23 Aug 2021

How to Parent Better and Live a Happier Life

The Uncomfortable Facts: “No amount of achievement, money or prestige is worth the price of lifelong vulnerability to anxiety and depression.”

Incidents of mental and emotional problems are pretty much off the charts. We are in the midst of an epidemic of anxiety and depression. We are experiencing a dramatic increase in suicides. Children and adolescents are wildly stressed and wildly under rested.

When stress hits, the mind goes out the door, no matter how smart or well prepared one is.  When working under pressure, or a loss of sense of control, our brains don’t work well.

Negative language is extremely hurtful in the moment and has detrimental longterm consequences. Attempts to motivate through fear, guilt and anger backfire.

Bribing kids to meet your goals doesn’t work – Incentive to support them meeting their goals does.

Striving for perfectionism holds kids back.

If your message doesn’t land the first or second time, it’s not going to land the 20th. 

Dismissive Positivity is destructive and disrespectful, as is the Righting Reflex.

Wealthy kids are often under excessive pressure to excel and lack closeness with their parents. Therefore, they are at higher risk for anxiety and mood disorders, chemical use and abuse, self injury and certain kinds of delinquent behaviors.

Getting highly anxious or depressed in childhood changes the development in the brain; if we stop this happening we avoid mental illness presentation later in life. The most important outcome of childhood and adolescence is sculpting a healthy brain, not where one goes to college. “We want kids to be as successful as they can possibly be, but we want them to be able to enjoy their success.”

The science shows it’s safe to relax and not drive your kids. It’s not your job to make your kids turn out as something or in a certain way.  You can’t force them to do something they truly don’t want to do.

Toughing it out for future rewards is a dangerous approach. Soothing builds resilience.

Your job isn’t to motivate your kids at all.

“The truth is there are many ways to be happy and successful in this world…A successful life is a life you want to have.”

What You Can do for Yourselves and Your Children to have More Successful Lives and a Happier Home:

Speak with your children versus to them. Sit next to them. Make eye contact. Create shared rituals and interests (or show interest in their interests.) Create one on one time every week!

Work with them not on them. Ditch the carrots and the sticks.

Replace judgement with empathy. Show empathy and validate your kids’ feelings and experiences, even when you don’t agree.

Help your children foster their own sense of internal motivation. The end goal is for them to want to do well in alignment with their values and interests.

Reframe –Instead of a take it or leave it approach, ask them, “What do you think about this?” If they are upset, reflect back to them that the situation sounds challenging and ask what you can do to help.

Focus on developing agency. Autonomy and a sense of control are the factors that bolster  self motivation.  Autonomy, relatedness and competency support solid mental health.

Show your children you love them more than anything and express confidence that you think they can figure out what to do in their own lives. The most important element of parenting is developing a close relationship.

If you want them to be respectful treat them respectfully. Shift from manager to consultant.

Love them too much to fight about the way something is done. Support your children to develop Stress Tolerance. Teach them to calm themselves down with your help.

“Tired, stressed, discouraged, angry kids misbehave. So what’s making them tired, stressed, discouraged, or angry? Start there and the rest is much easier than you might think.

Be the Sun!  “Remember that kids have a brain in their heads and want their lives to work.”

William Stixrud, PhD and Ned Johnson are the National Bestselling authors of The Self-Driven Child and their follow on communication guide: What Do You Say? How to Talk with Kids to Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance, and a Happy Home. Bill is a thriving neuropsychologist, founder of the Stixrud Group, and Ned is the test prep guru who founded PrepMatters. These two have sixty years combined experience talking with kids about their passions, challenges and frustrations. After countless hours talking with kids and figuring out how to connect with them, they’ve determined that having someone in a child’s life who listens, doesn’t judge and doesn’t tell them what to do is the most critical element for success.

What Do You Say?



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