bus.
- Revisit tough experiences. Be a ‘spin doctor’ and point out how that sticky situation that left them in tears will prepare them for future experiences.
Heather Claybrook is a Northland mother of three.