New-age parenting is confusing, even for a therapist. We want to do right by our child, but doing right may not always mean choosing an emotion-based curriculum or teaching your child 3 languages before they turn 4. In the pursuit to be better parents clients often ask me “What is the best way to raise my child?”.
A mompreneur who found her to way to therapy always brushed her concern for her daughter’s delayed milestones. Nonetheless, within her harbored fears of her daughter’s delayed development. The relief she experienced when her daughter finally moved from crawling and babbling to walking and specific speech within a week was testimony to her latent anxiety. In therapy, she discovered that her personal blocks of “being the best mother” and “giving her child the best” made her create an artificial environment of protection for her daughter. Like her most parents engage in “over-protection” out of fear for their child. Her daughter lived in a bubble of no-effort and fragility.
While working with her in therapy I uncovered Nassim Taleb’s work on Anti-fragility and found its relevance in parenting. He identifies and defines three key terms.
- Fragile – when you break under stress. A lot like glass.
- Reboust – when you remain the same even when you’re exposed to stress. Think a plastic cup.
- Anti-fragile – when you become stronger even when you are exposed to stress. Think the muscle in your body that has broken down post an intense workout and recovered stronger
Children are born anti-fragile, it is the environment that enables or restricts this.
How do you create an environment conducive for learning to be anti-fragile?
- Teach them how to Problem Solve – this is the most crucial take away you can have from this post. Equipping your child with the ability to problem solve is important. As a parent, do not jump to provide solutions – encourage a train of thoughts that help them work through difficult situations. A useful guide for this is using open-ended questions and brainstorming. This encourages a thinking style and helps focus it to a solution. A kid should develop their own problem – solving skills.
- Emotional Bond – cultivate caring relationships with your kids. This means undivided attention when communicating with them, listening to what they say, providing physical comfort (hugs, kisses, high-fives) and discussing with them rather than telling them. Emotional bonds grow if you equip your kids with the skills to identify their emotions and the emotions in others. This helps them make sense of what they are experiencing and reassures them that unpleasant things pass.
- Healthy Risk-Taking Appetite – Encourage them to try different sports, and other extra-curricular activities. They should stick to what they are good at but also add areas they have not explored. Exploring unexplored paths instills a sense of willingness to try – and takes away any complacency.
- Embrace Mistakes – fear of failure is a battle most adults struggle with therapy, it starts in childhood. Encourage an appetite that is fearless and unashamed. Learning to live despite fear to achieve goals can be your biggest gift to your child. Reframe the negative thoughts
- Teach DE stressing – demonstrate simple and effective strategies your child can use to work in a stressful situation. This can include deep breathing, Tim Farris Fear Setting, and the regularity of physical exercise.
Our desire to do the best for our children often causes more harm and danger to their development. The one suggestion for every mother is that you have no control over the experiences of your child, the only thing you can give them is a strong foundation of resilience, trust, and anti-fragility. The hope that this too shall pass, as they grow stronger.