Why do parents need to develop their children’s mental agility?


By Barnali Dutta

Raima, a mother of 6 and 10 year old children, rings me up early morning and showers me with questions about how to handle external stressful situations that keeps cropping up in her 10 year old son’s life, affecting even her 6 year old daughter at home. Neighbourhood children calling him names, other children beating him up, teacher taking away responsibilities unhappy with his performance, fights over lunch, and many more similar kind of situations that her child goes through everyday leaving him totally exhausted and in foul mood always. This is not the story of Raima alone but many other parents too who are jostling away to find solace from the daily parenting tantrums.

I decided to evaluate these situations and realised that as children, we too had gone through the same kind of situations, the only difference was that we did not have the courage to take those issues home or else we would get our share of bashing at home as well, you know what I mean! Hence we came up with our own defence mechanism and found solutions to our problems on our own.

However, today our kids live in such a protective world, that even their movements are being watched and caught up in cameras, calling it a mere security gimmick since kids are with the maids more than the parents. And why not, after all, the market is so tight these days, that even parents need to have a backup plan. So with all the problems, that we parents already have in our plate, how can we incorporate small lessons in our children’s’ life which will prepare them for the tough world awaiting eagerly to grasp them the way it has grasped us?

So here are a few pointers to create mentally agile children who can imbibe these shock absorbers with time to bullet-proof them leaving them unaffected from the ups and downs of life:

1. Curb the tendency to develop negative thoughts in your children:

How do we do that! We ourselves are facing life crunches that is kicking hard behind us. But no matter what, we have to make sure that our little ones do not feel the same thrusts that we do right now. I have heard children repeating the words of their parents and teachers in their mind causing those very words to become a part of their thought process. Trust me, it echoes in their innocent tiny space right on top of their body, reminding them again and again. Thoughts like, “I’m a fool” I’m good for nothing” I’m stupid,” “everyone hates me,” or “no one understands me,” and the list goes on... Children who develop the pattern of such negative thoughts, often struggle even in their adulthood with lack of confidence and fear of failures, ending up either leaving everything unfinished or failing in whatever they do.

Our role as parents is very crucial for the mental development of our kids. It is us, who have the ability to wrap a shield around their mind by teaching them, that unpleasant words spoken by others have no meaning at all and are spoken due to their poor upbringing. There is no truth behind what others speak, it just shows from where the others originate and one need not stoop to other’s level to get their point proven. Expecting others to be good all the time is unrealistic, so your kid needs to be prepared to listen to others but teach them not to react. Let your kid learn to evaluate his own thoughts from a very young age. Will I do right by taking this path or do wrong to others by choosing the other way! Help your child to compare his or her negative thoughts with more realistic ones. You have to say ‘Bravo!’ many a times to motivate and praise your children. Every child is born with their inner talents, you as a parent need to find them and keep reminding them about it. They need to know what they are good at all the time especially when it is coming from their own parents. Be there with your children and help them find their own strengths and weaknesses, and ways to improve upon them. Everybody makes mistakes, so do they, but talking openly about it will help your child get some honest opinion and together you can find ways to curb those mistakes, teaching them how to convert failures into success. After all, failure and success are the two sides of the same coin, isn’t it!

2. Oh! he is such an emotional fool.

Do not let this statement ruin your child’s emotional well being. If your child is emotionally sensitive, we need to teach them to accept it and move on with it. Expecting to be happy always and never to be sad is like having a picnic without ants! Life is never a bed of roses, but has it’s own ups and downs. Showing only the rosy picture of life to our children is not doing any good to them. Let them understand that all emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, anger, etc., are acceptable but taking decisions under the influence of these emotions can be critical. Teach your children what can go wrong if they decide to do something when they are emotional (it can be any type of emotion as stated above). Teach your children to cut off from the situation and walk away if that situation is making him emotional (happy, sad, angry, fear, etc.) Teach your kids to detach themselves from the unpleasant situation and go away to a place where he can breathe deeply (inhaling or exhaling deeply) for 10-20 times, think what would be the right thing to do and then proceed with their decision. As parents, we often ignore our children’s feeling, so another pointer here is to validate your child’s feelings. Statements like “I understand you’re feeling really angry right now,” or “I know you’re upset that I couldn’t take you to your friend’s house today.” And then offer alternative solutions leaving it for your child to take his pick. By giving him choices and helping him to make his own decisions, you are paving a path for him to become a leader in future.

3. Teaching Crisis Management and how to act rationally.

We are adults, yet we get shaken up when a crisis hit upon us. We work without contingency plans, have no backup and go astray running here and there like a head-less chicken. Don’t we!

Thus, we need to start training our kids on Crisis Management, meaning how to respond to crisis without losing one’s piece of mind. This way, he not only learns to pick between right and wrong, but learns to behave adequately the way it is required at that time. This kind of skill will take your child to places, it will do such wonders that you as an adult would end up taking their advice. Sounds impossible! No it is not, I often ask my 11 year old son to help me during the times of trouble and he comes up with some brilliant ideas, which I would have never come up with even if I had spent the entire day pondering over it. Hence requesting parents to provide lots of feedback to help your child learn to take appropriate action. Praise, motivation and positive reinforcements can be used here to encourage your child to make good decisions. For instance, praise him for following traffic rules, when he is riding his little bike, or give him a pat on his back for showing kindness to others, or gives away his share of his favourite snack to a little boy who asked for it, etc,.

Showering them with praises and positive reinforcements motivates them to keep up the good work, whereas negative reinforcements and punishments leaves dark scars, which comes out in form of vengeance catching you at the time when you are least expecting it. Beating up children, screaming, calling names, etc., will not do any good to them, instead you will transform them into smart lying creatures very soon. However, sometimes we have to be strict to avoid repetition of any unruly behaviour before it converts into a habit.

Hence the bottomline is to equip our children with the ability to make healthy choices whether during a crisis or during an emotional attack. Problems will keep cropping up, but the skill to teach our children, is to how to solve the problem and move on to the next level. How to remain stable and not get shaken up by small problems that life will keep bringing up. How to be disciplined even during tough situations, learn from mistakes and control emotions to find the best possible solution.

As people say, tough time don’t last but tough people do and leaves us stronger than before! Let us prepare our kids by giving them the right tools to be tough and develop the ability to sail through the rough sea called ‘life’ and reach the shore, safe and sound, shining brightly like a star, exuding confidence like never before.