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raising a resilient child

We can't control the challenges our children will face in life, but that doesn't mean we can't prepare them. One of the most powerful gifts we can give our kids is resilience—the ability to overcome the inevitable obstacles headed their way.

Helping kids develop resilience means they will be able to recover from setbacks, rather than wallowing in them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of well-meaning things parents say that can inadvertently hinder this developing skill.

Avoid these 10 phrases to help your child develop resilience:


1. "You're fine."

While "you're fine," may seem like just the kind of phrase to encourage grit and resilience, it's actually sending the message that kids can't trust what they're feeling. This is another version of "suck it up."

Instead, try validating your child's emotions, while using your tone and body language to send the message that you believe they will be okay. If your child falls and scrapes their knee, you can empathize and check on them without acting like it's an emergency. Don't run over and swoop them off their feet while crying tears of your own. Walk over calmly and take a look at the scrape, asking if they are okay.

This approach lets your child know that while, yes, they are hurt, their feelings are okay and they will recover.

2. "Let me fix it."

Whether it's because we're in a hurry or because it's so hard to watch our children struggle, it's easy to want to fix their problems. This doesn't mean you can't help and support them, just try not to take over.

If they're having trouble tying their shoes, it feels easier to simply do it for them than to stand by and see if they really need a little help. If they are struggling with a friend, you might want to talk to the other child's parent and try to fix things behind the scenes than let your child navigate the situation. But doing these things will only hurt in the long run.

Offer the minimum amount of help they need to be successful. Instead of simply tying their shoe for them, try offering verbal support, saying something like "now make a bunny ear." If they're still struggling, offer to tie one shoe for them and let them try the other shoe.

Watch your child to see how much they can handle. You want to challenge them, but not overwhelm them. There will of course be times when you don't have time to let your child do something for themselves, and that's fine too. Maybe there's no time for your child to tie their own shoes in the morning before school, but they can practice on the weekends. As they become more capable, they can do more and more for themselves.

3. "That's easy, you can do it."

While this little phrase might seem encouraging, telling a child something that seems challenging is easy will only take away their desire to try. Instead of telling them a task is easy, try "I know that's hard, but I think you can do it." This emphasizes their ability to overcome hard things.

4. "You might fall."

It's not fun to watch our kids fall and get hurt, but when you see your child doing something that makes you uncomfortable, try to assess the situation.

Are they likely to get injured, or just get a little bump or a bruise? Is there a way you can spot your child to protect them without them noticing? By constantly telling our children to be careful, or that they might fall, we are sending the message that they are not safe.

Every parent has to use their judgement and own comfort level with risk. If you see your toddler starting to climb up a slide and a big kid is at the top about to go down, you will likely want to stop them so they don't get kicked. But if you see your toddler climbing a ladder on the playscape for the first time, try simply being there to catch them if they fall, without letting them see your fear.

What you're comfortable with will likely change with your child's age, but it's important for them to learn to assess risk for themselves so that they can determine when they really aren't safe, and when it's okay to take a little risk to try something new.

5. "I give up."

Perhaps the most important tool for teaching resilience is modeling. Does your child see you give up easily or get upset when you try something new, or do they see you staying calm in the face of challenges? It's important to let your child see you struggle, and let them see that it's okay.

Try learning a new skill together so that they can see that this sometimes frustrating process is not just for kids, that everyone faces struggles when learning something new.

6."Calm down."

We want to teach our kids how to calm themselves down when they're upset, but saying "calm down" isn't the way to do this. Try saying, "let's take a deep breath together" instead. Or even look your child in the eyes and take a few deep, calming breaths yourself.

We can gradually equip our kids with specific techniques to regulate their emotions. This might mean practicing deep breathing together, or asking for a hug or hugging a favorite stuffed animal. It might mean stepping outside to take a break from a situation and experience the calming effects of nature.

Help your child develop these tools when they're not too upset to hear you. Eventually they will learn to turn to them when it feels like things are in crisis.

7. "I packed all your things for you!"

Making life too easy for our kids robs them of the chance to face the minor challenges and discomforts that help to naturally develop resilience.

You can help your child gradually take over the responsibility for these tasks. For a 3-year-old, you might remind them to carry their lunchbox and backpack to the car in the morning, instead of carrying their things for them.

For a 6-year-old, it might look like creating a checklist together of all of the things they need to remember in the morning, but putting them in charge of going through the checklist.

A 9-year-old might be able to take full responsibility for remembering their things, but this of course depends on the child.

Gradually increasing their level of responsibility will help them be successful. We love our children so of course we want them to be comfortable and happy and to have a great day every day, but in the end, it's more important to equip them with the tools they need for the not so good days.

