“Are kids too coddled?” This was a question raised in a New York Times op-ed and holds a lot of ground considering the modern parenting methods. The answer should have been simple only if the human beings were not such complex creatures.
Many parents go to great heights to protect their children from the pain of ruined expectations. Even the modern education system has brought about numerous changes so that no child feels like a loser or gets a blow to his self-confidence.
Sports leagues have stopped having scoreboards so that the other team doesn’t feel like a loser, musical chair is not allowed to be played in parties in an attempt to not to disappoint any child who doesn’t get a chair, and children are not graded on their academic performance so that they don’t feel bad about their poor grades.
The Irony of Privilege
Madeline Levine who is the author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids says, “Parents see failure as a source of pain for their child instead of an opportunity for him to say, ‘I can deal with this, I’m strong.’”
If you’re thinking that making your child feel confident all the time is your top most priority, then you’re in for a shocker. Failure is an option, and it’s a good one. In a review about 200 studies published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, it was revealed that having a high self-esteem doesn’t guarantee that children will have good grades or a thriving career in future.
A psychologist at Florida State University, Roy Baumeister, says “Success leads to feeling good about yourself, not the other way around.” As a result, your child needs to be tuned in a way that he feels good about himself despite failures. The real duty of parents is to ensure that he is able to bounce back after a setback irrespective of its magnitude.
Overcoming Failure and Building Self-Confidence
1. Do not be his savior, be his guide.
If a child comes to you with a problem, never let him indulge in self-pity. If the children in school do not let him play games with them, make him think how he feels about it and what can be done to overcome that feeling. Instead of fishing your own ideas into his brain, let him decide for himself what will please him. Guide him to the right path and make him think of ideas of his own instead of inflicting your own thoughts in his mind.
2. Stay limited when it comes to praising.
“You get confidence from overcoming adversity, not from being told how great you are all the time,” as per psychologist Dan Kindlon who is the author of Tough Times, Strong Children. Misguided praise can have devastating effects on the lives of children undermining their ability to succeed. This doesn’t imply that one should never appreciate them rather, they must not be admired for something which wasn’t a result of their hard work and efforts.
3. Stress over effort instead of ability.
Carol Dweck conducted a research on 400 fifth graders by giving them difficult puzzles to solve. One group was touted for their intelligence and the other one was appreciated for the efforts they were putting in. After all of them failed to put it together, they were given another easier puzzle. It was found that the supposedly smart group did 20% worse than the first round whereas the other one did 30% better. If success is attributed to their intelligence instead of their hard work, children won’t be able to cope up difficult situations and would fall short.
4. Introduce new things to try.
By being overprotective, parents often limit their kids and never let them explore the broader horizons of the world out there. Kids would automatically excel in the activities towards which they have a natural inclination but the real trick is to make them try new things. They must love doing so irrespective of whether they succeed in their attempt or not. They should explore various talents without feeling the need to smash some world records.
5. Be his/her role model.
Handle your own disappointments with courage and grace because no matter how hard you resist, your child is going to follow your suit. Use phrases like “I’ll try harder next time” or “I can do it again” to make them aware that you can cope with your shortcomings. If you make a mistake, own up to it so that they develop the same ability in their personality.
6. Build up your child’s grit level.
According Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist parents need to develop grit in children so that they’ll be able to face all kinds of situations in life without wallowing in their let downs. It is especially at the young age that children are sensitive to their egos and the time where they learn to nurture the ego or grit. When they develop grit, they are bound to confidently endure let downs, bullying, mean personalities, humiliation, failures and continue to focus on their own path.
Despite giving your children their maximum space, there are certain instances when you need to step in. These include if he’s being bullied or is vulnerable to humiliation. If you are sensing that your child is in danger, never hesitate to lend a helping hand.