The Blueprint for Raising Happy, Resilient Children

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Many years ago, UK’s favorite parenting expert Sue Atkins wondered: Why do some children become ‘successful’ in life and others don’t? She concluded that the children who succeed have close relationships with others (particularly their immediate family), feel valued, and have a sense of control over their lives. I asked Sue to explain more, here’s what she had to say. (To hear Sue's parenting podcast interview with Sean Grover CLICK HERE )

The children in trouble are missing four important necessities to manage life’s challenges.

• feeling connected to others.

• feeling capable to take care of themselves.

• feeling that they count .

• feeling courageous .

These Four C’s are vital for children to feel that they can meet the challenges of life.

What the Crucial ‘C’s Give Children.

Feeling that we connect, that we are capable, that we count and that we have courage will go a long way to encourage a positive attitude about life and give it purpose.

If we ensure that our children develop the Four C’s they will take life on and make it work for them. They will develop a ‘Can Do Kid’ mindset & they will have the ability to handle whatever life throws at them.

Kids who are brought up with the four Crucial ‘C’s become

  • Responsible
  • Self-reliant
  • Happy

Heidi Klum (mom of four: Leni, Henry, Johan and Lou (above)): “I’m not someone who [lives] like, ‘OK, this is a museum and you can’t sit here and you can’t touch this and everything has to be put in its place - [the kids] live here as much as we do. You come into our house and a giant elephant and lion are welcoming you. We have toys and things everywhere.”

Feeling Connected.

Our ability to survive both physically and psychologically depends on our ability to connect to others. We move from being babies, totally dependent on others, to interdependence with others. This process of moving from total dependence takes much longer compared to other animals who walk and take care of themselves far sooner than human beings do.

As children grow into toddlers, they experiment, make mistakes and learn through trial and error, and the more capable they are allowed to feel, the more self-confident they become.

A teenager who is secure in their belief about belonging to others feels connected so they are able to co-operate because they don’t feel afraid of rejection or isolation. They are more resilient to peer pressure and being drawn to gangs or the wrong crowd.

A child who doesn’t feel connected feels insecure, isolated & will seek attention and believe that any attention is better than none.

Feeling Capable.

Toddlers begin life as babies learning to hold their heads up and walk. A toddler doesn’t fall over the first time and decide that walking isn’t for them!

Pick your battles. Kids can't absorb too many rules without turning off completely. Forget arguing about little stuff like fashion choices and occasional potty language. Focus on the things that really matter - that means no hitting, rude talk, or lying.

Children develop their capabilities through being allowed to explore and make mistakes and they must be given meaningful activities. We live in a busy world and parents are often in such a hurry that they rob their children of the opportunity to ‘struggle’ putting on their shoes or doing up the zip on their coat.

It’s often easier, and quicker to do it for them, but this way of helping children may have serious consequences long term.

Children may interpret your failing to trust them to do these things as a sign that they can’t do them. You rob your child of the experience of feeling competent and capable. The message they receive is: ‘You don’t think I can do things for myself.’ Over time they may learn to resent you and to feel inadequate.

An overprotected child may become overly dependent on others, may be afraid to be alone later in life, or become so confused that they ‘boss’ people around to get their needs met!

Teenagers who are encouraged to feel competent and capable develop self-control and become self-reliant. They will develop respectful relationships with others.

Teens who are discouraged from feeling competent become unsure of their own capabilities and they may resist your attempts to guide them.

Disempowered teens resist responsibility – needing to be nagged to get up, do their homework or wash up. So, maybe allow them to face the consequences of their actions for example by getting a detention for late arrival at school to begin the process of feeling responsible for themselves.

Repeat: I am not a short-order cook. "It's a child's job to learn to eat what the parents eat," says Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian and the author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Instead of the all-or-nothing scenario, offer a variety of foods at mealtime: the main course, plus rice or pasta, a fruit or vegetable, and milk. This way, your child can eat just the pasta and the peas and get protein from the milk. "What a child eats over the course of a day or a week is more important than a balanced meal at one sitting," says Stephen Daniels, the chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in Aurora.

Feeling Significant – ‘I Count’

We all like to feel that we matter, that we count - children are no different.

If parents respond to their child’s needs and care for them, a child feels secure. They feel that they can trust the world and can count on others, they learn that they are important, and that they count.

A baby whose needs are not met may learn that they can’t trust the world and that the world isn’t a safe place and they may not move beyond that self-centered experience.

Children who are encouraged learn that they count and that they matter. Whereas children who are not made to feel significant look for a way to feel valued in more destructive ways.

Teenagers who feel valued become more involved in school or community activities. They are less likely to break the rules or avoid responsibility. Whereas a teen who doesn’t feel that they count, behaves in more destructive ways, thinking that what they do doesn’t matter.

Feeling Courageous

It takes courage to ride the ups and downs of life, the good and bad experiences, as well as the frustrations & challenges. It’s a risky and precarious adventure, so developing courage in your children is important.

Memorize the acronym H.A.L.T. Tantrums often happen because the thrower is Hungry, Agitated, Lonely, or Tired.

Toddlers show courage in everything that they do from learning to walk to learning to talk. They show courage as they go from one mistake to another until they master many skills. That takes courage.

Think back on your life – it took courage to start school, to leave home or to get married. ‘Feeling the fear’ and doing it anyway as Susan Jeffers said. Children experience frustration and disappointment just like we do and that courage stands them in good stead for the whole of their lives.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, ‘Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to overcome it.’

Children without courage focus on what they can’t do. They give up and avoid situations. They miss out on life through fear. A child with a ‘Can Do’ attitude shows courage & feels hopeful & optimistic. They embrace life and all its opportunities.

Becoming a teenager is a challenging time – a time of confusion & uncertainty, it’s a constant feeling of three steps forward and five steps back. Teens who don’t have courage blend into the background, afraid to put their hand up in class, or join sports clubs. They’ll find it hard to resist the pressure to drink alcohol, or take drugs as they won’t be brave enough to say ‘No.’

"If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent. " - Bette Davis

A child who is encouraged to be courageous feels the fear and trusts themselves. A child who lacks courage can’t get over their fear, it controls them.