Raising Resilient Kids

resilient kids

“You can do it!”  “You’re doing great!”  “You’re almost there!”

Sound familiar?  Of course it does.  What parent hasn’t cheered a child on during a difficult task? 

Children encounter challenges, both big and small, throughout the day, and parents cheer them on to help them stay focused on the end goal.  As parents, we understand the importance of drive, determination, and perseverance.  But young children tend to become easily frustrated when a goal isn’t reached on the first or second attempt, and are more likely to give up.

Cue the whining.

The good news is that we can help our children learn to become resilient in a few easy steps.

Change the way you cheer

Words of encouragement are a very good thing, but choose your words carefully.  When we only cheer for the end goal, we send the message that successful completion of the task is the most important thing.  Cheer, instead, for effort and creative problem solving along the way.  When we cheer for the process (i.e. the effort made to build the fairy house), we send a clear message that effort and drive matter. 

When children consistently hear that their efforts are important and worthwhile, they experience increased self-esteem.  Children with high self-esteem are more likely to feel happy and confident.

Make goals manageable

If you want your kids to learn to stick with a difficult task, you have to teach them how to break down large tasks into manageable parts.  Most children don’t simply roll away on rollerblades the first time they ever use them just because they want to.  Big goals require practice.

Help your child identify the necessary steps to reaching a goal.  Use colorful index cards to write down the steps and tape them to the wall.  When one step is completed, tear it down and move to the next.  This simple process teaches your child to approach a problem in smaller steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed with reaching the final goal.

Encourage passion

Some parents worry when children become fixated on a single activity or area of interest.  In this high-pressure world we live in, parents tend to focus on mastering everything.  The truth is that kids who have a passion tend to feel successful, which furthers their self-confidence.  When kids are more self-confident, they are more likely to engage in healthy risk taking.  Expose your child to a variety of activities to help her find a passion, and support her once she identifies an area of interest. 

Create a family mantra

If you were to walk through my house during homework time or when my four year old is stumped by a difficult task, you would probably hear the low rumbling of a few family mantras.  “Hurley’s keep trying!”  “Hurley’s ask for help!”  There are a few sayings that filter through our home, but all of them hold the same meaning:  It’s ok to make a mistake and you’re not alone in this.  These little mantras force us to smile through the tears and seek assistance when the going gets a little too tough.

Model perseverance

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We tend to shield our kids from our struggles because we don’t want them to worry about us.  When it comes to the big struggles we face, this is generally a good idea.  But simply telling our kids to stick with a tough challenge isn’t enough.  We have to show them that we also struggle at times.

When something is frustrating or hard to manage, talk it through with your child.  Make your own index cards and work through your challenge in front of them.  We can talk all we want about the importance of trying, but there is no better lesson than showing them what that actually means. 

How do you help your kids when they are ready to give up?

What do you think?

Raising Resilient Kids

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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2 comments

  1. Karmen says:

    We have a pretzel time. It is a warming way of feeling as if we are being hugged but we are hugging ourselves. We become a pretzel and take deep breathes until we are calm. Then we talk out the situation. It works great for my grandson and I.

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