Are your kids mentally tough? Can they be pushed to achieve great things, or do they need to be coddled? Do they deal well with disappointment and failure, or do they fear it, and thus avoid challenging situations? Do they fear strict, demanding coaches, or do they thrive on them? As parents we know our kids need to be mentally tough if they are going to make it in the real world. Sports is a great way to give them the tools of the trade. Here are 5 Tips for increasing your kids’ mental toughness.
1. STRUGGLE IS GOOD!
If you want your children to grow up mentally strong, then they need to struggle, they HAVE to struggle! We don’t remember our easy teachers or coaches, we remember our tough ones. Are some of them over the top…of course, and we do not need to accept behavior from adult mentors that berates our children for their ability. When you go to the gym, do you go with friends, or a personal trainer that say “its ok, skip that last set” or do you go with the ones who say “Do it again, do it better, you can do more?” Likely, its the latter.
Surround your kids with coaches and teachers that give honest, and sometimes painful feedback, and you will develop mentally tough kids who perform at a high level as well.
2. LET THEM FAIL
There is a myth out there that says if our kids fail, their self esteem and confidence will suffer. This is not true, especially if we help to frame the failure for our kids.
Researchers have shown that if we explain that failure is part of the learning process, and is actually a necessary component of achievement, then their self esteem is not effected. In fact, if the necessity to fail is explained properly, on subsequent tests children often out-perform their peers who are not told that is is OK to struggle and come up short. So explain the need to fail, and create an environment where your kids do not fear failure and you will see better performance from your kids in the long run.
3. PRAISE EFFORT
We have talked about this before, but I cannot reiterate enough that praising your child’s ability (you are so smart, you are so artistic, you are such a great player) actually can be damaging to their mindset, and ultimately to their performance. You want a mentally tough kid who performs up to his or her potential? Then praise their effort, highlight the work they are putting into their sport, the extra hours of training, their added effort in training, etc. This is what will help your kids grow tough, confident, and strong. Effort is always the key to ultimate success.
4. STRICT IS A GOOD THING
Being a strict coach, or having strict coaches and teachers for your kids, is actually a good thing. Studies show that not only do children perform better with strict coaches/teachers, but that eventually they realize (sometimes years later) the benefits of having a leader who told them to do it again, do it better, is this your best effort, etc. Is your child doing better in math than in English? Chances are the math teacher is demanding more! Surround your kids with people who demand their best effort all the time. They will grow tougher, and they will appreciate it in the long run.
5. STRESS IS GOOD
Research shows that children who encounter a moderate amount of stress as they grow up actually develop resilience to stressful situations in the future. Since we cannot protect our children from difficult, stressful situations throughout their lives, why not teach them how to deal with them when they are young? Something as simple as having a difficult teacher or coach will help your kids develop the resilience necessary to live in the real world, and, when difficult situations arise in sports, perform at a high level when others around them crumble!
Good luck instilling some mental toughness in your kids! The process is not always easy, and can even be emotionally painful for you and them, as they struggle in stressful, difficult environments. Just remember that you are building a sturdy foundation for your kids, one to last a lifetime. I am quite certain that a foundation built upon mental strength and fortitude will serve them well!