13 things mentally strong parents don't do

Chris Ivey / Wellbeing

Children’s development is not usually something that takes centre stage in day-to-day life, but it’s often the day-to-day practices that make up the bigger picture!

08 March 2018

Dear St Andrew’s community,

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been wrestling with the some of the issues being raised about  children and the impact that technology is having on their emotional, social, intellectual and physical development.  There are all sorts of calls for various ways to manage some of the issues, and I think that it would be wise for our School Community to be as educated as we can on the subject. It seems to me that it’s the sort of issue that is not something that we can ‘fix’ further down the track.

SAIL (St Andrew’s Institute of Learning) have spent the first few weeks of the year developing a series of events where we will invite speakers into the College to share with parents their insights into issues affecting our children, not just technology challenges.  Each speaker will provide us with practical solutions; however, their impact will only be as effective as our ability to instil them within our daily routines.  It is tough being a parent with so much around us rapidly changing. I think we need to both support and encourage each other in this marathon effort.  We need to be confident in our roles. Perhaps the following statement is helpful to remember:

"The most important thing about children is to prepare them properly for responsible citizenship. The primary objective should not be to raise a straight A student who also excels in three sports and becomes a prominent brain surgeon. Our primary objective is to raise a child such that community and culture are strengthened." - John Rosemond

Children’s development is not usually something that takes centre stage in day-to-day life, but it’s often the day-to-day practices that make up the bigger picture! Our family doesn’t always get it right but we do try to maintain the daily practices that we have learnt along the way after 21 years of doing the parenting ‘gig’. Daily chores, mealtimes together at a table, no excuses for not doing something that kids don’t want to do, carrying all their own gear both at school and when travelling, organising themselves the night before, no technology in bedrooms and the modem goes off in the evening after homework. We have found that these are helpful to us as parents and with four kids, clear, steadfast rules produce calmer kids and a calmer environment!

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist at Northeastern University, Boston. In her book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do (2013), Morin aims to support parents to raise strong, confident children who will mature into capable adults. She cautions us that a confident, strong-minded child is not one who never experiences sadness, disappointment and hurt. Rather, instilling mental and psychological strength makes children resilient to and helps them cope with setbacks, anxiety and fear so they can reach their potential. Morin identifies 13 common parenting practices that can prevent children developing resilience and mental strength; her advice is equally salient for teachers and other care-givers:

  1. Condoning a victim mentality: Rejection, failure and unfairness are part of life. How many times do we hear our kids say ‘It’s not fair!”.  Teach children that no matter how difficult or unjust the situation is, they can always take positive action.
  2. Parenting out of guilt: Giving in to guilt and saying ‘yes’ after previously saying ‘no’ teaches children that we can’t cope with it. Children (and adults!) need to be able to confidently say no when appropriate so they can make wise decisions (for example: choose not to go to that teenage party if they feel it’s inappropriate or “let me copy your homework”). Then they can confidently take care of themselves.
  3. Making children the centre of the universe: If our choices and decisions revolve around our children’s, they grow up thinking it’s normal. Children then behave as if the world owes them something. Self-absorbed, entitled adults make poor partners, work colleagues and members of the community.
  4. Allowing fear to dictate choices: Its instinctive to want to protect our children, but if we don’t let them take age-appropriate and responsible risks, they learn that fear or uncertainty must always be avoided. Instead, teach them courage by helping them to face fear/ anxiety and step outside their comfort zones. Start small and then they will learn to cope with and assess the bigger risks as they grow.
  5. Giving children power over themselves: If children dictate what is for dinner or how family leisure time is spent, they are being given more power than they are developmentally capable of handling. Treating children like equals robs them of mental strength. Instead, allow them age-appropriate choices that still maintain parental authority. For example, ‘tonight we can have chicken or chops, which do you prefer?’.  We need to teach children to follow instructions promptly, eat things they don’t like, and do things they don’t want to do.
  6. Expecting perfection: High expectations are healthy, but expecting perfection is not. It’s ok to fail and completely normal not to be the best at everything or even anything! Help children strive to become the best version of themselves, not the best at everything. This instils self-worth that is not dependent on how they measure up to others, real or imagined.
  7. Allowing children to avoid responsibility: Sometimes it’s easier to do things ourselves than to ensure children do their chores (e.g., unpacking a lunchbox, making a bed, tidying up after leaving a mess). And sometimes we give into the temptation of letting our children be carefree, because in that moment they are playing happily. But doing age-appropriate tasks at home as part of family life doesn’t burden children; rather, it gives them the mental strength to be good citizens, partners and parents.
  8. Shielding children from pain: Hurt feelings, sadness, and anxiety are a part of life, and experiencing painful feelings gives us the chance to learn how to tolerate discomfort. This is often how we learn best. Children need guidance and support to deal with negative emotions so they can handle life’s inevitable hardships.
  9. Feeling responsible for children’s emotions: When parents pander to sadness and tantrums, we unwittingly take responsibility for regulating our children’s emotions. However, children need to develop emotional competence; that is, learn to manage their own feelings. Proactively teach children healthy ways to self cope with emotions so they are not dependent on others to do it for them.
  10. Preventing children from making mistakes: Natural consequences are some of life’s greatest teachers! Let children ‘stuff’ up sometimes (e.g., forgetting their homework, lunch or PE gear) so they can learn from their mistakes and become stronger and wiser.
  11. Confusing discipline with punishment: Punishment is about inflicting suffering; discipline is about teaching children to do better in future and make good choices. Imposed discipline leads to self-discipline, and consequences help children develop the self-discipline to make better choices.
  12. Taking shortcuts to avoid discomfort: Giving in to whining, nagging or an emotional outburst might make our lives easier in the short term, but it is not good for our children in the long term. We need to model delayed gratification and show children we can resist tempting shortcuts. This helps our children become strong enough to persevere when it’s tempting to give up.
  13. Losing sight of the big picture values: The demands of day-to-day life can cause us to lose sight of the big picture. We need to make the effort to ensure our priorities reflect the things we really value in life, like service to others, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, and a desire to always be truthful to ourselves and others.

St Andrew’s aims to assist and support parents in their role of parenting, we have pastoral staff in place to help your children with daily issues, however please be aware that parents can also contact the College if they need assistance or guidance when issues crop up. We hope that by offering external speakers to give their expertise that this will also help to build up parents in their job of raising responsible citizens who confidently strengthen both their community and our culture in the future.

Reverend Chris Ivey



Morin, A. (2017). Mentally strong kids have parents who refuse to do these 13 things. Parent Co. https://www.parent.com/mentally-strong-kids-have-parents-who-refuse-to-d... Accessed 1 March, 2018.

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Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

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