You may be tempted to discount your kid’s fears and disappointments: that banana is still perfectly edible even if it’s broken in half, and not everyone gets invited to every birthday party. But giving your kids the tools to cope with let-downs, take risks and be persistent now is paving the way for a lifetime of resilience. We’ve rounded up ten strategies for helping your child approach life’s obstacles with positivity and perseverance. Keep reading to see them all.
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1. Teach “realistic assessment.”
It’s important for your child to understand that not every problem is an insurmountable task or a reason to give up. A delay doesn’t mean never, and mistakes aren’t the end of the world. She may not have made the cut for the JV tennis team—but there’s always next year, and she only just mastered her backhand.
2. Encourage mastery.
Dr. Laura Markham from Aha! Parenting says that “Developing grit—that quality of pushing through obstacles as we pursue something about which we’re passionate—depends on the child working hard to accomplish her own goals, whether that’s mastering a jump shot, short story, recipe or camping trip. Notice that the motivation comes from within, not to please us, so it has to be the child’s own interest.” Give your kid the time and space to try new things and pursue his own interests.
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3. But emphasize that strengths take time to develop.
Model positive internal dialogue as your child forges onward with developing new skills: “You’ve got the seven times tables down pat! It’s probably going to take more practice to get to the eights and nines.” Eventually, your child will be able to remind herself to be patient and keep trying.
4. Think about the relationship between “stress” and “stretch.”
Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Director of the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students, reminds us that there is an opportunity in the challenge: a little bit of stress provides kids a chance to stretch themselves. Your kindergartener may be more than a little nervous as she swings toward the next monkey bar, but making it to the other side by herself will grant her the satisfaction and confidence she needs to conquer other fears. Check out our secrets to raising a brave kid here.
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5. Give your children opportunities to solve problems and make decisions.
When you grant your kids autonomy, they will come to see that they’re capable and have power over their own lives. “I hear that you really want to go for a bike ride, but your bike has a flat tire. What can you do about that?”
6. Encourage your children to commit to causes beyond themselves.
With experience, your kids will realize that they can do something about things that matter to them. Choose activities that you can do together when they’re younger, like picking out a backpack and a new coat for another child in need. Older kids may be motivated to host a bake sale to raise money for their favorite endangered animal, or to purchase a bunch of their favorite snacks for an afterschool program. Here, we list ten tips for raising generous kids.
7. Be a role model of resilience.
For both yourself and as an example for your children, develop an awareness of how you handle stress, challenges, and change. Children can see and hear their parents or caregivers make mistakes and deal with those mistakes. “Oh, rats. I put salt in the recipe instead of sugar. Can I fix it? What can we do with the wasted ingredients?” Parents can talk with their children about times they made mistakes, “Remember when we got lost on our way to …?” Children quickly realize that people aren’t perfect and people can develop ways to recover from mistakes or misfortunes.
8. Empower your child to be socially adept.
Facilitate strong bonds with other caregivers, and remind kids that it’s always okay—and often wise—to reach out to peers and adults for help when they need it. We all need help from time to time, and there is tremendous value in building social capital from a young age.
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9. … And as part of that, talk to your children about how to be a good friend.
Show your kids that being empathetic, generous and patient doesn’t only feel good—they help them make and keep friends, too. Friendships provide lasting support networks and a sense of belonging, which can bolster confidence and inspire children to take risks and come up with creative ideas.
10. Build competence.
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, defined, “The 7 Cs of Resilience”—one of which is competence, or the ability to manage situations independently and effectively. Help your child develop this skill by acknowledging when they do something right and positioning them to make “safe” mistakes. Let your kids take on household responsibilities, like folding clothes or feeding the family pet, even if you can do it better or faster. Let siblings solve disagreements without your intervention (within reason).
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