Putting children in isolation in school risks causing them unnecessary trauma, according to a report by a mental health charity.
The use of isolation as a disciplinary measure risks damaging children’s mental health and can end up making behavioral problems worse as students become more disaffected from school, according to the study.
Instead, the charity urges schools to become more aware of the impact of trauma on their students, and to switch from punitive to positive behavior strategies.
The report comes as a campaign to end the use of isolation booths—where children are confined to booths with no contact with other students or adults—as a behavior management tool gathers pace. The Ban the Booths campaign has garnered support from MPs and is holding its first national conference later this month.
The use of isolation rooms is widespread in U.K. schools, as a way of removing disruptive children from the classroom.
But a report by the Centre for Mental Health today argues that the use of isolation is potentially damaging to children.
Children who have already had traumatic experiences are particularly vulnerable, according to the study, and may find such punishments “disporportionately distressing.”
While schools must record the use of exclusion, there are no such requirements over the use of isolation, with the result that there are no figures on how prevalent it is, although a BBC investigation in 2018 found that more than 200 children spent at least five straight days in isolation in the previous year.
And last year one mother revealed she is taking legal action after her daughter, who has autism spectrum disorder, attempted suicide after spending more than a month in isolation.
Tom Bennett, a former teacher and now the Government’s adviser on behavior in schools, defended the use of isolation in an interview with the BBC this morning, saying that students were typically removed for “extreme disruption, violence or rudeness to teachers,” rather than for trivial offences.
He said removing students from the classroom gave them an opportunity to calm down, without disrupting the learning of other children. The children who had been removed were supervised and given work to do, he added.
But one mother who spoke to the same program told how her son had been put in isolation from the age of 11 for relatively trivial offences, such as wearing a hoodie in the dining hall. Now 15, he has spent a third of his education in isolation, she added.
She said her son was not given work to do, and instead spent his time doodling.
The experience has transformed him from a outgoing child who enjoyed going to school, to one who has no confidence in authority and “sees adults as enemies,” she said.
Niamh Sweeney, a member of the executive of the National Education Union, told the BBC that children were often isolated for “small incidents,” such as having incorrect school uniform.
“Children describe sitting in isolation, having to look forward, not being able to have eye contact or contact with other people, and that does not deal with the cause or address, in any shape or form, the behaviour that the school is trying to change,” she said.
Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said attempting to improve behavior by isolating children will not work.
“For some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children they will entrench behavioural problems with lifelong consequences for them and their families,” she said.
I’m a freelance journalist specializing in education. My career so far has taken in regional and national newspapers and magazines, including Forbes, The Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. A lot has changed since I started covering education as a wide-eyed junior reporter in the early 1990s, not least the role of technology in the classroom, but as long as perfection remains just out of reach there will be plenty to discuss. I’ve been hooked on news since setting up a school magazine at 15, but these days I stick to reporting and let someone else sell the adverts, set the crossword and staple the pages together.
Then my son was eight, he asked if Santa was real. I didn’t know what to say, so I dodged the question. Naturally, he sought answers from the place that never let him down: the World Wide Web. When I spied him searching “Is Santa real?” on the iPad, I gently took it from him and asked, “Why do you want to know so much?”
“Because I feel like you’re lying to me,” he said, trying to blink away tears. He was distraught. I was too, because what had seemed like a sweet tradition was suddenly threatening the trust my child had for me. So I told him the truth—that Dad and I were Santa, and that we were never trying to “lie” about it, but rather, just to carry on something we had enjoyed as kids. He was surprised that I told him, and a little sad. But mostly, he was relieved.
A couple of years later, when my daughter was eight and wanted the truth, I had this same conversation with her, and she had a similar reaction: a tinge of disappointment, but mostly relief. Both times, honesty about Santa felt wrong, right up until the moment it felt right.
For the past three years, I’ve been researching what it means to be more aware of our own honesty choices instead of only focusing on the dishonesty in the world around us. And while the man in the red suit is an honesty dilemma for many parents, I’ve learned that it’s probably not as important as the other honesty choices we make as parents.
Unlike belief in Santa—which is something children grow out of—dishonesty is something children grow into, says Robert Feldman, a University of Massachusetts psychology professor who has studied lying for many years. In having children and adolescents purposely tell lies to mislead, he found that first graders were unconvincing liars, seventh graders were pretty decent, but college students were experts.
