Putdowns, failure; it’s every day from birth to death. Alan’s put down about his thousand freckles. A baby cries and doesn’t get milk right away, failure. Eighty-year-old Elizabeth loses all her savings in a stock market crash, failure. Think skin is required from early on to protect children from life’s hard knocks.
Let’s make sure we know how to make the best thick skin for your child before we get to the tips.
All parents know that children are very sensitive about getting their feelings hurt. This inside part is where parents must start to develop a child’s thick skin, making the child feel strong about himself on the inside. But don’t let him think he’s better than everyone else; that requires teaching humility.
Then there’s the outside part, the part that gives the best responses to people when putdowns happen. The responses need to be strong but not hurtful. This can be tricky, but it’s doable.
Now for the tried and tested three tips.
1. Teach inside self-worth. Focus on strengths, especially during disciplining. By the time your child is two, write down all of your child’s strengths and find ways to notice them daily. When your tween yells at you for limiting texting time, say, “It’s so awesome that you have so many friends, but we need to set texting limits.” Inside strength is the foundation for the right thick skin.
2. Teach outside thick-skinned responses. Provide your child with coping tools and practice daily. Make sure your child can tell you anything from the get go. Liz sobs at the dinner table about her first day of middle school; two kids said her dress looked dumb. Follow these two steps: (1) listen and validate her inside feelings (strengthens inside worth) and (2) role play outside responses. Teach her to say, “I really like my dress” as she turns away confidently. Thick skin comes with practice.
3. Teach compassion and humility-the lifeblood of true happiness. Caring for others mixed with “you’re as important as I am” is a recipe for an abundant life. Show and tell will activate your child’s internal compassion wiring. Examples: Schedule a monthly afternoon to help an elderly couple. Or, when your teenager rants about how mean the teacher is, point out how the teacher lost her father in a car accident and how that can cause crankiness.
Your child needs thick skin to live life abundantly. Make sure its core ingredient is compassion.