A parent’s role is to bring up their child so they can face the big bad world as an adult, and not crumble into a million pieces. Because let’s be honest, sometimes things are grim out there.
Neils VanHove is a mental coach and author of My Strong Mind for Children. He’s championing a new approach to building your kids up - mental toughness.
What is mental toughness?
“[Mental toughness is] a combination of resilience, but also curiosity and drive for personal growth and confidence in your own abilities and interaction with people. So, where resilience is reactive, you bounce back, mental toughness has a proactive component to it as well, where you seek growth,” Neils explains.
It originated in sport
Believe it or not, tennis was the first sport that this sort of approach was used in 30 years ago, as part of sport psychology.
“Over the last two years [it] has been more recognised that it can be applied to everyday life to improve performance and mental health for both adults and children,” Neils says.
To thrive, you must have purpose
“One of the biggest components of both resilience and mental toughness is having meaning, having a purpose,” Neils notes.
If you’re an elite athlete, and your whole life has been one sport, once that falls away, your purpose in life falls away with it. If you’re not prepared for that, you’ll struggle, which is what you can often see in retired sportspeople.
Everyone needs coaching
Neils believes that everyone needs help with mental toughness. “It's important to note the opposite of mental toughness is not mental weakness, but mental sensitivity,” he says. “There are four elements of mental toughness; commitment, emotional control, challenge and confidence.”
If you notice your child has a lack of emotional control or a lack of commitment, you can coach them a little bit in those areas, which is what Neils’ book deals with.
He says that one of the most important parts of mental toughness is the challenge, so as a parent, try to support your child in getting outside their comfort zone.
“Really encourage them to pick up new things and promote their efforts in that. Tell them it's okay to have these feelings of fear and failure. and have a conversation about that. You need fail to become better at something and so you need to deal with those negative emotions.”
Teaching kids resilience: Watch Dr Justin Coulson's great advice
The psychologist and author shares smart strategies for the whole family.
Bouncing back: How to boost your kids' resilience
Great tips for teaching kids to ride life's ups and downs from psychologists Dr Hayley Watson and Jaimie Bloch.
How to raise strong girls in the age of #MeToo
Undermine the negativity surrounding vulnerability, to find that true strength is in embracing it.
No Breastfeeding Zone: New mama hangs this important sign up in hospital
And don't judge before you hear her story.
Maggie Dent: 5 ways to raise our boys well (and the value of a well-placed fart)
Mums have a big role to play in raising healthy, happy boys, says Maggie Dent.
Quit work or manage the impossible: Without flexibility, carers face tough decisions
“I got the flexibility but I lost all of the job security.”
Terrible jokes and endless love: Why TV host Matt Baseley loves being a dad
"When I met my wife I thought I couldn’t possibly love someone or something as much as I love her (and Test Cricket)."
Twice as nice: How to survive the first six months with twins
Double the trouble or twice the fun?