The reason they grow into lying is that we parents show them how to with our own behavior. One University of California–San Diego study found that preschoolers and young elementary schoolchildren who had been lied to by an experimenter were more likely both to cheat (they peeked at something when they weren’t supposed to) and then to lie about whether or not they peeked.
You might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you. I thought the same, until the evening my daughter and I were buying birthday favors at Party City. When I told the cashier that I didn’t have an email address when she asked for one, my daughter gave me the side eye. That’s when I realized I was teaching her how to swat off annoyances with little lies. (I now simply say, in a pleasant voice, “I don’t want to give you an email right now.”)
We always think we need a story that justifies how we feel, says etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-grandchild of etiquette queen Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute. When there is no significant story, she says, we stretch the truth. These are the little fibs related to flattery, saving face, or protecting ego, such as making up a story about why you aren’t attending a family function or gushing with a friend over their new car when in fact you hate it.
“We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it’s polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they’ve been given,” Dr. Feldman says. We want to raise kind children and be kind ourselves, except for the times when honesty is more important . . . which is when exactly?
Honesty seems like such a basic concept. So why do we get all tangled up in it, not just in parenting, but also in social situations, at work, and inside our most intimate relationships? It’s a two part answer: (1) the actor-observer bias— whereby we notice other’s lies more easily than our own—keeps us thinking we are more honest than we are (until our kid calls our bluff) and (2) much of what we think and say about honesty is just flat out wrong.
We don’t like to admit that we rely on what behavioral scientists call prosocial lies, or the lies we tell for the benefit of someone else. “It’s so deeply engrained in us to think lying is always wrong,” says Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, but her research has found that when you walk people through scenarios, they will agree that lying is sometimes the right thing to do.
I’ve noticed that I tend to use prosocial lies to build empathy, like if I see that someone is humiliated about a mistake, I might lie and tell them I made that same mistake when I haven’t. And you know what? I appreciate when someone does the same for me. On a trip last year, I tried to check into the wrong hotel (two sister hotels shared a parking garage) and felt like an idiot.
The valet attendant saw my embarrassment, and assured me he spent the majority of his day helping people who had tried to check into the wrong hotel. Did he really? Probably not. It was nice to hear though.
Prosocial lies may seem trivial, but these small moments can have a great deal of consequence in one-on-one relationships. On a reporting ride-along with a police officer last year, I noticed how patiently the officer listened to the story of a woman reporting a radio stolen from her truck. He handed her a card that assigned her a case number and told her how to work with the investigator. As we walked back to his cruiser, he asked me: “What do you think the chances of that case getting solved are?”
“Probably not very good?” I ventured.
“Pretty much zero,” he said.
“So, why bother with it then? I mean, I guess you have to, but if it’s just pointless, why not just be honest?”
“If she pursues it, we will, too. We’ll try. But in situations like this, people want to be heard. They want their story heard,” he said. “Most of what we do is just listen to people.”
Though we value people who “tell it like it is,” what this woman needed in that moment was to be listened to, more than she probably cared about recovering the radio. The next time she interacts with the police, it might be something more serious—like she could be a key witness in a case. He needs her to trust him, and the way to win her trust is through listening and caring.
Dr. Levine’s research supports the idea that prosocial lying can increase trust when someone has true insight into what the other person needs. Her research in healthcare settings has found that some patients prefer the brutal truth, while others want hope and optimism—but the doctor needs to know what the patient prefers, rather than imposing his or her own ideas about what’s best for the patient.
However, our prosocial lies go wrong when we let fear of the awkward conversation subsume what we know we should do. When an editor of mine was called out by another writer who told him that his style had become abrupt and condescending, he asked me if I felt the same way.
I did, but I froze, tried to skirt the issue, and ultimately said something like, “not really.” On the surface, it may seem kinder, but in fact, it’s cruel, because this person was asking for feedback. I wound up contacting him the next day, fessed up that I was frustrated with him, and we had a thoughtful and helpful conversation.
While that vulnerability isn’t easy, we tend to fear it more than we need to. In a study, Dr. Levine and Taya Cohen, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, asked people to be completely honest in their dealings with others for three days.
