6 Bad Pieces of Advice to Kids That You're Not Aware You're Giving
As parents, it's important for us to teach our kids how to become better people later on. But more often than not, we give them bad advice and we don't even realize it.
We only want what’s best for our children. That is the mantra of every parent in the world. You give them advice and hope for the best. But did it ever occur to you maybe you’re the one giving bad advice to kids?
Emma Seppälä, the Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education thinks so, too. She believes that not only do we give bad advice, but we can’t help but give some common ones too.
Seppälä made a list of common bad advice to kids. You can find the full account on her website. Below are some highlights:
Bad advice to kids #1: Focus on the future. Keep your eyes on the prize.
What we should be telling them: Live (or work) in the moment.
“It’s hard to stay tightly focused. 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. This leads to negative emotions like anger, regret, and stress.
“It’s certainly good for children to have goals they’re working toward. But instead of always encouraging them to focus on what’s next on their to-do list, help them stay focused on the task or conversation at hand.”
Bad advice to kids #2: Stress is inevitable – keep pushing yourself.
What we should be telling them instead: Learn to chill out.
“Children are feeling anxious at younger and younger ages, worrying about grades and feeling pressure to do better at school. Most distressingly, we’re even seeing stress-induced suicides in children.
“…We can’t change the work and life demands that we face at work and at school. But we can use techniques such as meditation, yoga and breathing to better deal with the pressures we face.”
Bad advice to kids #3: Stay busy.
What we should be telling them: Have fun doing nothing.
“Children can turn any situation — whether they are sitting in a waiting room or walking to school — into an opportunity for play. They may also choose calming activities like reading a book, taking the dog for a walk, or simply lying under a tree and staring up at the clouds.
“The point here is not to never challenge them or deprive them of opportunities for learning, the point is not to over-schedule and over commit them to the point where they don’t have opportunities to learn independent play, to be with themselves and daydream, to learn to be happy just being rather than always doing.”
Bad advice to kids #4: 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.
“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 of identifying your child’s strengths, teach them that they actually can learn anything – as long as they try.”
Bad advice to kids #5: Know your weaknesses, and don’t be soft.
What we should be telling them: Treat yourself well.
“We also tend to think that criticism is important for self-improvement. But while self-awareness is of course important, parents often inadvertently teach their children to be too self-critical. If a parent tells a child that she should try to be more outgoing, for example, the child may internalize that as a criticism of her naturally introverted personality.
“Instead, parents should encourage children to develop attitudes of self-compassion. This means treating yourself as you would a friend in times of failure or pain. This doesn’t mean that your children should be self-indulgent or let themselves off the hook when they mess up. It simply means that they learn not to beat themselves up.”
Bad advice to kids #6: It’s a dog-eat-dog world – so look out for number one.
What we should be telling them: Show compassion to others.
“Research shows that, from childhood onward, our social connections are the most important predictor of health, happiness, and even longevity. Having positive relationships with other people is essential for our well-being. This, in turn, influences our intellectual abilities and ultimate success.
“Children are naturally compassionate and kind. But as psychologist Jean Twenge has written in her book Generation Me, young people are also becoming increasingly self-involved. So it’s important to encourage children’s natural instincts to care about other people’s feelings and learn to put themselves in other people’s shoes.”
It doesn’t have to be advice: just help
Sometimes, we don’t need to teach them how to get ahead. We only need to give them what they need, and help them to enjoy being children. We need only communicate, build trust and make them feel loved.
When we teach kids what’s important and what it means to be a good human being, you’re already setting them up for life.