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15 Things We Shouldn’t Stop Kids From Doing

15 Things We Shouldn’t Stop Kids From Doing

All children are naturally curious about any and everything the world has to offer. Kids are literally real-life “noobs” who find every new experience interesting, intriguing, and exciting. They react to positive and negative stimuli with extreme emotion because they essentially don’t know how else to react. Simply put, children live all of their experiences to the fullest, whether good or bad.

As we grow older, we remember less and less about what it was like to be a child and to be constantly amazed at the world around us. And once we have kids of our own, we start thinking that they should simply act like we do. We need to remember that children are still learning about life and everything it encompasses. And we could definitely learn a thing or two from them while we’re at it. Think twice before intervening when children do any of the following:

1. Crying

Our first instinct when a child cries is to run to them and find out what’s wrong. While it’s definitely okay to show that you care for a child, you shouldn’t try to stop them from crying altogether. Crying isn’t comfortable; if they could stop, they would. But sometimes they just need to let it out. And it definitely doesn’t help the situation if you’re standing over them demanding they tell you what the problem is over and over again.

2. Laughing

I know, who would stop a kid from laughing? Of course, laughter isn’t always appropriate under certain circumstances, and it’s important to teach your children about these situations. But like crying, laughing is an involuntary response that can’t be controlled at times. When I worked with children, I never got upset with them for finding something so funny that they couldn’t stop themselves from laughing. Isn’t life supposed to be fun? Instead, I’d ask them to leave the room to compose themselves, but there was no reason to get upset with them for catching a case of the giggles.

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3. Fooling around

Alright, so this is a little more controllable, but what’s the point of life if you’re going to take it so seriously? Don’t you remember what it was like to be a kid and so carefree that you actually had the time and energy to goof around? I’m not saying you should let your children act inappropriately, but what’s so bad about hiding in a clothes rack at Target to mess with your sister? When’s the last time you had that much fun at Target? Like I said before, maybe we could learn something from our little rascals.

4. Jumping in puddles

Watch this video, and you’ll immediately want to take your kid outside and dance in the rain. Okay, so their shoes will be wet, and you might have to wash them. I’m sorry you’re the adult, but as old Blue Eyes says, “That’s life.” This is another one of those moments that you forgot is actually fun to little kids. In their own way, they’re experimenting with their surroundings. Let them have their fun while they’re young enough for it to be socially acceptable.

5. Making a mess

Whether or not they mean to be, kids are messy little humans. But again, what’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps you’ll have to scrub the floor, do some laundry, or repaint the entire house (okay, maybe not that last one). But if your kid spills paint on her shirt while she’s creating a masterpiece for the fridge, can you really get upset with her? If they’re being careless, that’s one thing. But mistakes happen. Don’t discourage your kids from getting their hands dirty in the name of art or science. Those worms aren’t going to dig themselves up, you know.

6. Reading

You’re probably thinking, “Who would stop a kid from reading?” Sadly, I’ve heard plenty of other adults tell students to put away comic books and take out “a real book.” Okay, so they were reading, and fully engaged in their reading, and you want them to stop and read something that you consider interesting instead? What if I told you to watch wrestling instead of So You Think You Can Dance tonight? I bet you’d choose to just not watch TV at all. What do you think a kid will do if you restrict what he’s allowed to read?

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7. Playing an instrument

I’m looking at you, Homer Simpson. When kids start showing an interest in a musical instrument, parents usually feel a mix of excitement and trepidation, knowing they’ll be dealing with squeaky scales and repetitions of Hot Crossed Buns for the next month or so. While you should definitely put a limit on how late your child is up practicing his tuba, you should never discourage him from picking it up when he feels driven to practice. Even if it interferes with your after work nap time.

8. Focusing on an interest

This goes along with the last two sections. There was a popular commercial a few years ago in which a girl’s parents and teachers constantly dissuaded her from learning about science, power tools, and other so-called “manly” things. How can children ever break the mold and grow into adults that will change the world if they’re constantly being told to fit in? Just because a kid is into something you don’t think they should be into doesn’t mean you should stop them from pursuing their passion.

9. Arguing with a friend

I’m not saying you shouldn’t monitor the situation when you realize two friends are having a fight, and you should definitely never let it come to blows. But children need to learn to sort their arguments out on their own. You can certainly act as a moderator, but you should let both parties come to the realization that they both were most likely somewhat at fault, and that they can also both put their differences behind them and move on.