While people predicted that it would ruin their relationships and cause hurt and pain, quite the opposite was true. “They found so much meaning in being honest,” Dr. Cohen says. This is probably why my conversations with my kids around Santa wound up feeling so meaningful, versus ruinous, and why honesty also improved my relationship with that editor.
The biggest thing about honesty we get wrong is missing the opportunity inside conversations with our children about why we lie. Explaining the Santa lie wasn’t that complicated for me, because Santa ultimately belongs in the category of mythology. I’ve learned far more from other unexpected conversations—like when, on the way to a well visit with the pediatrician, my son said, “I’m going to be honest if the doctor asks about screens. You always lie.”
My first response was rising anger, but then I realized this was an opportunity. “You’re right,” I said. “I do tend to lie about it. I shouldn’t. But do you know why I lie?”
“Because it’s bad that I use the iPad so much.”
“It’s not bad. It’s just that doctors think kids watch screens too much, and they’re right. But I don’t always follow what they say. We shouldn’t lie to doctors about things to do with health, though.”
“But you do,” he said.
“I do,” I said. “Because a little part of me feels ashamed that I should be a better mom. I often feel like people are saying I’m not a good mom if I do certain things or don’t do certain things. I feel judged. Do you ever feel that way?”
“Yeah, about my behavior. I’m bad sometimes and I know it.”
What a golden moment to talk about the difference between how we act and who we are, and about the nature of shame and how it so often clouds our choices when it comes to honesty.
By opening up to my kids about my own struggles, I’ve not only learned things about myself that have helped me in my career and my relationships, I’ve also shown them that honesty is a dynamic concept that takes vulnerability, courage, and discernment—excellent life skills to have long after thoughts of flying reindeer have passed.
Has your child been lying to you lately? If so, it might not be as big of a problem as you think. In this episode of Mom Docs, Dr. Dehra Harris, a Pediatric Psychiatrist with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, shares some insight on why children lie and what you can do about it. If your child has been lying to you, it’s important to take the age of the child into consideration. In young children, lying marks the beginning of imagination, which is a normal developmental stage. Your child’s lying only becomes a problem when it’s part of a persistent pattern. If your situation involves your child lying often, try these tactics: Approach your child and, without getting emotional, present the information you know to be true. For example, if your child took money off the countertop, you can say, “There is money missing from the counter top. I need you to help me figure this out.” This approach leaves room for two different outcomes: #1. Your child lets you know what happened and they explain their story. #2. You inform them that you know what happened and they do not admit they lied. While both of these situations deserve a consequence, the second should be greater. Repeating this method when your child lies can help put the problem behind you. Visit Children’s MomDocs (a blog by mom physicians at St Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine): http://bit.ly/2fCVkzp Learn more about St. Louis Children’s Hospital – Find a Physician, Get Directions, Request an Appointment, See current ER Wait Times http://bit.ly/2g56onQ Want to hear more from St. Louis Children’s Hospital? Subscribe to the St Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2cC0jgg Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stlchildrens Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/STLChildrens Learn More About Donating on YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/? The St. Louis Children’s Hospital YouTube channel is intended as a reference and information source only. If you suspect you have a health problem, you should seek immediate care with the appropriate health care professionals. The information in this web site is not a substitute for professional care, and must not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. For help finding a doctor, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line may be of assistance at 314.454.KIDS (5437). The opinions expressed in these videos are those of the individual writers, not necessarily St. Louis Children’s Hospital or Washington University School of Medicine. BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine assume no liability for the information contained in this website or for its use.
As a high school teacher, I’ve seen a lot of cheating. So much, that I’ve concluded most adults don’t realize how many kids, even otherwise good and honest kids, cheat in school.
If you think of cheating as simply acting unfairly or dishonestly to gain an academic advantage, many people reading this column might remember their own experiences cheating. Whether you actively sought to cheat, or the opportunity simply landed in front of you, many of us can recall at least one occurrence with vivid detail. Your heart raced, your palms sweated, and you felt that undeniable sinking in the pit of your stomach, all due to the fear of getting caught. Yet you still did it.
But why? Why continue the act even when the body sends all the signals identical to a near-death fight-or-flight response? For some, it may be for the sheer thrill. But I argue most people who are tempted to cheat choose the better of two evils, both connected to failure.
