The lives we build can be boiled down to a series of choices and decisions that we make. If they are reasonable, we tend to live a good life in which we feel happy, productive, and satisfied.
These decisions and choices stem from our mindsets, which start to form and take shape from day one. The information we get from our surroundings and interactions with other people influence our belief system and help make up our mindsets.
But those interactions with the environment can be both good and bad. So, they affect our brains positively or negatively. And this is something we cannot control. Yes, we can surely try as much as we can to choose who we want to be around. However, everything that is meant to happen to us, no matter good or bad, will just happen to us.
In essence, building good mindsets is complicated. It is pretty challenging to closely monitor the information we get exposed as our minds absorb it nonstop, often without us even realising it. To do that, one must develop a high level of self-awareness, which is also a skill that takes years to build.
But another thing we can do to help build positive mindsets is learning mental skills.
As the name suggests, mental skills are, yes, skills that our brains use to gain, understand, deal with, and utilise information. You may think of them as tools. The mind uses these tools to process information for the best of our lives, especially when it comes to learning and solving problems.
Mental skills are mandatory because they enable us to perform, work, and live at our full potential.
Such skills may also be called cognitive skills because they are directly related to obtaining knowledge, understanding thoughts, and growing through experience. Some like to call them psychological skills since they are related to the mind.
Examples of mental skills
Despite the importance of mental skills and how much our success depends on them, they are a little (or, to be honest, a lot) hard to obtain, measure, and retain.
We can indeed learn the steps to making a good decision, but we will never be sure of how well we understand them until it is time to make a decision. And it can be even tricky because every situation has different circumstances, which sometimes can make decision-making complicated.
But like any other skill, mental skills are honed by practice or will go blunt by non-use. That is why it is essential to learn mental skills from a young age. As kids practise these skills while they grow up, they will be able to sharpen them along the way to use them when they are much needed.
So here are five of the most important mental skills kids need to learn that will, hopefully, positively impact their lives.
Concentration is a mental power. It means paying attention to one thing at the moment. When we get exposed to information, concentration is what makes us understand and make use of it. Concentration also enables us to indulge in the experiences we have, which increases happiness and joy.
For kids, concentration is significant because it helps them grasp their school lessons, perform better, and recall this information when needed.
However, our, as well as kids’ concentration, is being aggressively attacked by the Druun of smartphones—Have you watched Disney’s animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon? No? Druun is a fictional fire-like plague that takes away anything that stands in its way.
And this is what smartphones do to our concentration.
Nowadays, in the era of social media and the Tik Tok revolution, concentration is the most vital skill to teach youngsters. If you look around, wherever you happen to be, you will find that 99% of the kids from the age of four (sometimes even younger than that) are glued to their parents’ (or their own) smartphones.
Over the past two decades, kids gradually exchanged almost every physical activity with mobile phones. They, just like everyone else, are fascinated by the virtual life they find on social media. So they spend hours and hours mindlessly scrolling, leaving their emotions and thoughts to be manipulated by everything they see, read, or hear.
As they spend so much time on smartphones, kids get exposed to a massive stream of information that is too much for their brains to understand. Such a case is known as brain overload, which eventually makes the kids unable to process or utilise the information. So their brains lose focus, and the kids constantly become distracted.
Increasing distraction in most kids threatens the development of their brains, their learning experience in and out of school, and their ability to make good decisions.
So to help kids improve their focus, parents can encourage their kids to
- Eliminate screen time and replace it with enjoyable activities
- Do one thing at a time
- Work in sessions, with each lasting for 15 to 20 minutes
- Observe things around them at the moment
- Make eye contact when speaking to others
2. Emotion management
While this term might sound a little serious, managing emotions is vital for kids to help them be aware of themselves by paying attention to what triggers the different emotions. Understanding emotions in this way makes it easy for the kids to communicate them to their parents and teachers, who should, in this case, teach the kids how to deal with them.
And to help kids manage their emotions, parents first need to identify emotions and the situations in which they occur. Then, they need to encourage their kids to open up about those emotions. This is one way of emotion management, to be able to point out and articulate how they feel.
Parents can also help kids by distracting them from certain emotions, such as anger, once it hits. Or they can help their kids avoid the situation altogether and avoid those unpleasant emotions.
Also, identifying others’ emotions can help kids pay more attention to feelings in general and theirs in particular. For instance, parents can motivate kids to watch other kids, identify how they might feel, and think about why they feel so.
In short, confidence is the belief that someone can rely on someone else or even something. In this respect, self-confidence refers to the profound belief that one can depend on themselves to do the things they want to do.
Such a belief is the driving force that pushes us through life. Someone with good self-confidence can always be ready for whatever they encounter. That is because they believe, deep down, that they have what it takes to deal with new experiences or at least find a way to do so.
As a result, kids with self-confidence are more likely to move forward in life, embrace new experiences, widen their views, and take up new opportunities.
Self-confidence also empowers motivation. Those who are confident can go on despite the obstacles they encounter since they know they will do whatever it takes to overcome them.
Even if they fail, their strong belief in themselves will push them to try again and again. And these two skills are key to success, always trying and keeping going.