10. Doing homework

Seriously, who would stop a kid from completing their obligation to school? But, remember all the other things we sign our kids up for in the name of preparing them for life? “Hurry up and finish your work, you have karate and baseball practice tonight! And you can’t do it in the morning because you have choir!” Sound familiar? I know, we want our kids to experience as many things in life as possible, but we can’t let them burn out, and we certainly can’t force them to shirk one obligation in favor of another.

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11. Trying things on their own

Many kids don’t want to admit that they need help doing something. Most kids don’t think they need help, and will try to go about doing something their own way time and time again until they’re physically and mentally exhausted. I’d often see kids working on a math problem, knowing they’re doing it incorrectly, and let them finish anyway before I intervened. They learn much more by trying, failing, and trying again than by being caught before they fail in the first place. Let them scrape their knees when trying to ride a bike; it will make mastering the skill that much more rewarding for them when they finally do get it on their own.

12. Expressing themselves

Be honest: If your 13-year-old son came home with a green mohawk, how would you feel? I imagine your first thought would be, “What are people going to think if they see my son and me together?” Let kids experiment with who they are. Again, they’re new to the world, and simply trying to find their way through it. And if they simply follow in everyone else’s footsteps, they run the risk of becoming another office drone. They have their entire life to toe the line for their boss and society in general; let their voice be heard while they’re still young.

13. Being weird

As if dying your hair green isn’t weird enough. But again, let them push the limits of social boundaries. John Waters is a bit weird. Robin Williams was too. And I can’t imagine what Jim Carrey was like as a child. He was probably a nightmare for his parents and teachers. But I also bet they (at least some of the time) let him get away with some ridiculous stuff. Kids don’t have to fit any kind of mold yet; again, that’s for boring adults with boring office jobs. They’re not there yet. Let them experiment with their weirdness, and see where it gets them.

14. Playing

You should probably know by now that play is the work of children. And, ironically, when children play, most of the time they’re emulating “grown up” jobs. They play house, teacher, doctor. They build things. They dig for stuff. When you think about it, isn’t it amazing that kids find the stuff we think of as boring work-related tasks interesting and entertaining? Too often, we beat it out of them (not literally, I’d hope) by putting them in various structured activities (like I talked about before). Let them have time to play and find their true passion on their own.

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15. Growing up

This whole article was about letting kids be kids, so this part probably comes as a surprise. However, I think most parents reach a point where they realize they had forced their kid to grow up too fast, only to want them to stay young forever. They’ll always be your baby, but they won’t always be a baby. Once the time comes for them to get their license, graduate high school, and move away to college, it’s time to start treating your kids as what you’ve always prepared them to be: responsible young adults.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm1.staticflickr.com

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Published on May 24, 2019

How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

My husband and I facilitate a couple’s marriage and parenting group. Recently, the group discussed qualities, characteristics, and traits we wanted to see our children develop as they grow up. One term that came up that all parents seemed to upon agree as a highly valued trait was that of grit. The question from our group was:

“Can grit be taught to our children?”

The answer is, yes. Parents can help their child develop grit.

What is grit? Dr. Angela Duckworth is the top researcher on this subject and wrote the book Grit. She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long term goals”. This new buzz word is popular in the adult realm, but what about our developing children? What if we could help our children develop grit as young children.

Grit is more crucial to success than IQ. Duckworth, through her research at Harvard, found that having grit was a better predictor for an individual’s success than IQ. This means having the smartest kid in the room doesn’t ensure any level of success in their future. They can be brilliant, but if they aren’t properly intrinsically motivated, they won’t be successful.

Grit determines long term success. If a child can’t pick themselves up and try again after a failure, then how are they going to be able to do it as adult?

What a gift it would be to our children to engage them in a manner that helps them recognize their passions, talents, and develop a persevere to purse their goals. Below are some tips on how to raise a confident child with grit.

1. Encouragement is Key

When a child wants to learn how to ride a bike, do they keep going after they fall down or do they quit after the first fall?

If they aren’t encouraged to get up and try again, and instead are coddled and told they can try again some other day, then they are being taught to play it safe.

Safe and coddled don’t exactly go hand-in-hand with building up grit. The child needs to be encouraged to try again. This can be a parent saying “you can do it, I believe in you” and “I know that even if you fall again you will try again and eventually you will get the hang of it”.

Encouragement to keep trying so that they can build up perseverance is very helpful in building a child’s confidence. This confidence is what will help them strike out and try again.

If they feel that they can’t do it or shouldn’t do it, then they won’t. The mind is a powerful thing. If a child believes that they can’t be successful in doing something, then they won’t be successful. Part of building that mentality of believing in themselves comes from encouragement from their parents, care givers, and teachers.