Today, more so than when you and I were teens, the pressure to excel is unbearable. From the parents who demand it and the peers competing for it, the colleges that require it and the “influencers” who embody it, the pressure to be perfect has become the driving force for many students. And when the need to maintain perfection trumps the actual learning that occurs, you’ll begin to override your body’s natural warnings.
Our kids cheat because they fear the consequences of failing. So many are raised in a bubble, completely protected from failure. Any time it may have approached, those around them, who love them very much, happily deflected that failure for them. So a disproportionate number of adolescents truly feel they are geniuses, that they can do no wrong.
Unfortunately, an educator’s job is to confront his or her students with challenging obstacles to overcome, and they won’t deflect that failure. This forces our inexperienced youth into a corner, and many react by ensuring their success by any means necessary.
I’m one of these educators, and I absolutely challenge my kids, but I made a decision a few years back that completely changed the culture of my classroom: I eliminated the need to cheat.
I made the decision that the goal of my science class was to learn and appreciate science. From that day, I recognized that to pull these anxious kids from the corner they’ve been trapped in, I had to entice them back to the center. I had to establish an environment that eliminated the fear of failing, and I did it with a few very basic but powerful methods.
First, I eliminated due dates within a unit and moved to a mastery grading model. There are many varieties of this, but in my model, the kids receive a list for the unit describing the tasks to be mastered by test day. For every activity, the kids were encouraged to copy from each other and work together, but their grades came from 30-second conversations I had with each student, when I’d ask a variety of questions to gauge their mastery on the topic. Completing an assignment meant nothing if it couldn’t be verbalized, so the kids quickly learned that copying without understanding was a waste of time in my class.
Then, I encouraged cheat sheets. I let students write or draw anything they’d like on the front and back of a 3-by-5 notecard. The card had to be hand-written and turned in with the test. Many teachers may argue that doing so would invalidate their tests, to which I say, if your kids can write the answers to your tests on a notecard, you write bad tests.
We’ve worked hard to build high-level questions that require students to expand beyond the basic content from a notecard, and the sheer process of internalizing and paraphrasing an entire unit into such a small space encourages that level of critical thinking for our kids; moving beyond comprehension and into application. Plus, I save their notecards and return them before semester and state exams, providing the most personalized, hand-written summative reviews they could ever create.
Finally, after taking the test once on their own, I let them take it again, this time in groups. After grading the exams, I assign them in homogeneous groups; As in one group, Bs in another, etc., but I don’t tell students their scores. Then, I hand them back their original exams to take again. They don’t know which questions are correct, so the intellectual debates that happen over each question are incredible. When they resubmit, the group score is averaged with a student’s individual score.
Of course, there are those who say we need to teach our kids responsibility, to prepare them for the real world by not allowing late work, cheat sheets or group corrections. But it’s these classrooms where cheating is rampant, and it’s specifically because no recovery is possible.
As for tests, consider what every major exam over the course of someone’s professional career has in common: SAT, ACT, CPA exams, MCAT, LSAT, teaching certifications. You can take all of these multiple times for full credit. So where did this fallacy begin that somehow my biology exam is more pertinent to their lives and future success?
In a world that’s constantly demanding risk-taking and creativity, we cannot continue to produce robots of compliance and task completion. As a young gymnast develops her technique, she rehearses in an environment developed to safely take risks, with balance beams low to the ground and foam pits into which she can fall.
So, too should be the goal of every classroom. When kids see that failure is recoverable, the demand to succeed the first time, by any means necessary, is eliminated, and they finally have the freedom to take a leap.
By: Ramy Mahmoud
Ramy Mahmoud is a lecturer at the University of Texas at Dallas Teacher Development Center, a high school science department head in Plano and a two-time TEDx speaker. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
As technology advances, devices with screens get more sophisticated, cheaper, and, for parents, more worrisome. The pressure to plop the kid in front of an iPad for hours on end is strong, but so is the sense of guilt that pushes some parents to ban screens altogether. The correct response seems to be somewhere between laissez-faire and digital teetotalism, and it’s up to parents to figure out how much and what kind of screen time is best for their kids.
A good place to start developing nuanced rules for screen time is dispelling myths that, while accepted as conventional wisdom, are actually closer to old wives’ tales. Here are four misconceptions that need to go away so parents can introduce kids to technology in a responsible way.
