How to Make Mental Strength Training Kid Friendly
There’s one question that I get more than any other from people who’ve heard me speak, worked with me as coaching clients, read Stop & Shift, or connected with the 100% Human community…
“How can I teach this to my kids?”
Now, those kids could be 3 or 33 or anywhere in between—but they’re the first people their parents think about.
And as a mom, let me tell you—me too. I’m always working on how I can take the things I learn and share them with my son.
So if you’re a parent who is on their own growth journey, I wanted to take a moment to share a few things that have helped me as I'm navigate my own growth and also teach my son mental strength training techniques.
Here are three lessons I’ve learned...
1. Practice what you preach.
Okay, I know, it’s so easy to hear this old adage and roll your eyes and miss the depth of the meaning behind it. But honestly, you literally cannot teach something to someone if you’re not doing it yourself.
First of all, you won’t have the real-life application, which means you won’t be able to relate to what they’re going through. And when you don’t have that understanding, you miss connecting with your kids in a way that strengthens the two-way street of respect.
Think about it—when you know somebody has gone through something and can tell you how they got through it, you immediately have a level of respect and admiration for them. And when someone tries to lecture you about something they don’t really understand, you think, “What do you know? How can you teach me anything?”
And let’s be real, kids are especially sensitive to that. As they’re growing through the process of individuation (which starts when they’re just babies!), they’re already in a space where they’re pushing back against the things you tell them. We probably all remember moments where we looked at our parents and thought (heck, maybe even said! Ha!), “Who are you to tell me anything? You don’t know what it’s like to be me.” So they’ll be able to pick it up right away if you try to teach them something that you’re not doing yourself.
But honestly, would you want somebody to try to teach you something they had no idea about? Probably not, right?
Here’s the deeper takeaway of this lesson: Practicing what you preach helps you connect to your children on a human-to-human level. Your kids don’t just want to hear about your success when they’re trying to figure out their lives and navigate their own struggles. Be willing to be vulnerable so you can teach them about the highs, the lows, the dark spaces from a place that is relatable.
That means sharing moments when you’re feeling incredibly emotional so that your kids see the tools you’ve developed to calm yourself. It includes sharing moments where you allowed yourself to be broken and feel all the feelings—because your kids need that example of how to feel complex, heavy emotions and find your way out of them again.
It’s important to share all of the human moments we experience. You do the work so that you can share from a place of knowledge and empathy, and that will create a ripple effect that will lift up your kids and your community. That’s what being 100% Human is all about.
2. Little humans are still developing.
When I’m parenting Caleb, this is a huge lens that I try to make sure is always at the front of my mind. Our kids are so smart and so aware that sometimes we forget that their brains aren’t fully developed yet.
Honestly, if I could only pass on one piece of advice for parenting mindfully, this would be it. Remember that no matter what age they are, your kids are still growing (just like we’re still growing).
They’re still learning what it’s like to live in this world. Imagine waking up one day in a world where you don’t fully understand the rules, where you’re literally learning as you go, where you don’t have control over major aspects of your life, where you’re constantly bumping up against expectations you didn’t even know existed. You’re learning it all from scratch. How overwhelming would that be?
That’s lit-er-ally how our kids experience the world. So when I find myself in a challenging moment with Caleb, I take a step back from any brewing frustration and remind myself that he is constantly at a new stage of development.
Our kids start as babies and we do everything for them. We respond instantly when they cry, whine, or yell. We feed them within seconds of their irritability and give them everything they point to. Then the rules change when we start expecting them to say “please” before getting what they want. Yes, this is to raise polite humans, but it is still an expectation that kids must swiftly adapt to.
Our kids go from being first graders, where we sit down to help them through all of their homework, to being sixth graders where we’re asking them, “Did you sit down without any distractions and study?”
At each new stage, they’re developing. We’ve got all kinds of expectations that might seem obvious to us, but they’re completely new to our kids. So be gentle with them as they’re growing.
And the first step to being gentler with them is being gentle with yourself in these moments of growth. As you’re healing, you’re trying to become better. As you’re changing old habits and rewiring your brain, you are constantly developing too, and it’s important to show yourself grace. That’s what will allow you to project grace onto the people who are closest to you, especially your children.
Remind yourself that kids need a safe space to be messy. They’re under an enormous amount of pressure out there in the world. Depending on their age, they’re working with half the neural connections and a quarter of the life experiences you are—and think about how hard the world still is for you sometimes. Be their soft place to fall.
3. Share in bite-sized chunks.
This is true for anything we’re trying to teach to anyone, but it’s especially important for our little humans—small nuggets of new knowledge and new practices lead to deep learning. It’s easy to get so excited about teaching our kids that we try to show them everything all at once, but once they tip into overwhelm, they tune out and they’re no longer learning.
Instead, try to integrate these skills into the way you live as a family. Practice them in quiet moments and low-stakes situations.
Think about it this way: If you were in the middle of a crisis, crying your eyes out, or on the verge of screaming because you feel like you’re bursting at the seams with big feelings, how would you react if someone suddenly tried to teach you breathing exercises? 🤯
So imagine how our kids feel when we try this strategy!
We’ve got to be proactive about teaching and practicing together in little moments throughout the day so that these skills become natural and easily accessible for our kids. And then we’ve got to be patient and know that there will probably be hard moments as that learning happens.
Always remember to meet your kids where they are. Don’t just try to teach them what’s working well for you, because the reality is, they’re different from you.
Shocker. But it’s a fact.
They’re going to receive information differently, they’re going to practice it differently, and they’re going to benefit from different things. Each of your kids is a unique individual, so what works for you, for your spouse, or even for their siblings may not be what will be most helpful for them.
So check out different books, podcasts, blogs, coaches, experts. There is truly something for everyone. Keep an open mind because things that might not seem helpful to you might be exactly what one of your kids truly needs.
Then share it with them in small, gentle doses.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge what a blessing it is that we live in a time where we are being proactive in healing our own trauma. We have access to a wealth of knowledge and resources and experts. We are living in a moment where we’re being honest and open about the work we’re doing to create mental wellness, and because of that, we’re parenting in a very different way than the generations before us.
It’s a gift to be able to pass on that healing to the next generation, and for that, I have a tremendous amount of gratitude.
None of that changes the fact that we’re still going to go through hard things. And as individuals and as a collective, we’re still learning as we go. Remember, learning can be clumsy and messy. It’s not going to be a smooth, linear journey, because that’s just life. And you know, that’s just parenthood too.
So let’s keep moving in a healthier direction and remember to celebrate the progress we’re making together.
What are some challenges you’re facing when it comes to parenting with a growth mindset? Let me know in the comments!
Hiya! I'm Karen.
My main goal is to give you the mental skills you need to experience less stress and more joy.
Your life is a direct reflection of your thoughts. If you want uplifting content that will help you master your mind join the community. We'd love to have you!
If not, no hard feelings. Feel free to stop by whenever you need a pick-me-up! I'll be here.
Either way-see you soon!