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'sactually 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 themessage that you believe they will be okay. If your child falls and scrapes their knee, you canempathize and check on them without acting like it's an emergency. Don't run over and swoop themoff 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 theywill 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'seasy to want to fix their problems. This doesn't mean you can't help and support them, just try notto take over.If they're having trouble tying their shoes, it feels easier to simply do it for them than to standby and see if they really need a little help. If they are struggling with a friend, you might wantto talk to the other child's parent and try to fix things behind the scenes than let your childnavigate 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 forthem, try offering verbal support, saying something like "now make a bunny ear." If they're stillstruggling, 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 overwhelmthem. There will of course be times when you don't have time to let your child do something forthemselves, and that's fine too. Maybe there's no time for your child to tie their own shoes in themorning before school, but they can practice on the weekends. As they become more capable, they cando 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 challengingis easy will only take away their desire to try. Instead of telling them a task is easy, try "Iknow that's hard, but I think you can do it." This emphasizes their ability to overcome hardthings.
4. "You might fall."It's not fun to watch our kids fall and get hurt, but when you see your child doing something thatmakes 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 spotyour 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 toddlerstarting to climb up a slide and a big kid is at the top about to go down, you will likely want tostop them so they don't get kicked. But if you see your toddler climbing a ladder on the playscapefor the first time, try simply being there to catch them if they fall, without letting them seeyour fear.
5. "I give up."Perhaps the most important tool for teaching resilience is modeling. Does your child see you giveup easily or get upset when you try something new, or do they see you staying calm in the face ofchallenges? 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 isnot 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 lookyour child in the eyes and take a few deep, calming breaths yourself.We can gradually equip our kids withspecific techniques to regulate their emotions. This might mean practicing deep breathing together, or asking for a hug or hugging a favoritestuffed animal. It might mean stepping outside to take a break from a situation and experience thecalming effects of nature.Help your child develop these tools when they're not too upset to hear you. Eventually they willlearn 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 anddiscomforts 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 ofcarrying their things for them.For a 6-year-old, it might look like creating a checklist together of all of the things they needto 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 ofcourse depends on the child.Gradually increasing their level of responsibility will help them be successful. We love ourchildren 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 gooddays.
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 1,000piece puzzle, they might want to help you with a "grown-up task" like building a new shelf orfixing something on the car.It's easy to tell kids that something is too hard for them, or that they're not ready to dosomething, but try steering them to a more age-appropriate task instead. You might say, "It takes alot of practice to get ready for a 1,000 piece puzzle, why don't we try the new 100 piece one yougot for your birthday together?" Or, "I can't let you use my power tools, but let me show you howto 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 sendingthe 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 insuch a way that spaghetti is about to fall all over their shirt or putting their shoes on the wrongfeet.But why not let them drop the spaghetti, then let them clean it up? Why not let them wear theirshoes 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 thenshow them a more effective way to complete a task. You might say, "Can I show you a trick? If youhold 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 meanthey're on their own. On the contrary, children will be more likely to feel like they can trysomething 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 ittogether. 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, evenwatching them fail. This can be a hard thing for parents to do, but remind yourself that you're notmakingyour child struggle, you'relettingthem struggle.You are allowing them to face every day challenges so that when the big challenges come, your childwill know that they can face the challenge and be okay.
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