Myth #1: Interactive Learning Apps Always Help Kids Learn Faster
There’s no shortage of apps that purportedly help kids learn, but they’re not all created equal. Some developers, out to make a quick buck from parents, have little to no understanding of how children actually learn. That means apps that are labeled as educational to assuage parental fears may actually be no better than addictive puzzle games like Toy Blast.
Consider a Vanderbilt University study that attempted to establish if interacting with a learning app via swiping or tapping helped preschool children learn. Using a university-built word-learning app, researchers found that while girls did benefit from tapping a screen for visual rewards, boys did not learn as much. In fact, boys were more likely to tap willy-nilly without prompting.
This discrepancy makes sense when you consider how boys and girls develop differently. Between 2 and 5 years old, girls have better impulse control and better coordination. The app served them well, but it depended on skills boys didn’t have. They likely spent more time concentrating on the dexterity challenges and less time learning what the app was ostensibly meant to teach.
The lesson: Apps labeled as educational that lack age-appropriate learning mechanisms don’t do much for developing minds.
Myth #2: Introducing a Child to Technology Early Helps Prepare Them for the Future
Lots of parents introduce tech to their kids early in life in an effort to build skills that will help them in an increasingly tech-driven future. Unfortunately, that can mean they neglect crucial interpersonal skills that kids need to develop before the age of 6. No matter how sci-fi the future becomes, children will still need to develop emotional intelligence and communication skills that can’t be built in front of a screen.
Interpersonal skills require interactions with real, emotional human beings that affect how young brains develop. For a kid’s brain to be optimally wired for interpersonal skills, those interactions need to occur during the first crucial years. That’s why a pioneering researcher in the psychology of computers, Dr. Tim Lynch, recommends parents wait until their kids reach Kindergarten before introducing them to computing in any form.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, an early introduction to tech appears to be a threat to kids’ physical development as well. British researchers found that early exposure to screens had an adverse effect on a child’s dexterity. The effect was so profound that some children were unable to hold a pencil.
The lesson: To support the development of your kids’ emotions and dexterity, wait until school to introduce screens into their lives.
Myth #3: Screen Time Is Inherently Bad
While screen time panic has reached a fever pitch, there is a growing body of research that says screen time in and of itself isn’t so bad, and that a thoughtful parental approach can make it a positive in a child’s life.
One of the first major studies of time spent in front of the television found that engaging with a TV show can be beneficial as long as the content is educational. For instance, researchers found that watching Sesame Street was as beneficial for some kids as years of preschool education. And watching shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood correlates with increased emotional intelligence in kids who watch regularly.
But research also suggests that it’s not enough for parents to simply place their kid in front of a screen and hope they learn something. Screen time is much for helpful when parents are a partner helping their kids understand and interact with the content.
A Georgetown study found that kids learned better on a puzzle app when they were coached by an adult than when they followed an on-screen tutorial. Help from adults was a “social scaffolding” that helped kids learn. Studies like this are what helped define the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time. These stress parental involvement in media consumption, including a personalized Family Media Use Plan developed in concert with a pediatrician.
So, what is actually bad about screen time? When screen-fed media is overconsumed by kids, they tend toward inactivity. The blue light that screens emit can also interfere with sleep patterns. So, the smart parenting solution is to set time limits for kids that include at least an hour of screen-free time before bed.
Myth #4: Video Games Are Inherently Bad
“Video Games” writ large have received a bad rap from parents, who only see mindless button-mashing, and politicians, who only see gratuitous violence. But conflating a game like Minecraft with a game like Red Dead Redemption ignores the realities of how video games affect kids.
It is true that the child psychology community is conflicted regarding the effect of violence in video games. But not all video games are violent. And besides, the reason violent video games might lead to violence is that they act as simulators. By selecting the right games, parents can turn the power of simulation into something positive for their kids.
Studies have shown that fast-paced video games can increase reading speed in dyslexic children, that strategy-based games promote problem-solving skills, and that world-building games like Minecraft promote creativity. Finally, controlling the main character in a video game prompts kids to see the world through their eyes and can help build emotional intelligence. Like books and TV shows, video games can also be used as learning tools.
But as with television and books, video games benefit from parental involvement. The problem of antisocial behavior connected to gaming is likely couched in the fact that parents allow kids to go into their virtual worlds alone and without guidance. In fact, parents would be better off joining them in those worlds, regardless of consolechoice.
