At the beginning of my parenting journey I unknowingly passed by hundreds of opportunities for me and my kids to develop resilience. In my book Bounceback Parenting I explain that I made the mistake of thinking that my job was to make everything easy or comfortable for my kids. I often offered help in the name of keeping things calm instead of allowing my kids to face frustration and experience finding their own solution.
Why does resilience matter?
Our job as parents isn’t to make our kids happy all the time. Our job is to prepare them for living fulfilling lives and we need resilience to face the daily challenges we’re bound to meet. A recent article on Quartz calls resilience the new happiness and states, “Feeling good is all fine and good, but it’s fleeting. Learning to deal with difficulty, by contrast, improves your chances of feeling good again.”
Both adults and children can develop resilience, this ability to bounce back from adversity.
Each time we support our child through doing something on their own we help them build resilience and increase their own competence and capability bank. Often I struggle with how much longer this takes, but I am reminding myself that when I shortcut by doing something for my kids that they could manage on their own, it’s not a true shortcut. It only leaves something they will need to practice later.
How does helping my kids develop resilience help me develop it too?
As parents it’s our job to teach kids how to problem solve and face challenges, however this can cause a lot of discomfort. We have to be resilient to handle watching our kids struggle – it might feel bad in the moment, but it’s helping them gain the skills they need for a successful life.
This can be particularly hard if you’re already an anxious person; it feels awful to allow your child to experience adversity because you know how bad you’d feel in the same situation. The idea of putting your child through that pain might seem unbearable. Unfortunately if we try to protect our kids from all uncomfortable situations, they don’t get the chance to practice handling those situations which they will eventually meet no matter what.
In order to help them develop resilience, we have to grow our own and learn to tolerate the discomfort of watching them struggle.
Phrases to encourage resilience in your kids
The first step to encouraging resilience is to allow kids to attempt problem solving without rescuing them from their frustration right away. It’s helpful to have a few phrases ready for the next time your child is struggling.
Here are some phrases to use when your child is struggling. Read through, try a few of these and perhaps come up with some of your own ideas to try as well. Practice saying these phrases in a neutral tone of voice to avoid sounding sarcastic.
Also, I generally recommend waiting for a short time before you say anything – we all need a moment to think sometimes when facing a challenge.
Resilience phrases to try:
- How will you handle that?
- Would you like to practice your response with me ahead of time?
- How can you take care of that?
- How do you feel about that?
- What do you think you should do about that?
- I have faith in you. I’m sure you can handle it.
- Wow, that sounds challenging.
- It looks like you’re working really hard on that.
- Go as far as you can, let’s see where you get stuck.
- Do as much as you can and I’ll help with the parts you can’t do on your own.
All through life we deal with the frustration of being a beginner, learning new things, or handling unexpected changes. Even though is might feel uncomfortable, allowing your child to experience and move through that frustration builds their resilience. We can give help with tasks kids can’t do on their own, and guide them towards independence as they learn to do these things for themselves.
What phrases would you like to say when your child is struggling with a challenge? Planning ahead for how you’ll react to their struggle will allow you to be more calm in the moment. Let us know in the comments if you have ideas or questions about this.
More Resources for Helping Kids Develop Resilience:
- 25 Everyday Activities to Teach Resilience
- Resilience Building Activities for Parents and Kids
- Book: (Amazon affiliate link) Nurturing Resilience in Our Children : Answers to the Most Important Parenting Questions