Five Ways to Teach Your Children to Cope with Life

No child will thrive without love. But children also need to learn to be independent and self-reliant. Older generations are often guilty of patronising the young. In fact, today's youth inhabit a world that, in some respects, is tougher than the one their parents or even grandparents knew. It's an overcrowded, globalised world which seems to move at an ever-increasing speed, one in which climate change, dwindling resources, and mass migration may soon be the norm.



1) Do not allow them to grow up feeling they are the center of the world. Of course, a child should feel loved, wanted, and valued. They need to feel that their parents care about them, that their existence is, in therapy-speak, "validated." But they also need to realise that other people matter and that no one is ever going to idolise them as their mother does. 


2) Do not shield them from the horrors of the world. Drive them through the rough part of town and show them the homeless, the drug addicted, and the mentally ill. If you see a disturbing documentary about death row, or a news report about tribal genocide in Africa, allow them to view it as well. Explain to them that the world is not always a happy place. Of course, you must use your own judgement here. Introducing them to the reality of the world need not mean traumatising them or filling them with fear.


3) Don't give them too much money. Nothing will make a child grow up quite so fast as having to earn his own money. Encourage them to find a part-time job as soon as possible, ideally during the summer vacations. A job brings so many benefits. For a start, they will have a boss, someone who will not adore and idolise them like you do. A boss will make them work, and teach them that there are consequences for being late or lazing about. A job will also provide them with money they have earned themselves; this will be a tremendous confidence boost.


4) Encourage them to make their own appointments. When your child reaches 14 or 15, buy them a diary and inform them that, from now on, they must make their own doctor's, dentist's, and hairdresser's appointments. And if possible, make them go on their own.


5) Don't let them win. When you play football or basketball with your child, do not always let them win. This doesn't mean you should bully them and rub their nose in defeat (that would merely turn them into bullies themselves). Encourage other adults to beat them as well. For example, during the Christmas vacation, take your friends, siblings, or parents aside and explain to them that, when you all sit down to play cards or Monopoly, they must try and win.


6) Ask them their opinions and treat them like adults. When a major news story breaks, ask them what they think. And do not patronise them. Ask them their opinion and listen with attention and respect. But do not always agree. If you think they are wrong, say so. Argue with them if necessary. Again, you must use your judgement here. Don't bully or intimidate them. Speak to them as you would an intelligent friend.


Of course, children vary, and what fosters self-discipline and self-reliance in one may provoke anger and resentment in another. So always keep in mind their particular temperament and personality. 

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