Kids benefit from parents who recognize the achievement in mastering a game, and parents will be more empathetic and less wary of their kids’ gaming behavior if they recognize the effort they’re making to achieve a difficult task — even if that task is in a digital world.
We said grace. My 7-year old turned on one of my jazz records before bopping his way back to the dinner table to join us for our meal. A gentle vibraphone melody filled the house. The edges of our shiny white plates atop the worn hand-me-down dining table, framed grilled pork, a spinach salad, and some grilled pears.
As usual, we asked each other about the best and worst parts of our day. The conversation became incredibly silly. The 7-year-old claimed he’d seen a shark in the toilet at school (a lemon shark, to be exact). He hadn’t, but my 5-year-old, following suit, claimed his bottom had been bitten off by a toilet shark that day too. I reminded him that he’d have trouble sitting if that were true.
The 7-year-old giggled and chewed. It was all I could do to keep from springing from my chair and dancing a jig around the table in relief and excitement because the kid was eating. He was eating without whining. He was eating without us pleading for him to “just try it.” We weren’t watching him psych himself out and gag and cry while we watched with angry, frustrated expressions.
In fact, we hadn’t cajoled about eating for the last five days. We had not threatened. We had not made deals or bribes. We had not even made a suggestion.
After years of interviewing nutritionists about picky eaters, I’d finally decided to follow the one consistent piece of advice I’d heard from each and every one: “Put a healthy dinner on the table and then enjoy your family.”
We had not, particularly, been enjoying each other at the dinner table over the last two years since mandating nightly family dinners. And that seemed strange to me considering all of the amazing benefits eating together was supposed to have on my kids. Research by, well, everyone suggested family dinners could help my boys improve their grades, become more empathetic, and maybe even stay off the pipe.
But dinner was not always a positive time — mostly because of the 7-year-old’s abysmal eating habits and our reaction to them. He worried my wife and I. We stressed out about his nutritional intake. He’d eat peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. He’d eat anything breaded and baked, but when we asked him to eat perfectly delicious healthy meals, he’d literally turn up his nose and send us into a rage.
The bad attitudes were infectious. Even our adventurous-eating 5-year-old would become glum and unruly. Family dinners felt like a bleak culinary battleground. And that was exactly the problem. I’d been told so many times that parents just need to back off and make dinner a time to enjoy one another. Nutritionist after nutritionist told me that being a hard-liner could make picky eating worse and destroy the magic properties of the family meal.
So we backed off. We just stopped saying anything. And it totally shocked the kid.
“What’s this? I’m not going to eat it,” he said on the first day. It was stew. My wife and I shrugged.
“Whatever, dude,” I said, changing the subject to ask about favorite mammals. He barely touched a thing. My wife and I took deep breaths and bit the insides of our cheeks. We reminded each our silence was for the better.
The next day he protested again. Stir-fry. We told him he didn’t have to eat anything and struck up a 20-questions style guessing game. I learned that he knows a great deal about platypuses.
The next day was steak. He didn’t protest and ate most of what was on his plate while we giggled about an imaginative story his brother was telling. There was hope. But not much. The kid always ate steak.
But when he didn’t protest again at the next dinner, it was clear something was shifting. He absently nibbled as we talked. It was unbreaded chicken. Sure he wasn’t cookie-monstering his dinner down, but in just a few short days, the tone of our dinners had taken a dramatic turn. It was fun. We left the table with smiles, easing into our evening routine without frayed nerves.
By the time the pork hit the plate, and then his mouth, I truly felt like I was sitting with a different family. The 7-year-old was eating. My wife and I were smiling. The 5-year-old was feeling heard and involved. And the only trouble I had was in trying to figure out why saying nothing at all was somehow harder than saying all the wrong things.
Clearly, silence takes more energy than speaking when it comes to the health and well-being of a child. After all, as a parent, you are told that you are ultimately responsible for whether or not the kid not only survives but thrives. And a child who doesn’t eat stirs up a primal, protective, parenting instinct: if the child won’t eat, they will die. You must make them eat.
But that’s not a good enough reason for the pleading and deal making. If all a parent wanted their kid to do was survive, then why not simply give them nuggets and fries every day, forever and ever, amen? Because doing would defy logic. It would be unhealthy. But so is having contentious meals or displaying resentment towards your kids. And there’s no real advantage to it. The staredown sucks for everyone.
