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The Two Skills Your Child Needs for a Successful Life

Life is easier and more fulfilling for children who can cope in these two ways.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates of anxiety, depression, anger, and overall stress have risen among children and teens. Given these daunting challenges, as parents, we must, now more than ever, help our children become skilled at dealing with life's demands.

There are many essential skills that are essential for children to learn to have a productive life. A few examples include communication, technology, financial literacy, writing, and organizational skills. Perhaps you can add to this list.

As I reflect on my over 30 years of work as a psychologist, I have now logged 45,000-plus hours of counseling sessions. I don't claim to know it all. Yet, when it comes to what it takes for a child of any age to thrive in a highly competitive world, I believe we can boil it down to two crucial skills.

  1. How to regulate emotions
  2. How to problem-solve through challenges

Briefly, self-regulation of emotions means your child can calm down and cope with their feelings on their own. They can manage stressful situations or know how to remove themselves from them. Problem-solving involves acknowledging problems, reflecting on ways to manage them, and applying the best solutions. (For more, see my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child.)

The great news is that you can teach and inspire your child to regulate their emotions and problem-solve.

4 Ways You Can Help Your Child Regulate Their Emotions and Problem-Solve

Modeling and inspiring successfully managing emotions and problem-solving is your gift that keeps on giving to your children. Here are four ways to do it:

1. Model a growth mindset for self-care. The more your child sees you practice self-care for your emotional health, the more they will instinctually know to take care of their own. Be committed to continually working on your own calming and problem-solving skills.

2. Use calming techniques. Too many parents tell their kids to calm down without first demonstrating ways to regulate those big emotions in the first place. We mistakenly believe that managing our lives should be an autopilot-like experience. It's not. From the time our feet hit the floor in the morning, we are confronted with demands and challenges. We need to use tools to manage these challenges.

Breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, helpful self-talk, gratitude, reminding ourselves of our strengths, prayer, yoga, or physical activity are just a few tools that can help you manage stress and maintain a calm state of mind.

3. Listen. Really listen. When children feel heard, they feel valued, and their self-esteem is boosted. Listening to children helps to foster open and honest communication, which can lead to more positive relationships and a deeper understanding of their perspectives. When children are allowed to express themselves, they can feel empowered to come up with solutions to their problems.

4. Talk constructively to yourself and them. Children learn by observing the behavior of those around them, so it's important to transparently and actively demonstrate calm behavior in all situations. Here is an example of what you can say when in the face of a conflict:

“There’s a reactive side of me, as your parent, that now wants to yell and get controlling. Just being aware and expressing this is helping me stay calmer. How about we talk this out so we can understand each other better?”


Abrams, Z. (2023). Kids’ mental health is in crisis. Here’s what psychologists are doing to help.

Bernstein, J. (2023) 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (3rd. Ed.), Hachette Books, New York, NY.

Day, N. (2023). 120 Emotional Self-Regulation Ideas for Kids,

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health.

Univeristy of Chicago Urgan Labs. (2023). Reducing Violence and Increasing Graduation.

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