5 Tips for Raising More Resilient Kids

I’m at a hockey tournament this weekend where my son’s team has faced some serious competition. It’s been interesting to see how some kids easily shake off the losses and move on, while others carry the full weight of it on their shoulders (never mind that it’s a team sport). And it’s been hard watching the kids in the latter group struggle from game to game, their negativity making it more and more difficult to succeed.  As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience and how to give our kids the skills they need to come back from a defeat, hockey or otherwise, ready to play.

So how can we raise more resilient kids?

1. Unconditional love. We loved our children with all our hearts when they were infants unable to do anything other than poop, pee and cry. They didn’t have to do anything or be anything to earn that love. Our children can more easily tolerate failure when they know beyond any doubt that our love will always be there, that they will always be loveable, regardless of their achievements or life’s circumstances. With confidence in the unshakability of your unconditional love, their sense of self-worth will come from who they are intrinsically, not what they’ve accomplished or where they stand in the win/loss column.

2. Present Moment Awareness. Teaching our kids simple mindfulness practices gives them a way to stay connected to what is happening in the present moment without getting emotionally caught up in the mind’s stories of what might have happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. Whatever is going on, present moment awareness teaches us that each moment is fresh and new. And this awareness that whatever is happening is just in this moment makes it easier to relax into the situation with an open heart and mind and rebound from adversity with grace and a willingness to wait and see what happens next.

3. Set an Example. Children learn from what we do, not what we say. If we want resilient children we need to model resiliency ourselves. It’s hard to preach grace under pressure to the same people who see us make a big drama out of each of life’s small disappointments. As one of my teachers likes to say, “If this is how you handle a burnt piece of toast, what will you do when your house burns down?” Let your child see you surf the waves of your life experience with dignity and a positive attitude and they just might learn not to sweat the small stuff.

4. Let them fail. It is our failures, not our successes, that teach us to be resilient. When the worst possible thing happens and the world doesn’t end, we learn how to tolerate and even benefit from defeat and disappointment. We’ve all heard about helicopter parents. My son’s school likes to talk about snowplow parents – the parents who constantly clear the way for their children so that everything is smooth and easy. These parents aren’t doing their kids any favors. How are their children going to develop the skills they need to navigate the difficulties of life if their life is never actually difficult?  Just like when they were toddlers figuring out how to walk, sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to let them fall and figure out on their own how to get up again. For more about this, I highly recommend The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel.

5. Encourage a Talent or Sport. The acquisition of any talent requires practice and perseverance. Whether learning something totally new or taking their skills to the next level, the path is seldom a smooth upward trajectory. There will inevitably be lost games, less than perfect performances, and bitter moments of frustration and disappointment. But there will also be real achievements and moments of great joy. Children who are given the opportunity to experience the tangible rewards that come from sticking with something, even during the tough times, develop a confidence that allows them to overcome the bumps in the road that life may throw their way.

What do you do to encourage your child’s resiliency? Share your story here.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>