8. "That's too hard for you."

Children try to do things that they may not be ready for all the time. They might reach for a 1,000 piece puzzle, they might want to help you with a "grown-up task" like building a new shelf or fixing something on the car.

It's easy to tell kids that something is too hard for them, or that they're not ready to do something, but try steering them to a more age-appropriate task instead. You might say, "It takes a lot of practice to get ready for a 1,000 piece puzzle, why don't we try the new 100 piece one you got for your birthday together?" Or, "I can't let you use my power tools, but let me show you how to use a hammer and you can practice on this piece of wood."

Saying these phrases directs children toward something they can be successful with, without sending the message they we think they're incapable.

9. "Not like that!"

Take note of how often you find yourself saying some variation of "not like that!" to your child. It's so tempting to stop them when we see them doing something wrong like holding their fork in such a way that spaghetti is about to fall all over their shirt or putting their shoes on the wrong feet.

But why not let them drop the spaghetti, then let them clean it up? Why not let them wear their shoes on the wrong feet so that they have a feeling of accomplishment rather than incompetence?

It's okay if things aren't done perfectly, it's okay if our kids have to stop and clean up a mess.

In these instances, sit with your child while they clean it up, helping if necessary. You can then show them a more effective way to complete a task. You might say, "Can I show you a trick? If you hold your plate with two hands, you won't drop it next time."

10. "You figure it out."

While we want to send the message that we believe our children are competent, this doesn't mean they're on their own. On the contrary, children will be more likely to feel like they can try something new and face a challenge if they know they have support.

Instead of sending them off on their own to face a tough situation, let them know that you're in it together. Say something like, "Let's sit down and come up with a solution together."

Involve them in the process, but let them know you're there to help too.

Resilience is a tough quality to teach because it involves watching our kids struggle, even watching them fail. This can be a hard thing for parents to do, but remind yourself that you're not making your child struggle, you're letting them struggle.

You are allowing them to face every day challenges so that when the big challenges come, your child will know that they can face the challenge and be okay.

Fostering resilience isn't an easy task. We've stocked the Motherly Shop with some thoughtful tools to help, mama!

Slumberkins narwhal snuggler

Slumberkins narwhal snuggler

Slumberkins is an oh-so-soft plush creature that comes with a book and mantra card to help kids calm fears and anxieties by naming their feelings. Narwhal is perfect for teaching the valuable life skill of resilience and developing a growth mindset. Along with its story, it introduces little ones to the concept of responsibility and teamwork.

$44

Big Life Journal 2nd Edition (for ages 7-10)

Fun and engaging, this science-based guided journal helps kids develop social-emotional learning and a growth mindset so they can face life's challenges with confidence. It's perfect for elementary aged kiddos and designed to be used with a "journal buddy," making it a deeply bonding experience as well!

$25

Lovevery block set

Lovevery block set

A simple (but brilliant!) set of blocks are an ideal toy for teaching many important concepts, including resilience. This science-based system of 70 heirloom-quality pieces unlocks STEM lessons like math, physics, and engineering, along with higher-order planning and problem-solving.

$90

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

True

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Created by two best friends as an expression of their effort to be intentional parents, Habbi Habbi Reading Wand & Bilingual Books are the easiest way to start your kids bilingual learning without the screen. Their innovative and engaging play-based tool brings language to life through a tech-enabled wand and "tappable" books that give kids instant feedback, from vocabulary and phrases to musical tunes. The content is as intentional as the books are beautiful highlighting topics like emotions, female role models and diversity.

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Founded by a mama who came up the idea at the end of her own uncomfortable pregnancy, Countdown to Mama is the only advent calendar-style mama-to-be gift box out there. With a range of "niceties to necessities," she made it her mission to curate a collection of mama-loved products that thoughtfully usher her through the biggest transformation of her life.

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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?

Happiest Baby: Baby sleep solutions designed by the experts

Created by renowned pediatrician, baby sleep expert and (as some might say) lifesaver Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby has been helping new parents understand and nurture their infants for close to two decades. Building on the success of his celebrated books and video The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block he's developed groundbreaking, science-based product solutions that conquer a new parent's top stressor—exhaustion.

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Codex Beauty: Exceptionally effective sustainable skin care

Codex Beauty's line of sustainable plant-based skin care blends the science of plant biology with biotech innovations, to create clinically proven, state-of-the-art products for all skin types. They're all vegan, EWG and Leaping Bunny verified and created in collaboration with Herbal Scientist Tracy Ryan who uses concepts dating back to the 8th century leveraging plants like sea buckthorn and calendula flower. Not only are we totally crushing on the innovative formulas that are in the packaging but we're in love with the sustainable sugarcane-derived tubes as well.

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