Teaching Our Kids Resilience: The Difference Between Being Good vs. Getting Better
Sometimes you hear about resilient kids who take on difficult tasks and don’t give up until they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. Other kids give up and throw tantrums at the simplest of things. While age is a factor, there comes a time when kids need to hold their own. But what makes some children keep going and others give up?
It’s resilience. The kids that face difficult tasks and come out successful are problem solvers. They face tough situations head-on and figure out the best solution. Despite what you may think, it’s not all about intelligence. According to Psychology Today, one’s IQ says nothing about how we face difficulties in our lives.
So, if you’re sitting there thinking, “I wish my kids were resilient!” the good news is, resilience can be taught. You would actually be doing them a favor: teaching children to problem solve in a healthy way from a young age can go a long way. It’s an important life skill, after all. Plus. It will make everyone’s lives easier.
Teaching Our Kids Resilience
The goal here is to get our kids to strive to be better, rather than be good. What’s the difference? Being good at something only shows how smart you are, whereas getting better is about developing your skills. According to Psychology Today, kids who strive to get better are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the kids who simply aim for being good. They are more likely to see a bad grade as motivation to try harder, rather than resign to the fact that they are “not good at” a particular subject.
So, how can we teach our kids this all-important life skill? These tips will get you started:
1. Talk About Challenges Before they Happen
We may not be able to predict every single trial our children will face, but there are a few we can prepare them for. Perhaps your child is moving to a new school; be sure to explain to them that it’s an opportunity for them to build a new skill, like making new friends. Avoid saying things like, “I’m sure everyone will love you.” Although you mean well, statements like that can be misleading.
2. Don’t Give in to Everything
As moms, we can be overprotective at times (okay, all the time!); but by doing so, we aren’t giving our kids a chance to develop their problem-solving abilities. Giving guidance is great, but sometimes we have to let them face relatively tough situations on their own—and this applies to children of all ages. Mommy won’t always be there to solve all their problems.
If a kid is trying to take a toy away from your child in the sandbox, wait a minute before intervening and see how they handle it on their own.
3. Encourage Age-Appropriate Risk
Wait, what? I’m not denying that part of our job as parents is to keep our children safe; but some measured risk can be a good thing. Age-appropriate risks help teach our kids life skills and allow them to discover their limits. Children can then apply what they learn as they grow older.
4. Giving Feedback
The whole point is for your child to learn, and constructive feedback is always a good thing. Focus on how they can improve, but make sure not to compare them to anyone else. They should strive to do better than they did the previous time—to compete against themselves, rather than competing against others.
For example, if your son didn’t do well on a test, shift his focus to what he can do to improve his own grade, rather than what he can do to be the best in the entire class. If he got a ‘C’ on the last test, a realistic goal would be to shoot for a ‘B’ on the next one, instead of pressuring him to get an ‘A+’ and outperform all of his classmates.
Your feedback should emphasize that your child has the ability to change. You might explain to your child that, in order to improve at their chosen discipline, they could practice harder and more often.
Give suggestions, but don’t provide all the answers. Ask questions that will challenge them to think for themselves, and make sure to be encouraging and positive.
It All Comes Down to Balance
For parents, the question becomes to what extent you should let them discover things on their own rather than giving instruction.
Think “guided tough love.”
Start with letting go of the little things and gradually build from there. You can even give examples from your own life. Perhaps you weren’t good at swimming, but with hard work and practice you became better at it—and eventually joined the water polo team. Examples of when you gave up before you should have are also great.
We can all agree that resilience is a skill that helps carry us through our not-so-perfect lives. The sooner you start teaching your kids, the better their problem-solving skills will become as they get older.