Cheer Them On

How many times have you heard a story of success that someone had in life that all began because someone believed in that person?

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A coach, a mom, a teacher can have a huge impact by believing in the child’s ability to be successful and voicing that encouragement to them. Words are powerful. Use them to build up a child, by telling them that they can do it even if they have try again and again.

Be their support system by being their cheerleader. Cheerleaders don’t just cheer when the team is winning. They cheer words of encouragement to keep the team going.

The same goes with children. We need to cheer for their successes, but also cheer for them to keep going and fighting the fight when life gets tough!

You Can’t Force Them

Keep in mind that you can’t force a child to keep trying. They have to do it themselves.

For example, when my daughter was learning to tie her shoes, it was a real struggle. She gave up. I couldn’t make her want to try to do it again. She had to take a break from the struggle for a few months and then try again.

She was more successful the second time around, because she had matured and her fine motor skills had improved. It would have been ridiculous for me to force her to practice tying her shoes for the three or four months in between, with tears and arguing taking place.

No, instead we took a break. She tried again later. Forcing her to learn something that she wasn’t ready to learn would have pit us against one another. That would have been a poor parenting move.

There are boundaries that parents can set though in some cases. For example, if your child begins an activity and wants to quit mid-season because they are terrible at the sport, you have the opportunity to keep them in the sport through the end of the season to show them that quitting is not an option.

Although they may not win another tennis match the rest of the season or win another swimming race all year long, finishing the commitment is important. It will help with the development of grit by teaching them to persevere through the defeat. It is character building.

If your child is great at all things all the time, they will not develop grit. They need to try things that challenge them. When they aren’t the best at something, or for that matter, the worst, it creates an opportunity for them feel real struggle. Real struggle builds real character.

2. Get Them out of Their Comfort Zone

My daughter wanted to try cheerleading this past fall. She has never done this activity in the past, nor is she particularly coordinated (sorry sweetie). For that matter, she couldn’t even do a cartwheel when cheer season began.

However, we signed up because she was so excited to become a cheerleader. I signed up to coach because there was a need for more cheer coaches. We were all-in at that point.

Once the season began, I quickly realized that cheerleading was far outside my daughter’s comfort zone. The idea of cheerleading was great in her mind. The reality of memorizing cheers and learning physical skills that were hard for her made the experience a struggle. She wanted to quit. I said to her “no, you were the one who wanted to do this, so we finish what we started.” I had to say this more than once. I don’t think anyone on the squad knew this was the case, because she kept at it.

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She kept practicing those cheers every evening. It did not come naturally to her at first, so it was uncomfortable. She always seemed to be half a beat behind the other cheerleaders, which made it very awkward and uncomfortable for her. However, letting her know that quitting mid-season was not an option made her try harder. She wanted to learn the cheers so she wouldn’t stand out on the squad as the girl who didn’t know what she is doing.

By the end of the season, she became a decent cheerleader. Not the best, but she was no longer half a beat behind the rest. She learned skills that were hard for her to conquer. Now that she felt success in achieving something that was uncomfortable and hard for her. She knows she has it in her to do that in other areas of life.

That is why it’s ok for us as parents to let our kids feel the struggle and be uncomfortable. If they don’t experience it when they are young, they will as adults, but they won’t be equipped with the perseverance and inner-strength built from years of working hard through smaller struggles as they grew up.

Allowing our children to struggle helps them build that skill of perseverance, so that they have the grit to achieve hard things in life that they really desire to accomplish.

3. Allow Them To Fail

Your child will fail at things in life. Let them. Do not swoop in and rescue your child from their personal failures. If they don’t fail, then they don’t have the opportunity to pick themselves up and try again.

If I had pulled my daughter from cheerleader once I realized that it was going to be a real struggle, she wouldn’t have experienced failure and struggle. Letting her have this small failure in life taught her lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. She learned about the power she has within herself to try harder, to practice in order to make change happen, and to push through it even when you feel like giving up because it is embarrassing.

Failure is embarrassing. Learning to handle embarrassment is taking on a fear. When kids learn to do this at a young age, it is practice for adult life. They will experience failure as an adult. They will be better equipped to handle life’s disappointments and failures if they have learned to handle the fear of embarrassment and failure when they are young.

Practice builds up the skill. Processing and handling fear, embarrassment, and failure are skills.

If I had pulled my daughter from cheer and allowed her to quit, I would have taken from her the opportunity to learn how to process and handle the embarrassment and failure she was experiencing at each practice and games. She learned to keep trying and that practicing the skills would lessen the embarrassment and feelings of failure.