The best way to help kids build self-confidence is by recognition and praise. Recognition tells kids that others see them and appreciate their effort. It makes them feel understood, accepted, and supported. The first and easiest way to recognise kids is first by calling them by their names. This makes them feel important.
Recognition coming first also helps with giving feedback. Everyone, young or old, will be able to accept whatever mistakes they made if they were sandwiched between two thick pieces of praise.
Praise and recognition also increase kids’ self-awareness. When parents or teachers recognise something good kids make, the kids pay more attention to it and themselves in general.
With self-awareness, self-recognition can also increase. Kids need to learn to take pride in what they achieve but in a way that does not stop growth. This highly boosts their self-confidence, which again manifests motivation.
Self-confidence is key to problem-solving. If kids believe they can overcome an obstacle, they will be more likely to persist to overcome it.
But many other kids do not do that, too. Once they hit a brick wall, they are more likely to ignore it altogether and find something else to indulge in. If such a behaviour is as consistent as to become a habit, kids will grow dependent on others.
In this case, parents must assist their kids in facing that brick wall and solving the problem.
This can happen, first, by assuring the kids that there is a solution and that they will feel happy once they find it.
Parents should not try to fix the problem while kids watch. But it is much better to guide them through finding the solution. By asking the kids the right questions, they help them find the solution themselves.
Praise should follow as the kids come along and solve the problem. This will boost their self-confidence and make it less likely for them to escape the problem the next time.
Attempting to solve a problem encourages kids to think and observe the different elements of the problem and think beyond the problem itself. To develop these skills, parents do not have to wait until a problem happens.
There are many activities to encourage kids to practise problem-solving, such as doing jigsaw puzzles. They require concentration because kids need to observe the pieces’ shapes and colours and check whether or not they fit in with other pieces. This activity also requires patience and persistence.
Speaking from a long personal experience, finishing a jigsaw puzzle, especially if it is a little challenging, sparks feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment, and confidence. That is why it is a great suggestion to help kids practise problem-solving.
Another enjoyable activity that enhances problem-solving is playing a treasure hunt. This requires kids to decipher cues to find hidden objects. Besides all the excitement, joy, and challenge treasure hunts provide, they push kids to think and work out the problem, in this case, the cue, to find the reward.
It also teaches them the most vital concept of success: no pain, no gain.
One vital factor to success is developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset means that one believes they can work hard, build their skills and abilities, and improve. And the skill that empowers this mindset is motivation.
But what is motivation in the first place? And where does it come from?
Defined as the force that drives us to take action, motivation can be obtained from external sources, such as our parents, friends, teachers, or even books and folks on YouTube.
Or, it can come from the inside, from our interests, beliefs, desires, or goals. They give us the reason why we are doing what we are doing. And as long as this reason is valid, we are more likely to stick to that action and keep going.
Experts say that self-motivation, not external motivation, is what people should rely on when it comes to taking action. That is because external motivation does not usually give us a reason for taking a particular action. And even when it does, most of the time, this reason is not relatable since it did not come from the inside of us. And with the first obstacle that hits, we will probably quit rather than continue.
But for children who are still taking baby steps in identifying what they like and what they do not, it can be hard to let them rely on their internal motivation. Instead, parents need to motivate them all the time and gradually build their self-motivation.
Come to think of it. There is no problem with anyone doing something they love. But motivation is especially vital when doing important but unpleasant stuff. This kind of motivation is key to teaching kids discipline. Children need discipline to pick up their toys and put them back where they belong, make their beds, brush their teeth, finish their meals, stop eating sweets, etc.
Helping kids build discipline from a young age will make it easy for them to build necessary habits, like studying well, not procrastinating, sleeping early, and sticking to a workout routine.
Motivation is also important in staying consistent and building momentum. That means parents must keep motivating their kids to build good habits since they always try to swoop in and do something more enjoyable.
In other words, parents need to stay consistent with motivating their kids to stay consistent with what their parents want them to do.
Another plus point of motivation is that it helps kids overcome challenges. Whether they have to build a 200-piece Lego house or do maths problems, motivation will help kids to try again, stay patient, and think differently to overcome that challenge. And as we have mentioned before, overcoming challenges boosts kids’ self-confidence. So it is a win-win.
And here comes the importance of a tip we mentioned earlier, praise. Parents can motivate their kids by praising them for the effort they are putting in and the progress they are making.
Reassurance and positive talk shall also help kids give their best.
Well, that is not all about mental skills, but that is all we have for today.
In this article, we discussed the meaning of mental skills and how vital they are in living a quality life in which people align with their values and personal qualities.
Then, we discussed five of the most important mental skills kids should learn from a young age. We pointed out how vital concentration is in learning, gaining, retaining, and utilising information. Concentration is incredibly indispensable now since kids (and adults, too) are highly distracted by technology.
After that, we moved to managing emotions, a skill that, when acquired, will help kids be more self-aware and grow up paying more attention to their feelings.
Finally, we discussed three interconnected skills that serve one another: confidence, problem-solving, and motivation. By boosting kids’ self-confidence, they will be more motivated to go forward and ready to solve the problems that pop up on their way.
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