Are you planning to live forever? No? Oh good, I’m glad we’ve got that out of the way because if you aren’t planning or frankly able to live forever, one day your children are going to have to fend for themselves and that’s why raising a resilient child matters. In fact, it mattes a whole lot, far more than you might originally think. I would place it so high on the list of important aspects of raising your child, that it’s right up there with love and shelter and great bedtime stories.
Teaching resilience is so very important
So if resilience is so important, what is it and why it is so necessary to the well being of your children? Well, if you want to know why raising a resilient child matters, then let’s start with the term ‘snowflake.’ Now to be fair not all the people who’ve been cast as ‘snowflakes’ really are but it’s definitely a growing phenomena and not one you want your children to be part of. Why? Because snowflakes can’t handle life, and life has a tendency to throw itself at you at least at one point or other.
You can’t coddle them
Think back over your life and I’m sure you’ve met with a few challenges. Perhaps you had a great support network or maybe you didn’t but whatever or whomever you came up against didn’t simply back off because you didn’t like it. The taxman or lady didn’t leave you alone because you were upset, or your boss didn’t stop giving you a hard time because it made you uncomfortable. That’s one of the big lessons of life, that problems are there to be faced. Some you will win and some you will lose but you have to bounce back from both. Unfortunately though, many parents believe they should shield their children away from real challenges until they’re all grown up and in their view ready to deal with them.
But to do that would be a huge mistake because all the skills (and yes, they are skills) that come from experiencing the stuff we consider a challenge and uncomfortable are necessary for children to experience and deal with when you they are young. How young? Well, that’s where you’ll likely be surprised. Very young. So young that they’re lying on their little tummies on the floor enjoying tummy time.
Now perhaps your saying, ‘kids that young…you’ve got to be kidding me?’ Well, no I’m not. That’s because as parents, we are often led to believe that children should not even have a modicum of discomfort. It’s where the anti sleep training movement has come from, filled with good hearted people that don’t want their child to cry, ever. Now I’m not talking about closing the door and leaving them for the night. Having said that, not allowing children to get upset here and there is to deny children the ability to find out that when they do get upset, it isn’t the end of the world and in the case of experiencing their first good night’s sleep, that they might actually feel better.
Why raising a resilient child matters
But sleep is just the start. Playing an instrument you don’t initially like but have to stick with, is uncomfortable and perhaps annoying but it also teaches a lesson. It’s worth working at something to master it and you can’t give up just because it’s hard. Whether you end up with a deep abiding love for the trombone is not the point. That’s why raising a resilient child matters. Resilience is about coping with challenges and one day, as we’ve agreed, you’ll not be there to help them. To be presented with a problem and to overcome it is to give any child the kind of confidence they will need to triumph in later life and without you.
By not allowing a child to experience hardship of any kind is to stunt that ability forever. Resilience is like a muscle. Use it and it gets better, more elastic and soon you can bounce back from all sorts of things that many others can’t. When baby is trying to reach for something and is finding it difficult, hang back for just long enough to let them get a little uncomfortable. From that they may try other ways of reaching what they want, or they forget about it and decide to try something else. In other words, they start to use the resources available to them. If they get horribly frustrated it’s time to help them but the best thing to do is to give them time to see if they can fix things themselves.
Try really hard not to hover
For most parents, grounding their personal hovering helicopter is one of their biggest challenges. It’s so easy to go for safety and reduce or eliminate children’s exposure to things that have the possibility of bringing danger or discomfort with them. Let’s not allow them children to walk to school because they might be abducted and on it goes. It’s normal for parents to feel worried, maybe absolutely freaked out at times but it’s also very necessary we don’t show it, whether that’s allowing them to go to their neighbours house unaided for the first time and taking a deep breath while they do or taking their first bus ride alone.
I remember when my children, my two older boys went kayaking on a large lake in BC. As far as I can remember they were about 15 and 17 at the time and they were going to kayak up the river in a double kayak and then spend the night on the far side of the lake, hike the mountain the next day and come back down. They had walky talkies and I was able to hear they’d made the 7k trip down the lake when they called me that night in the only place they had reception. However, it was October in the mountains and it was the wilderness. There were bears and other hazards and I was scared to death. There was even snow at the higher elevations. I stood up most of the night in our B & B staring out at the mountains, absolutely terrified. I knew they were competent kayakers and hikers. They were well prepared and had emergency supplies on them and had had adventures before but it didn’t make any difference to me and it was one of the hardest nights of my life. As it turned out they were fine and had a great time and when we picked them up confidence exuded from their every pore. I never let on how terrified I’d been and that was just as well as they felt great and I realized then that the accomplishment and feelings that it generated in them were well worth my pain.
Challenges feel good
Resilience requires challenges and challenges are hard and unpredictable. There really is no way around it. That’s the nature of a real challenge and it’s facing that difficulty that gives the child the all important feeling that they can do it. Not because you told them they could but because they really could and they proved it. One day, you won’t be there and they’ll have to face whatever they face, without you. You can teach them now to cope and triumph over adversity or you can teach them that they should run, hide or be bowled over by every one of life’s hazards by denying them the confidence they need to face those challenges. That’s why raising a resilient child matters. It’s up to you.
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