Winning Parenting

Most of us can agree that we all have something special inside of us that sets us apart — whether it’s a knack for the creative, a way with numbers, or a passion for putting words together. But inspiring your child to reach their true potential in whatever they’re naturally good at isn’t always an easy mission…but it IS possible.
Text by Dena Roché | June 4, 2018 | Lifestyle

It’s hard to be a parent these days. On one hand, we live in a society that over-schedules kids, has them interview for a good kindergarten and tells them from age 3 about the importance of getting into an Ivy League college. On the other hand, we’ve eliminated winning and losing, and give trophies for 7th Place to make them feel good. Mon dieu! What’s a parent to do to raise a well-adjusted child and create a happy home life in the process? Well, there’s plenty.
The ultimate goal of parenting is to mold your child into a happy adult who can function in society. Luckily, there are many proven strategies parents can employ to do this. Decades of research about parental involvement proves that the trend toward helicopter parenting is doing no one any good. Instead, the optimal parenting style is one where the parents are involved and responsive, but also respect and cultivate their child’s autonomy. If parents do things for their kids that the child can do himself, they don’t learn internal motivation, nor do they develop the self-confidence that comes from conquering a challenge.
Self-confidence comes more from experiences than simply being told “you’re smart” or “you’re pretty” or “you’re athletic”. In fact, research by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck found that kids who were told they were smart did worse on puzzle tests than kids who were not told anything. That may seem odd, but the theory is that when a child was told they were smart, they felt more pressure to get it right and less likely to try more difficult tasks. Kids learn by making mistakes. As a parent, your job is to sit back, bite your tongue and let them try.
“It seems counterintuitive, but to raise winning kids you have to make sure they have opportunities to experience failure,” says Paul LeBuffe, Director of the Devereux Center For Resilient Children in Philadelphia. “So often parents today try and shield kids from experiencing failure, but this does a disservice. If they haven’t learned to fail as a kid, they can get really derailed later.”
LeBuffe says parents need to repeatedly “steel” their children by exposing them to challenges that they can just barely deal with so it causes them to stretch a bit. By doing this, kids learn they can recover from failure and that they can do better next time: Failing once doesn’t mean failing all the time.
When your child does fail, it’s important to discuss it. “Help your kids put their failures into a framework that allows them to make meaning of setbacks and discover their strengths,” says Maryland-based Coach & Author Caroline Miller. “This is called ‘post-traumatic growth’.”
True Grit isn’t just the name of a great movie, it’s an effective mantra to remember for raising winning kids. Instilling persistence and determination in children is key to how they approach tasks throughout their life. “Research shows, especially with young kids, that instead of praising achievement, parents need to praise effort,” says LeBuffe. In practice, this means saying: “You really studied hard” when your child comes home with a good grade rather than saying, “Congratulations on getting an A.”
Adds Sherlyn Pang Luedtke, Founder of Present Parent Training: “Let your child know you are proud of them,” she says. “I also like to add, ‘but it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what you think’…acknowledgment and self-reflection promotes self-approval and reflection instead of people-pleasing.”
Just as Dweck’s research has shown, if you praise the outcome, kids internalize that’s what matters to you and that’s what they must achieve to win your love. This makes them less likely to try challenging things that they might not get a perfect score on. “Don’t let kids quit what they start,” says Miller. “If you don’t have grit, there will be no long-term goals that you’ll be able to successfully achieve.”
Moreover, raising a successful child means more than focusing on intellect and academics, successful kids also have even temperaments and have learned emotional strategies that they can employ when life gets stressful. “I’ve taught our anxious insomniac son a few simple bedtime meditations, starting with thinking happy thoughts and more recently around building a happy place in his mind so he can visualize it when you need it,” says Angela Todd, Founder of the Funnermother blog.
According to Brainwave Engineer Jeff Gignac, stimulating certain brainwave activity can be used to decrease stress and anxiety as well. “EEG research shows that when we’re stressed and anxious, our brain is a ball of activity in one area of the brain,” he says. “If we can balance the energy between both hemispheres, the result is that stress and anxiety dissipate.” This is done through specially created audio and visual tracks that Gignac creates that incorporate passive brain technology and biofeedback.
In the end, one of the most important things kids can learn to be successful in life is that the world doesn’t revolve around them. “Teach kids to be responsible and use manners by setting expectations and boundaries at home,” says Melissa Farrell, VP of BubbleBum. “Being assigned chores gives children a sense of belonging in family. Learning at a young age that it’s necessary to contribute to family and community will help them look outside themselves and take others’ needs into consideration.”