Menu

12 loving ways to raise resilient kids

6. Encourage, encourage, encourage and teach self-encouragement.

12 loving ways to raise resilient kids

Parents are often told that frustration is good for kids because when they grow up, the world will be full of frustrations. That's a bit like saying that it's a cold, cruel world so your child should learn to sleep without blankets.

What we really want is to raise kids who have the resilience to find or make blankets (and to create a warmer world where everyone can find blankets!) So how do we foster that resilience?

It has become a commonplace idea that failure builds resilience. But when children fail over and over and don't have the support to keep trying, all they learn is that they're failures. Experiencing disappointment or failure is only half the picture. Resilience comes not from failing, but from the experience of learning that even when everything goes wrong, you can pick yourself up, try again, and succeed. That requires at least some experience of success, and lots of emotional support.

So it's true that we all learn from overcoming challenges, but we also learn best when we experience success, which motivates us to tackle more difficult challenges. Failure without support sets up a cycle of lack of confidence, giving up and more failure. Mastery, on the other hand, begets mastery.

So how do we hit that sweet spot of giving appropriate support and protection on the one hand, and enough independence to foster confidence and competence on the other? Here are 12 ways.

1. Stop controlling and start coaching.

Coaches help kids develop skills, but kids play the game. Your job as a parent is to support your child so they can flourish and develop. Doing things for them robs a child of the opportunity to become competent. Doing things with them teaches how and builds confidence. This means we have to manage our own anxiety and let go of our need to control.

2. Remember that perfection is not the goal.

Resist the temptation to "improve" on your child's task, unless the outcome is vitally important. Intervention undermines a child's confidence.

3. Let them try to do it themself from the earliest age.

Rein in your own anxiety. That doesn't mean abandoning them to it. Stand by, smiling, ready to be helpful in whatever way actually helps your child—but stay back a bit and keep your hands to yourself, except to give appropriate encouragement and unless you really need to help.

Clucking anxiously about how worried you are as they climbs that play structure may make you feel better, and it may impress the other parents on the playground with your attentiveness, but it won't help your child. In fact, it limits them.

Just ask if they are keeping safe, then stand by and spot them. Smile proudly. Say, "Look at you! I knew you could do it!"(And if they fall, you're there to catch them. Which is, after all, what allowed them to try it.)

4. Help them build confidence by tackling manageable challenges.

Emotional development researchers call this "scaffolding," which could be defined as the framework you give your child on which they build. You demonstrate how to do something, or you use words to suggest a strategy, or you simply spot them.

This assistance helps them succeed when they try something new, and small successes achieved with your help give them the confidence to try new things herself. Scaffolding also teaches children that nonjudgmental help is always available if they need it. You want your kids to trust that deep in their bones before they hit adolescence.

5. Don't set them up for failure.

Offer structure to help them succeed. Should you step in when you see failure ahead, or "let them learn a lesson"? Always a hard call. Rescuing children can prevent them from learning important lessons. But when children see their parents stand by and let them fail, they can experience that as not being loved.

Instead of learning the lesson that they should have practiced that clarinet, or read the directions on that science kit, they feel like they are failures, that they cannot manage themselves, and that their parents did not care enough to help them not be failures or teach them to manage themselves.

But isn't stepping in "rescuing" them?

That all depends on how it's done. If you take over the science fair project and do half of it the night before it's due, that's not rescuing: not only does your child learn that you will bail them out if he goofs off, they learn that they can't do it themselves.

But if you help through each step of the way to organize their ideas and work and resist the impulse to improve on the project yourself, they completes the job, hugely proud, and having learned something about how to plan and execute a complex project.

6. Encourage, encourage, encourage and teach self-encouragement

All humans need encouragement. Encouraging your child not only keeps them feeling more positive and motivated, it also gives them an inner voice that will help to encourage themselves for the rest of their life.

Research shows that kids who talk themselves through difficult situations find it easier to master difficult tasks. Give your child maxims to repeat as mantras when the going gets tough. "Practice makes progress!" and "If you don't succeed, try, try again!" and "I think I can, I think I can!" are designed to help us manage our frustration.

When your child goofs a piece on the piano and has to start over, or strikes out with the bases loaded, they need an automatic internal comforting voice to encourage and motivate them. Otherwise the harsh criticizing voice steps in, triggered by the disappointment.

7. Instead of evaluating, describe and empathize.

Praise evaluates the outcome of your child's action: "Good job!" It doesn't give the child much information about what was good about what they did, or why you think it was good. It teaches them to rely on external sources to evaluate their work.

You can refine your praise to make it serve your child better by giving them he power to evaluate for themself. Just describe what they did and empathize with how they must feel: "You just kept practicing and didn't give up... You must feel so good that you finished that!"

8. Focus on effort, not results.

Give positive feedback about specific things that they have control over, like hard work or perseverance, rather than things they feel they have no control over, like being smart. The point is never the product—you don't want them resting on their laurels at the age of 6, or 16. Your goal is for them to keep trying, practicing, improving and to learn that when they work hard, they can accomplish goals.

9. Model positive self-talk.

Whatever you model, your child will learn and will emulate. Positive self-talk improves our mood, unlike the self-disparaging comments many of us so automatically make. If something negative about your child—or, equally important, about yourself—starts to come out of your mouth, bite your tongue.

Most parents know better than to say "What an idiot!" to their child (and most of them are able to stop themselves), but a surprising number see nothing wrong with berating themselves that way in front of their kids. Just train yourself not to do it. (It certainly isn't good for you, either. Would you let anyone else talk to you that way?)

10.  Don't be afraid of your child's feelings.

When your child encounters frustration, remember that your empathy will be a critical factor in his overcoming it. Instead of automatically jumping in to remove the source of the frustration, give it a larger context by communicating your compassion that they have to encounter this circumstance:

"I'm sorry this is so hard..."

"It's really disappointing when..."

"This isn't how you hoped it would turn out..."

It's okay for children to get frustrated and to be disappointed. Your child may cry and sulk all day, but your unconditional understanding will help them grieve. Once they're done grieving, they'll be ready to pull themselves together to try again the next day, especially when you express your confidence in them. That's how children develop resilience.

11.  Don't set your child up for extra frustration.

Your child will naturally develop the ability to handle increasing amounts of frustration and anxiety as they attempt more difficult challenges. But those frustrations are inherent in growing up and are guaranteed aplenty in life.

There is no benefit whatsoever to setting your child up for extra frustration or negative experience. In fact, they will see your doing so as evidence of your lack of caring, which is always translated in their mind as his lack of value, undermining resilience.

12.  Affirm your child's ability to impact the world.

Competence and feelings of mastery are about power and derive from a child's experience as having an effect on the world.

All children will experience reasonable limits to their power ("I can't make the rain stop, and neither can Mommy"), but the more your child has opportunities to make a difference in the world, the more they will see themselves as capable.

In the end, our job as parents is to work ourselves out of a job, and it starts when our children are very young. All kids eventually grow up and live their lives without us. How they live will depend partly on whether we've been able to rise above our own anxiety and our impulse to control our child.

You know the old adage about giving our children roots and wings? Unconditional love is the roots. Confidence is the wings. Young people who have both live bigger lives.

Originally posted on Aha! Parenting.

You might also like:

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play