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7 Things to Give up If You Really Want Your Kids to Be Great

7 Things to Give up If You Really Want Your Kids to Be Great

It’s possible to parent your kids a little too carefully.

Every good parent wants to be active in their children’s lives and set them up for future success. However, there’s a fine line between sticking to appropriate boundaries, making constructive suggestions, and over-parenting your child. Stifling kids with too many rules and expectations can lower their confidence and creativity. Here are seven things you must give up to ensure that your children grow up healthy, happy, and free to be themselves rather than tire themselves mentally and physically trying to live up to the expectations you place upon them.

1. Give up telling them what to do.

Of course children need to be given guidance as they learn more about the world around them, but this does not mean that they need to be told what to do in every aspect of their lives! Instead, ask them about the actions they have chosen for themselves. Bombarding your children with unnecessary instructions as to how they should live their lives will trigger resentment and hinder their creativity because you will be doing all their thinking for them!

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This advice applies from the games they want to play and the clothes they want to wear right up to the career path they wish to pursue. Research published in the journal ‘Sociological Spectrum’ suggests that children given more freedom by their parents are less likely to fall victim to anxiety, depression or feelings of failure in their college years compared with those who are closely monitored or subject to ‘helicopter parenting.’

2. Give up your unrealistic expectations.

Remember that children are human beings, and that no human being is perfect. It is immensely stressful for a child to believe that they have to be “the best” at something (or even everything!) in order to considered a worthwhile person. We all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses. Communicate to your child, both explicitly and implicitly, that you appreciate their own unique mix of talents.

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3. Give up over-protection.

If you are the kind of person who tends to worry about every possible outcome or potential disaster, take care not to let this attitude be reflected in your parenting. Children need to be granted the freedom to have new experiences and to make their own mistakes. If you hold your child back from new opportunities or activities on the off-chance that they will be dangerous, your child will learn that the world is an unsafe place. As a result, they will be less likely to take positive risks in the future.

4. Give up making decisions for them.

An important skill for all successful adults to learn is how to make healthy decisions. This ability needs to be developed in childhood. Give your child help in making life choices, such as choosing a hobby or major in college, but know that ultimately you need to make it clear that they should be the ones in charge of their own decision-making. Do not attempt to tell them how to build a CV or map out their life path for them as this can have damaging consequences. Researcher Bill Deresiewicz’s 2014 book, “Excellent Sheep,” makes a convincing argument that academic over-involvement increases a child’s risk of depression, anxiety and fear of failure later in life. 

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5. Give up blaming them for their mistakes.

Everybody makes mistakes, and this includes your child. Unless a particular mistake is the result of an obviously unwise decision, try not to blame your child more than is necessary when they make an error. Mistakes are often a valuable means of acquiring new knowledge. Sit down with your child and talk about how they can learn from their mistake and make better choices next time.

6. Give up praising their intelligence.

When children are praised for their efforts rather than their intelligence, they feel more inclined to push themselves harder in the future. Praising a child for their intelligence gives the impression that you are praising them for a fixed characteristic, which in turn does nothing to spur them on to greater self-improvement.

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7. Give up setting so many family rules.

Some family rules are a necessity. After all, children do require some boundaries and need to be taught right from wrong. However, an overly rigid family setup can cause a child needless anxiety if it means they live in constant fear of breaking a rule. In addition, it can also stifle their creativity if they feel as though they are merely a cog in the family machine that has to behave in the same manner at all times. Research carried out by psychologists at the University of Colorado-Boulder have uncovered links between a highly-structured childhood and a lack of decision-making ability. Prepare to change or get rid of family rules if they have no obvious benefit.

It can take time to shift your thinking and approach, especially if you were raised by over-protective or over-involved parents. Remember that in general, psychological research supports a careful but liberal parenting style as the best way of encouraging your children to really excel in life and also to feel happy in themselves. Enjoy your children for who they are, and endeavour to demonstrate your love for them on a daily basis.

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Westra via unsplash.com

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Jay Hill

Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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Published on May 7, 2021

20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

  1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
  2. Introduce brain breaks.

Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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Active Brain Breaks

Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

1. Swapsies

Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

2. Dance Party

Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

3. Freeze Dance

Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

4. Keep It Up

Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

5. Simon Says

This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

6. Animal Movement

Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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7. Find It Fast

“Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

8. The Frog

Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

9. Pizza Delivery Time

Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

10. Limbo

We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

11. Human Knot

Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

12. Feather Balance

This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

13. Stack them high

The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

Relaxing Brain Breaks

We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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14. Meditation

Meditation

is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

15. Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

16. Reading/Listening to a Story

When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

17. Doodling

My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

18. Coloring Sheets

Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

19. Deep Breathing

Deep breathing

is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

20. Going Outside

Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

Final Thoughts

Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
[2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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