Learning the value of practice and how to preserve through the fear and failure are priceless lessons. We may want to rescue our children because we want them to be successful at the things that they do, but how will they be successful in this competitive world as adults if they are provided with only opportunities in which they succeed?

Failure is needed to learn to thrive. Success in adulthood does not come easy to children who are protected from failure because they haven’t built up the ability to persevere.

Perseverance comes when they have learned time and time again how to take the fear of embarrassment and failure head on and practice to get better.

4. Teach Them to Try Again

Encourage your child to try again. Don’t let them quit on the first try.

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Life is hard. If we quit the first time we tried at things, we would never amount to anything in life. We need to teach our children that trying again is simply part of life.

Help them to give it a go by providing encouragement and support. Offer to practice with them, provide them with tutoring or coaching if necessary — whatever it takes to get them back on the proverbial horse and trying again.

Break it Down

Sometimes failure occurs because they are trying something all at one time and they haven’t mastered the smaller components.

For example, a math student isn’t going to jump into calculus as their first high school math course. No, of course not. They build on their skills. They begin with basic math, then algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus to then they get to the calculus level.

If they are thrown into the deep end by taking on calculus before the foundation of their math skills are built, they will fail.

Help your child try again by breaking down what it is they are trying to achieve.

Going back to my cheer example… my daughter was not the best at learning the cheers when we began. It then dawned on me that we needed to break down each cheer phrase by phrase. Once we learned the phrase and movements that went with it, we could then learn the next one. Once these were learned, we could combine the phrases, practice them together, and then try to move to learn the next phrase in the cheer. It was a tedious process, but it worked.

Not all skills come easy for kids. Helping them learn the skill of breaking things down into manageable tasks is another way we teach them about grit. They are learning to build skills by persisting, practicing, and building upon previous experience, knowledge, and skills.

Grit is put into practice in childhood when they learn how to break down large tasks into smaller achievable tasks in order to build toward a greater goal.

5. Let Them Find Their Passion

Your child may be a wonderful pianist. However, if they aren’t passionate about the skill, then they likely won’t be happy or fulfilled in becoming a concert pianist.

It’s great to help your child discover their talents, but also let them discover what they are passionate about in life.

True success will come because they are passionate about the activity, not because they are the best. The best usually become that way because they are passionate first. Therefore, let your child experience a variety of activities and interests so that they can discover what they love to do.

6. Praise Their Efforts, Not the Outcome

Praising their efforts keeps them motivated and trying. If you focus on outcome, then when they fail, they will become defeated and discouraged.

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Focusing on the fact that they tried hard and pointing out specific ways that they did well in terms of effort will support them in trying again. When you make a habit of focusing on outcome, then failures are avoided at all costs, including taking risks.

Risks are needed in order to become successful. Therefore, make a habit of praising their efforts, even when the outcome is not what they had hoped and tried for, because eventually, if they keep trying their efforts will result in success.

7. Be a Model of Grit

If you are a parent or a caregiver for a child, then you are a model to that child. Children naturally look up to the adults in their life that are closest to them, especially their parents. They will look at your ability to persevere and achieve. Your grit will show.

Your children are watching. They may not know the term grit, but they will learn about working hard, not giving up, trying again after failure, and all that grit entails from your actions.

How you handle life is being watched by your children. You can work on your own grit by reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit .

Develop a Growth Mindset

Helping your child develop a growth mindset is also helpful to your child in their development of grit. Dr. Dweck, author of Growth Mindset and researcher at Stanford, developed a theory of fixed versus growth mindset.

Basically, what it means is that if you have a fixed mindset, you will fear failure and easily give up. Someone with a growth mindset believes that their talents, skills, and abilities can be improved with hard work and learning. Parents and caregivers can help with the development of a growth mindset.

    Some of the ways that a growth mindset can be developed include:

    • Teaching your child how the brain works: neuron connections, right brain versus left brain.
    • Teach them to set goals.
    • Teach them to have a “can do” attitude.
    • Teach them to develop a strategy when they want to achieve something.
    • Teach them that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.
    • Teach them that failure is a normal part of life.
    • Teach them about self talk: Self Talk Determines Your Success

    There are a great deal of activities and materials online for helping your child develop a growth mindset including these resources below (each site contains at least some free content):

    The Bottom Line

    Grit is not just for adults, it is something we can help our children develop. Grit is more critical to success than IQ, so we should be helping our children develop this quality early in life.

    As a parent, being a model of grit, is one of the first ways to help our children become “gritty”.

    Featured photo credit: Gabriela Braga via unsplash.com

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