Raising mentally strong kids

Amany Abdel-Moneim, Tuesday 5 Nov 2019

Raising mentally strong kids
Raising mentally strong kids

Want to raise a mentally strong child? Who doesn’t: Every parent wants to provide their children with the best and safest future. 

Parents usually devote countless hours helping their children to build skills that can help them have a brighter future. Yet, we should also carefully choose the phrases we say to our kids or what we do around them, as these can leave a lasting impact. 

In her international best-seller 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success, US psychotherapist Amy Morin turns her focus on parents, revealing what not to do as well as the unhealthy thoughts, behaviour, and feelings that can hold adults back from raising mentally strong children. 


She says that even phrases that might seem harmless can cause children to grow up with a victim mentality or to believe that they can’t succeed. She explains how to give up any common unhealthy habits that may deprive children from developing the mental strength they need to reach their greatest potential. She demonstrates through easy-to-follow steps the ways in which, with appropriate support, encouragement, and guidance from adults, children can grow mentally stronger and strive for a brighter future.

Here are some phrases parents should delete from their vocabulary and some of the phrases they should use instead in order to raise mentally strong children:

“We can’t afford that.” Don’t insist that you can never have something you really want simply because money is holding you back. Instead, show your children that you have control over your finances. For example, if your child really wants to go to a show, say “we can’t afford the tickets because it’s not in our budget this year.” Then, consider setting up an allowance jar so that your child can start saving for the trip. This will help your children to cultivate smart financial habits and learn how to adjust their priorities. 

“You make me so angry.” Try to resist the urge to blame your children in order to teach them that we have the ability to control our feelings and manage them in a healthy way. Instead, control your anger and say something like “I don’t like it when you do that” and then explain why. Explicate to your children how their behaviour can affect others. This will encourage them to be more aware of other people’s feelings. There may be times when we can’t help but lose our temper. If this happens and you end up saying something you regret, start with an apology like “I’m sorry for losing my temper. Next time, I’ll take a moment to calm myself down.”

“I hate my job.” Though it might seem harmless because you weren’t speaking directly to them, children do pick up on such messaging. Our attitudes about life have a big influence in determining our children’s success, especially when it comes to academic achievement. Plus, complaining about your job around your children teaches them that work isn’t fun. As a result, they may grow up believing that adulthood is about spending most of their time in misery.

Instead, make it clear that you have career choices and talk about the things you’re doing to make your work life better.

“I have to go the store.” By saying that you have to do a task or go to a family dinner, you imply that you’re being forced to do things you don’t want to do. Instead, show your children that you’re in control of your own time, and it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do, as well as when and how you’re going to do it. You can say something like “I don’t feel like grocery shopping today, but I want to make sure we have food in the fridge for the week,” or “I’m tired, but we told grandma we’d go to her house. And I want to make sure I keep my word.”


Children who grow up to be successful understand that life is all about the choices they make. Yet, there will always be things they must do, such as going to bed at a reasonable time or eating their veggies.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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