6 Pieces of Bad Advice We Give Kids

Posted on July 28, 2017

Most parents want their kids to be successful in life — and so we teach them attitudes that we believe will help them achieve their goals. But as I learned while researching my book The Happiness Track, many widely-held theories about what it takes to be successful are proving to be counterproductive.

Sure, they may produce results in the short term. But eventually, they lead to burnout and — get this — less success. Here are a few of the most damaging things many of us are currently teaching our children about success, and what to teach them instead.

What we tell our kids: Focus on the future. Keep your eyes on the prize. What we should be telling them: Live (or work) in the moment. Research shows our minds tend to wander 50% of the time we’re awake. And when our minds wander, we often start to brood over the past or worry about the future — thereby leading to negative emotions like anger, regret, and stress.

A mind that is constantly trying to focus upon the future — from getting good grades to applying to colleges — will be prone to greater anxiety and fear. While a little bit of stress can serve as a motivator, long-term chronic stress impairs our health as well as our intellectual faculties, such as attention and memory. As a consequence, focusing too hard on the future can actually impair our performance.

What we tell our kids: Play to your strengths. What we should be telling them: Make mistakes and learn to fail.

Parents tend to identify their children by their strengths and the activities that come naturally to them. They say their child is a “ a math person,” a “people person,” or “an artist.” But research by Stanford University’s Carol Dweck shows that this mindset actually boxes your child into a persona, and makes them less likely to want to try new things that they may not be good at. When a kid receives praise primarily for being athletic, for example, they’re less likely to want to leave their comfort zone and try out for drama club. This can make them more anxious and depressed when faced with failure or challenges. Why? Because they believe that, if they encounter obstacles in a given area, that make them “not good at” the activity.

But our brains are wired to learn new things. And it can only be a good thing to learn from our mistakes while we’re young. So instead identifying your child’s strengths, teach them that they actually can learn anything — as long as they try. Research by Dweck, author of best-selling book Mindset on this topic, shows children will then be more optimistic and even enthusiastic in the face of challenges, knowing that they just need to give it another go to improve. And they will be less likely to feel down about themselves and their talents.


Category(s):Life Purpose / Meaning / Inner-Guidance, Parenting

Source material from Psychology Today


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