Ever wondered if you are doing it right in how to build a resilient child? Maybe you are too anxious or overprotective? Here are 10 parenting tips to help you stay on track and make sure that your kid will bounce back from setbacks and grow up much more confident, independent and resilient. The good news is that resilience skills can be taught.
Why Kids Need to be Resilient
Kids have to adapt to changes and they have to face obstacles and setbacks. Just one of the normal aspects of life. They have to get used to a new class, new braces on their teeth, challenges with homework, not being selected for the school team, getting low grades or the arrival of a new sibling.
I dread it when I hear about parents who complain that the teacher has merely ticked off their child or when there is the slightest problem. We are talking about very minor issues here.
Every time I hear parents telling kids what to do and how to do it, I sometimes wonder when they will stop and actually let the kids do the thing themselves without having to be told. The other extreme is perhaps where parents overload their kids with French lessons, Mandarin and tutors every afternoon so that they are on the fast track for the right university. Yes, they are the ones who are prepared to pay up to $450 an hour for a nursery consultant to do just that.
Parents do not need to go to these extremes because teaching children resilience will help them to overcome obstacles on the sports field and in the classroom without ever having to pay for a nursery consultant!
Parenting Tips on How to Build a Resilient Child
1. Stop being overprotective
If you are anxious all the time, they will grow up anxious and worried, just like you! The world’s worst mom Lenore Skenazy Free Range Kids taught her kid a few skills about traveling alone on the subway and it worked out fine. You have to make sure that they know what to do, take them a few times and then let them learn by baby steps.
It is great to role play certain situations with them too, before letting them out on their own. Read the post here where she explains all about overprotective parents effects and how negative it can be in making kids more resilient. An excellent read is a book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children by Wilson and Lyons.
2. Try to become redundant
This is the excellent advice given by Michael Grose the Australian parenting expert who advocates that parents should always be on the lookout for opportunities when your presence or intervention is no longer necessary.
Kids can actually do something for themselves without you stepping up to the plate all the time. They can learn bit by bit and it gives them a great sense of achievement and confidence too. Always look out for teachable moments.
“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” – Robert A. Heinlein
3. Teach a positive mindset
Just by telling your kids that when something goes wrong, it is bound to go better tomorrow is not really ideal. This is all part of the inner strengths that they are going to need such as better self-control, developing thinking skills with the aim of solving the problem and also using the negative experience as a learning lesson.
Do not hide your emotions but show that you too have to get over problems and bounce back as well. Show your child that there is no harm in expressing emotions but also stress there are ways to cope and deal with them. Studies show that having good role models helps people, in general, to be more resilient.
4. Listen to your child
If the child does not feel loved or wanted, it may well be that he or she is getting messages that you are too busy right now! Some experts say that listening to your child when they are troubled is like giving them a bit of emotional first aid.
One of the best reactions when listening to a child’s problem is to echo their feelings by saying something like ‘I bet that must have been really disappointing’, rather than repeating some platitudes such as, ‘You’ll be OK.’
The problem with the latter statement is that the child is anything but reassured and that the problem is not really being addressed. The child perhaps feels uncomfortable that she has this problem at all!
5. Make sure kids are active at home
Are you one of the 66% of American parents who believe that their kids are spoiled rotten, as Elizabeth Kolbert points out in her excellent article in the New Yorker? As she mentions, if kids are not taught to dress themselves or help around the house in preparing, clearing up their mess and a host of other things, we are raising spoiled and demanding kids who will never be self-sufficient.
They are also likely to turn into rather selfish and demanding adults. If you teach them to help around the house, they will become more responsible, more empathic and more helpful.
6. Encourage problem-solving
When they meet an obstacle or something goes all wrong. Sympathize and empathize by all means. Then ask them what happened and why they think it all went wrong. It could be something to do with self-control and being too impulsive.
Maybe they did not train hard enough for the school team. Perhaps they were careless about homework and so on. Ask them how they are going to approach this problem the next time around. A great test of a resilient child is when you know that she or he is approaching an issue as a problem to be solved and not one where they just expect help and support.
You will be encouraging them to take the steps to get there. A good example is in helping them to solve the problem of what they should eat. Instead of rejecting junk food by saying ‘no’ firmly, help them to think of other choices. Offer two possibilities which will help them to choose more wisely. Cooking together is also a great way to get them involved.
7. Set realistic goals
Maybe you are expecting too much from your child because his abilities in certain areas are not that great. You are the one who knows his talents and limitations and above all, his temperament the best.
When it comes to behavior, this is important but it is even more crucial that the child feels above all your love and support in achieving these goals. An excellent way is to help the child see goals as a sort of contract where rewards and responsibilities are clearly defined.
8. Don’t give them everything they want
They have to learn patience when waiting in line or when waiting to be served food at a restaurant. They should be encouraged to give toys away at regular intervals and also to show empathy towards children and adults less fortunate than themselves.
It is also a great eye opener when they realize that the world is full of injustice and inequality. They are prepared better for hard knocks when they are more aware of poverty and injustice. They will also grow up to be more tolerant and generous citizens. They will also understand that they can be caring members of a community.
9. Teach them about challenges
Every struggle, hard task, and difficulty are to be seen as a challenge. Let them grapple with these. Support them and encourage them but above all, help them to understand that this is just another challenge to overcome and that life dishes out a fair amount of these!
Teaching them that every challenge is a way to make them stronger and more confident is really important. Persistence in learning is another important aspect of overcoming obstacles.
10. Help them to move out of their comfort zone and build relationships
Encourage kids to talk to kids who are different in nationality or race. Teach them to be color blind but also to move outside their comfort zone. Ask them to try a new game, different food or a different sport.
Again, there will be an element of a challenge here which is a great way to build confidence and resilience. The key is developing supportive relationships as outlined in the video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard.
“The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.” – Benedict Cumberbatch
Learning a few tactics such as the tips above will guide you in how to build a resilient child. If you note that your child is independent and confident but also more caring towards others, then you can give yourself a pat on the back because it looks like you have raised a resilient kid which is a lot more than many parents even bother to think about, let alone actually put into practice.