Toughening up your kid

COPING

February 19, 1991|By Barbara Turk

You want your kid to grow up strong, disciplined, so the world can't hurt him. He's got to be tough enough to handle any situation and come out a winner. So, no sissy mollycoddling and lovey-dovey stuff from you. He's got to learn to toe the mark or suffer the consequences. The sooner he toughens up, the better off he'll be.

Will he? Sounds like you're training an attack dog, not raising a human being.

Of course, you want your child to become an adult who makes the most of his life. And, of course, you don't want the world to hurt him. But, realistically, the hurts will come.

Right, you say, that's exactly why he's got to be tough.

Tough? Or resilient?

Resilient implies rolling with the punches -- and bouncing back. It requires flexibility and solid self-esteem.

Toughness implies stubbornness, rigidity. It requires a closed mind and a hard, brittle shell with no inner security to back it up.

To help your child toughen up:

* Be stern; that will teach him to withdraw.

* Be punitive; that will teach him to be afraid and resentful.

* Be non-affectionate; that will teach him that he is not worthy of love.

To help your child become resilient:

* Be open-minded; that will teach him that there are many options in dealing with the world.

* Be approving of him; that will teach him confidence.

* Be affectionate; that will teach him his own value.

Helping your child recognize the world can sometimes be hurtful and providing him with the resilience to deal with it is the best protection you can give him.

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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