1) Failure is good. You may be thinking “that’s a ridiculous statement,” but there is no such thing as a mistake if it’s a lesson learned. How are we supposed to become great if we stop trying to become better at something? Maybe you know this, but Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before successfully creating the lightbulb. When he was interviewed he was asked what it felt like to fail 1,000 times. He responded by explaining he didn’t see his attempts as failures, but as steps to help him achieve his goals. That is a perspective that allowed him to reach greatness. I see this dynamic between child and parent all the time. Child attempts an activity that is challenging like a sport or going to a social event. Child is not immediately reinforced with positive emotions, they may feel like they aren’t the best at it right away and they turn to mom or dad looking for reassurance. Mom or dad turn to the child and say “that’s ok. You are the best. Don’t worry about not succeeding at what you tried. We’ll try something different, something that will be more fun, something you’ll be good at.” What kind of message are these parents sending their children? It sounds to me that these parents are telling their kids:
"It’s not ok to fail."
"You must be good at whatever you try."
"You don’t have the strength or internal resources to tolerate discomfort."
"I will always fix whatever ails you."
* Are these the messages we want to send to our children?
2) Patients builds strength. A psychologist named, Walter Mischel, conducted an experiment at Stanford University demonstrating the benefits and longitudinal effects of delayed gratification. The experiment was called “kids marshmallow experiment.” The children were given a choice. They could have the one marshmallow on the table right now or wait 15 minutes and have a larger reward. What he found was that children who could wait longer were more likely to have better life outcomes, go further in their academic career, and have overall greater life measures. So the next time your child asks you for something and they yell and scream that they want it now, think about their life in the long term. Will the decision to give them what they want right away help them in the future or hinder their success?
3) Setting clear expectation reduces confusion. Setting clear expectations with your children does two things. First, it reduces the frequency of arguments and negotiation. When expectations are clear it is likely to hear less of, “you didn’t tell me” or “how was I supposed to know?” Secondly, it teaches your children boundaries. When you set expectations as parents you are establishing boundaries for yourself, your children, and your family system. You are teaching your children how to set boundaries by modeling it for them and helping them understand why boundaries are important. This in turn will provide them with the necessary skills to develop their own expectations and be able to implement healthy boundaries as they develop in life.