Almost every parent wants their children to be successful in life, have healthy self-esteem and feel happy. Below you will find a list of seven skills that are among the most valuable things you can pass on to your child.
- Coping with difficult emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, resentment or rejection. Life is not all peaches and cream. No matter how hard parents try to remove every obstacle or trouble from their children’s way, they won’t be able to protect their progeny from painful situations and emotions. It is better to prepare your child to be able to cope with adversities in a constructive way. Remember that experiencing unpleasant emotions is normal, and denying them only leads to more suffering.
- Learning to tolerate frustration. When parents immediately cater to their child’s every whim, there is no way for the child to learn how to handle disappointment, frustration or impatience. Nobody gets everything they want. Others will not always meet your expectations. Even if your dreams eventually do come true, it will take a lot of time and effort. Parents do their children a grave disservice if they fail to teach them how to handle the frustration they experience when they do not get what they want. People with low frustration tolerance tend to be irritable, succumb to negative emotions, push the blame onto others, and give up too quickly whenever something goes wrong. They find it difficult to follow through with their actions, or give up trying to deal with challenges altogether.
- Recovering from failures. Even those who have achieved dizzying heights of success have had their share of bitter failures. Geniuses, too, had many failed attempts before they reached a breakthrough. Whenever people compete, more lose than get on the podium. If parents raise their child to believe he or she is a “natural winner,” the child has little chance of achieving anything. No matter how talented, he or she will likely give up at the first sight of adversity. Most tragically, the child might get overwhelmed with failure or rejection to the point of attempting suicide. It is extremely important for parents to keep a healthy balance between supporting the child, seeing his or her potential, giving positive feedback and boosting his or her self-esteem, and helping the child to develop a realistic self-image and preparing him or her for facing the fact that nobody can always win. Not even the most brilliant individuals! Unfortunately, a child who has grown to believe that he or she will always be a winner is likely to agonize over every failure that inevitably comes sooner or later in everyone’s life. When such a child encounters problems with achieving goals, his or her self-esteem might crumble because it was built on unrealistic expectations towards themselves and the world.
- Readiness to make decisions and bear consequences. Life is made up of making decisions. Some of them – such as choosing a profession or a life partner, or taking out a loan – can affect your entire life. If parents do not allow the child to make decisions appropriate to his or her age, do not confront the child with the results of his or her actions, or worse still, make fun of the child for making a mistake, they instill in the child a paralyzing fear of taking responsibility for his or her life and undermine the child’s self-confidence. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to the syndrome of learned helplessness or the so-called dependent personality disorder characterized by the need to be cared for even in adulthood, being extremely submissive, having difficulty making even everyday decisions, and lacking self-confidence. Some decisions you make will be wrong, and it is not something you can avoid. For this reason, you should help your child to develop the ability to make independent choices, learn from mistakes, and maintain self-esteem despite failures.
- Mental resilience and the ability to manage stress. There is no denying people are different in terms of coping with stress. It is plain to see from the first days of life that some of us are more sensitive, or even neurotic, while others hold on much better in difficult times. However, no matter how strong a trait neuroticism is, it is the patterns established in childhood and your self-development efforts that play a critical role in building your mental resilience. There are many ways in which parents can help their children increase their mental resilience and improve their ability to cope with difficult situations and recover from emotional crises.
- High and stable self-esteem. Many of the problems related to personal and professional life clients want me to help with actually result from their low or unstable self-esteem, and from being dependent on other people’s opinions. High self-esteem is different from narcissism, self-centeredness or an unrealistic belief in one’s own greatness.
- Healthy optimism. It has nothing to do with unrealistic optimism or wishful thinking. Healthy optimism is not about denying problems, unconditionally believing in positive scenarios, or expecting a miracle. As Professor Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of positive psychology, once wrote: “Positive thinking is not a shield against bad things but a tool that speeds up the process of regaining confidence that bad luck will end soon provided that we take active measures to deal with the problem1.” Wisely understood, optimism is based on realistic assessment of the situation, a positive attitude, and a belief that it makes sense to try and take action – rather than “expect the world to take care of things for us...”
Unless people develop these attitudes in childhood, they will struggle in adulthood. They will experience additional pain and bitterness. Parents can make it easier or more difficult for children to acquire these competencies.
Of course, you can build these skills at any point in your life – even at a mature age. But the later you start, the more difficult and long-lasting the process will be. For this reason, it is better to equip children with these assets so that they can benefit from them throughout their lives and avoid a lot of suffering.