Parents worry when they read about a new generation of American kids who are over-privileged and act with a sense ofentitlement. These kids often lack the ability or skills to deal with challenges and setbacks.
Dr. Robert Brooks, co-author of Raising Resilient Children, says that this phenomenon cuts across socio-economic levels. While the affluent get the most publicity, the problem of helping children to be more hopeful and resilient applies to all children. Parents must be aware of what they can do to nurture the skills and outlook associated with what Dr. Brooks calls a “resilient mindset.”
On one hand, a basic role of parents is protecting children. They should “help kids develop greater confidence and self-esteem by helping them to cope more effectively with frustration, setbacks, and failure,” says Dr. Brooks. Even well-meaning parents sometimes rush in to praise too quickly or indiscriminately, or keep kids from making any mistakes. Worse yet, some parents prevent the child from feeling any discomfort whatsoever. When a parent protects a child too much, the implicit message to the child is ‘you can’t handle problems or failure.’ Instead of building up confidence, the child feels less confident in him or herself.
The development of self-esteem and resilience is based on realistic accomplishments. Dr. Brooks emphasizes the following guidelines for parents seeking to encourage and support their kids without over-protecting them:
- Use physical signs of affection with your child. A hug, kiss, or smile is important encouragement.
- Focus on your child when he or she speaks with you. Kids know when you are focused on them. They also know when parents are responding in a less than attentive manner, such as watching TV or reading the newspaper. When your child comes to you for help, encouragement, or support, put down what you’re doing and give undivided attention.
- Allow your child to take risks. Dads want to protect their kids from pain and failure at the playground and at school. Reassure your child that he should take risks, and that you will be there to help him if he fails.
- Allow your child to fail. It’s a disservice to children to work behind the scenes to orchestrate their success or“fix”their problems.
Dr. Brooks’ new book, Raising a Self-Disciplined Child, is due out in September, 2007.