Also, kids are better at staying alive than we give them credit for. If they are hungry, they will eat. If they are happy, well, everything just gets easier.
Raising mentally strong kids who are equipped to take on real-world challenges requires parents to give up the unhealthy — yet popular — parenting practices that are robbing kids of mental strength.
Of course, helping kids build mental muscle isn’t easy — it requires parents to be mentally strong as well. Watching kids struggle, pushing them to face their fears, and holding them accountable for their mistakes is tough. But those are the types of experiences kids need to reach their greatest potential.
Parents who train their children’s brains for a life of meaning, happiness, and success, avoid these 13 things:
1. They Don’t Condone A Victim Mentality
Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Rather than allow kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortune, mentally strong parents encourage their children to turn their struggles into strength. They help them identify ways in which they can take positive action, despite their circumstances.
2. They Don’t Parent Out Of Guilt
Guilty feelings can lead to a long list of unhealthy parenting strategies — like giving in to your child after you’ve said no or overindulging your child on the holidays. Mentally strong parents know that although guilt is uncomfortable, it’s tolerable. They refuse to let their guilty feelings get in the way of making wise choices.
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3. They Don’t Make Their Child The Center Of The Universe
It can be tempting to make your life revolve around your child. But kids who think they’re the center of the universe grow up to be self-absorbed and entitled. Mentally strong parents teach their kids to focus on what they have to offer the world — rather than what they’re owed.
4. They Don’t Allow Fear To Dictate Their Choices
Keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety. But keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go.
5. They Don’t Give Their Child Power Over Them
Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, have too much power. Becoming more like an equal — or even the boss — isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower kids to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy.
6. They Don’t Expect Perfection
High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much from kids will backfire. Mentally strong parents recognize that their kids are not going to excel at everything they do. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.
7. They Don’t Let Their Child Avoid Responsibility
You won’t catch a mentally strong parent saying things like, “I don’t want to burden my kids with chores. Kids should just be kids.” They expect children to pitch in and learn the skills they need to become responsible citizens. They proactively teach their kids to take responsibility for their choices and they assign them age-appropriate duties.
8. They Don’t Shield Their Child From Pain
It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But, kids need practice and first-hand experience tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.
9. They Don’t Feel Responsible For Their Child’s Emotions
It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But, regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.
10. They Don’t Prevent Their Child From Making Mistakes
Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework or he forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and they allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.
11. They Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment
Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. And while mentally strong parents do give out consequences, their ultimate goal is to teach kids to develop the self-discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.
12. They Don’t Take Shortcuts To Avoid Discomfort
Giving in when a child whines or doing your kids’ chores for them, is fast and easy. But, those shortcuts teach kids unhealthy habits. It takes mental strength to tolerate discomfort and avoid those tempting shortcuts.
13. They Don’t Lose Sight Of Their Values
In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of homework, chores, and sports practices. Those hectic schedules — combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media —cause many people to lose sight of what’s really important in life. Mentally strong parents know their values and they ensure their family lives according to them.
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You may have heard people use phrases like “out of control” or “wild” to describe kids who have a hard time controlling their emotions and impulsive behavior. If they’re talking about your child, you might wonder if your child has a disruptive behavior disorder or ADHD. You might even think disruptive behavior disorders and ADHD are the same thing. Disruptive behavior disorders and ADHD have some things in common, such as trouble keeping emotions in check and doing risky, impulsive things. But there are big differences between the two that can affect the strategies used to help your child………..
Every situation is different, so there’s no set answer about how involved to get. There are many factors to consider in knowing how to help your child and It’s important for your child to learn coping and problem-solving skills. If there’s an academic problem at school, you may feel confident about when to jump in. But what if your child is having a social problem? Do you wonder how involved to get? There’s no set answer to that question. Each situation is different. Here are some basic things to consider……..
My five-year-old daughter has declared that ketchup is “spicy.” She prefers foods in shades of beige. Her ideal dinner rotation would be something like dino nuggets and peas, cheese pizza and peas, plain udon noodles and peas, tater tots and peas, and ice cream and peas. As a mom who was once a food writer, one who heads straight to the spice section at local markets while traveling, one who delights in bold flavors and daydreams about them long after finishing a meal, I can’t help but wonder………..