Why Resilience Is One Of The Most Important Things We Need To Teach Our Kids.
No parent wants to see their child in pain, and most parents will do everything in their power to protect their children from any sort of pain or suffering. But are we creating a generation of ‘soft’ kids who can’t handle the pressures of being an adult in the future? The sad truth is, yes.
Most adults have plenty of war stories about the tough times in their childhoods, and most of us, if we were honest, are pretty grateful for most of it as it’s shaped us into the awesome humans we are today. Only problem is, it’s made us so strong that we foresee danger and every fiber in our body wants to ensure our kids never endure the hurt that we went through. But are we robbing them of building their own growth and resilience? Unfortunately, yes.
The big one for me is I’ve been protecting my kids from toxic relatives that I don’t want to emotionally scar my children. I’ve wanted to ensure my kids never feel the pain of disappointment, or the pain of rejection, or the confusion of having a relative that lives very differently to you. But I have realised I am making a big mistake, that I am robbing my children of moments to learn what is good and bad in life, and skills and strength of character to get through the tough times in life, and of course the motivation to want more from their life than I am able to give them.
As a child, I certainly learnt what I think is good and bad and what I do and don’t want in my life. And I have been very motivated to live a different life to how I was raised, and I have certainly built up a huge resilience to life’s down moments.
But I worry that my kids have not been learning these skills because I have been protecting them so fiercely.
Sure, I in no way will put my children in any sort of danger, and I am going to be extremely challenged internally if I subject them to any sort of pain and suffering. But as they say, strength and growth only comes through continuous effort and struggle. And this is why we have to watch our kids struggle-even if we can fix it, we really shouldn’t.
We aren’t born with resilience; you can only grow resilience through, I hate to say it, pain and suffering. Think of resilience as a rubber band. You get stretched and don’t think you can stretch any further, but then you spring back stronger than ever. A rubber band knows it’s limits so that it doesn’t snap and it can spring back and forth many times and hold things together. But if a rubber band is never stretched until it’s older, then often the very first time the rubber band is stretched, it will snap first time.
So in a nutshell, we need to get comfortable with making our kids uncomfortable, and able to deal with the uncertainty of life.
So how can you help your child build resilience, problem-solving skills and the ability to deal with the uncertainty of life?
Here are 10 ways:
- Don’t solve all of your child’s problems.
Your kids lost their teddy that you said to leave at home, or forgot their drink bottle on a day out, or forgot their instrument for school. The only way they will learn and not do it again is if we don’t fix it.
- Don’t overprotect your kids.
Like I said earlier, I have been protecting my kids from certain toxic relatives and people as I don’t want them to emotionally harm or disappoint my kids. But the only way they will learn that Aunt Betty drinks too much and that it’s not good to be like Aunt Betty is if they work that out themselves and you can have a discussion about it. Kids within reason, need to be able to make decisions around what they think about people. My alcoholic Uncle taught me a lot; thus, I rarely drink as an adult.
- Don’t satisfy your child’s every need.
Going without, and working towards things is the only way our children learn the value of a dollar. If our children are like caged lions that just get fed every day, then they will laze around licking themselves expecting everything to fall at their feet. If, however, their every need isn’t being met, they will hunt, and they will learn skills to live. Sometimes they will go hungry, but they will try harder to avoid ever going hungry again.
- Teach your kids about risk.
Marbles, Pokemon cards and board games are all great ways for kids to learn about risk. My dad taught me a lot about risk through his love of gambling, and we would often play cards. He was ruthless, but it meant that when I won, I earnt it. And when I lost, I would go away, lick my wounds and losses, and work out how to do better next time. If your kids always play safe, they will never push themselves. Sure, don’t get them into gambling, but pull out some board games and teach them how to risk and lose, and risk and win and the lessons in both.
- Teach your kids how to problem solve instead of giving them the answer.
Baking, homework and Lego have been great ways for my kids to learn problem-solving skills. Pancakes aren’t fluffy – what do you think we got wrong? You got these questions wrong in your homework – do you know why? I need something to get Little Ted over to the fort, have you got any ideas of what you could make with the Lego? Get your kids to think, even ask questions like, “Why do you think the ocean is salty?” This will give you a good laugh and insight into the beautiful way your children think. When they ask a question, don’t just give them the answer, answer with “Why do you think?”
- Ask “How” instead of “Why” questions.
This frustrates me more than anything when my husband says “Why did you (insert bad behavior)?” and the child responds, “I don’t know.” Instead ask ‘how’ questions, like, “You forgot to shut the gate, and now your dogs have run away, how are you going to fix that?” To which hopefully they respond, “I’ll go look for them.” Then another ‘how’ would be, “And how are you going to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” To which hopefully they respond, “I’ll ensure I shut the gate when I go out it.” ‘How’ questions are much easier and more productive than ‘why’.
- Encourage your kids to make mistakes.
We always learn more from failing than we do from succeeding, and we learn how to fix the problems created and make better decisions next time. Like in point four, we need to encourage our kids to risk. But we also need to get them comfortable and excited about failing. Because if they are failing, it means they are pushing themselves, if they are cruising, then life is too comfortable.
- Teach your kids how to manage their emotions.
Failing, suffering, and being in pain sure means you can lose your mind, your temper, or worse feel like your life is a mess that can’t be fixed. Emotional management is the key to resilience. Teach your kids that it’s ok to feel sad, angry or any emotion for that matter but then the child needs to think about the next steps. Lost the soccer match and you are sad, “I understand you are sad, I’d be sad too. But now you have to figure out how to improve for next time. Have you got any ideas?”
- Don’t over sensationalise to make a point.
We’ve all done it. “If you don’t take this medicine I will have to take you to the hospital because you will get sicker!” Stick to the facts. “You need to take this medicine to make you better.”
- Be a great role model.
My kids have seen me get knocked down and get back up again, or hurt and in tears more times than I’d hoped. But we always talk it through, and they know that I try my hardest and that sometimes it doesn’t pay off, or that people don’t treat me right and it hurts my feelings too. This shows our kids that even adults hurt sometimes and that we too get back up again and try harder.
Resiliency helps kids navigate the inevitable trials, triumphs and tribulations of life, and gives them the tools and confidence to know that they can handle whatever life throws at them. So it’s imperative we get rid of the obsession with giving our kids the perfect childhood, because resilient kids become resilient adults that are able to survive and thrive in the face of life’s ups and downs, and that should be one of the number one aims for all parents to teach their kids.