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What is mental toughness and how can we support our kids growth

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

What is mental toughness?

Mental Toughness is not about acting tough. It’s about having the inner strength to persevere and chase personal goals. It’s about being happy in your own skin. It’s about having the confidence to get outside your comfort zone to grow.

It’s about seeing opportunities rather than threats and about dealing with pressure, stress and challenges with a positive mindset. Mental Toughness originates from elite sport, where it has been used with success for over 30 years, but applies to everyday life too – both for children and adults.

Research shows that mentally tough children perform up to 25% better in exams. They sleep better, are more engaged in the classroom and have higher aspirations. They also transition more successfully from junior to secondary education, perceive less bullying and are less likely to adopt anti-social behaviour.

How you can help your children become mentally tough?

Tip # 1 Challenge – stretch your children and help them see challenges as an opportunity to learn. Tell them it’s ok to fail and let them know that you failed many times. Remind them that with every failure, they’ve learned something. Encourage your child to ‘have a go’ at something new.

Tip # 2 Confidence – help your kids develop their self-belief and become confident in their interactions. Tell them it is ok to be scared or have fears in the classroom. Accepting these feelings is the first step and overcoming them. Remind them the power of YET! If they say they can’t do something. Tell them ‘you can’t do it YET!’ Remind your kids that everyone has their own mind and thoughts. It is good to make up your own mind and it ok to disagree every now and then.

Tip # 3 Commitment – teach them how to set and achieve goals Work with your children to set them small goals, for example brushing their teeth, making lunch or packing their school bag. Praise your child’s efforts rather than just their outcomes. Remind them that is ok to not get it right the first time, every skill requires practice and time.

Tip # 4 Control – teach your children about self-esteem, help them become comfortable in their own skin and manage their emotions. Ask your child what went well at school today. Find three positives and explore why they were good experiences. Discuss setbacks, like missing out on being chosen to be in a play, or losing a game or not being able to do something. Remind them that setbacks are a normal part of life and they will have the opportunity to try again. Talk about the events they don’t like during their day and discuss how they reacted to those. Empower them by explaining how they can choose to react to these events.

About Niels Van Hove

Niels is a Melbourne based dad of two girls, aged seven and nine. He is a Mental Toughness Coach, author and founder of He has recently released first children book, My Strong Mind. Aimed at five to eight-year-olds, My Strong Mind teaches children about resilience, confidence and a growth mindset from early childhood. My Strong Mind is available on Amazon,Booktopia and Angus and Robertson

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