A few weeks ago, this article on the 15 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do was making its way around Facebook. It caught my attention because I consider myself to have a pretty good handle on my emotions. Yes, I do need a cry-it-out session every now and then (who doesn’t???) but for the most part, I live drama-free and am usually level-headed with other people in my life.
So as I read through the list, I couldn’t help but think about how I am raising my children. What character traits do they need to be emotionally mature? The article inspired me to develop a list of six things I want for my kids so they grow up to be adults with strong backbones, tender hearts and courageous spirits.
1) Understand the difference between WANT and NEED.
If more people really understood this, the soul-sucking problem of debt would be greatly reduced and people would experience much more contentment in life. You do not NEED those new shoes… you WANT those new shoes. That just-released upgraded video game system? Yup, that is a WANT, not a NEED. The words we use have power over our thinking; take time to gently correct your children when they insert NEED where a WANT really should be.
2) Know that not everyone will like you – and be OK with it!
This one is hard. I have seen firsthand my little girl rejected by “mean” girls. I wanted to swoop in and make them let her join their conversation and game. But I held myself back. Why? Two reasons: 1) I don’t want her to think that Mom will fight her battles. 2) I want her to have the right to choose her friends; therefore, others need to be able to do the same. Yes, they should have been more civil in delivering the message, and this presented a fantastic opportunity to discuss the ‘golden rule’ while wiping away tears. But still, it was an important lesson for her to experience that not everyone will (and should) be your friend. Her self-worth should not be reliant on other people’s opinions of her.
3) Experience some sort of failure but still be comfortable trying new (and hard) things.
A recent article entitled Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail explains the high-achievement, zero-failure culture we are creating for our children. Here is a quick exert that describes the impact this push for perfection is having on our teens:
Now is when this kid should be learning to dream big dreams and dare greatly. Now is when she should be making mistakes and figuring out how to recover from them. Instead, we’re telling one of our best and brightest to focus all her talent on coloring within the lines.
I shudder at the thought of snuffing out innovation and entrepreneurship in my children. And if I am being really honest with myself, I need to stop pinning my hopes and self-worth on my children’s achievements and victories; or else, my kids have a lot of baggage to carry on their little backs.
4) Experience “boredom” and understand that it is their responsibility to fill in the empty spaces.
It is a law of nature that kids will get bored. But if we parents feel the need to put on a Broadway production every time we hear those two annoying words (I’m bored), then how will our kids learn to take ownership over their entertainment and emotions? I know it is annoying! And there are times when you have to hand over the iPad or turn on the TV because you need a break or have to get something done. But life is not fun. It can be hard, boring and monotonous. One-hundred percent entertainment and engagement will not happen in your adult life, so we should set up that expectation for our children. We have a saying in our house: “Only boring people are bored…and you are NOT boring!” If the complaining continues, then it is clean the baseboards time. There are some days when I have REALLY clean baseboards.
5) NEVER say, “You made me…”
Ownership over actions and emotions are a hallmark of stable and strong people. One of the best things my parents did was to stop any of my attempts to shift blame for my actions on them. “You are making me so mad…” or “He made me hit him.” Nope – you choose to get angry. You then choose how to respond, even if the other person is in the wrong. It is empowering to know that I can control my emotions and I own my choices. I hope to instill that confidence and control in my children.
6) Do the hard things first.
Oh boy…as homeschoolers this is our mantra. We even have a bumper sticker with this saying, but we have a long way to go to living it out. Heck, we are all lazy in some part of our lives. We want to delay the painful conversations, work, choices and chores for something more agreeable, lovely and fun. But delaying the inevitable will only make the current situation worse. If I am really honest, I probably need to work on this much more than my kiddos.
So that is my short list – I am sure there are a ton of other awesome areas you are working on with your children. What am I missing? What should we add to this list? Send me your thoughts or add your comments!