The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 113 · Duration: 00:16:20
The Truth About Raising Confident, Resilient Kids
We all want to raise confident resilient children and teenagers, but what’s the formula for achieving that?
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Today we’re hearing from Tricia, a therapist living and working in Toronto, Canada. And Tricia writes:
I’m a therapist working with parents and would like to hear your thoughts on my list of parenting strategies to raise kids with resilience and a healthy sense of self.
Here’s my list: 1) Have a neutral, matter of fact tone when setting limits, 2) clear boundaries, 3) keep the vibe positive, 4) stay close & connected, 5) notice & highlight their strengths, 6) be firm but fair, 7) never argue, 8) empower kids by having them earn their privileges, 9) problem solve minor things so they feel a part of the conversation and feel empowered, 10) model good self regulation and empathy... anything else?
What Is Resilience?
All excellent things Tricia! Let’s back up a minute and talk a bit about what resilience is. When I think of resilience, I think of the quality where kids can deal with adversity, face difficult situations, and even be willing to seek out challenges with a confidence that if they apply themselves, they’ll come out okay. They can deal with and learn from failure and be more prepared for a similar situation the next time. It’s kids with a Growth Mindset that Carol Dweck studied and writes about. Kids who believe that with effort, they will improve and get good results. Maybe even that they can make a difference in the world. That’s great stuff, right?
So how do we get kids like that? Well for starters, I think some kids are born simply hardier than others, more ready to take on a problem, not as sensitive to discomfort, physical or emotional. That being said, kids with all temperaments can learn and grow their resilience; their ability to deal with and embrace adversity. I was having dinner the other night with parents of young teenagers and they said their daughter is on the shy sensitive side and is often reluctant to take on challenges. So a rule they have is that she has to sign up for two difficult things every year. This summer she put off choosing an activity until the only choice she had left was a white water rafting trip. Well quite reluctantly off she went and of course, she had a fabulous time and had yet another lesson that she can conquer her fears and achieve more than she knows, and have a great time doing it. I congratulated these parents and told them that too often, parents will take their child’s fears as a symptom of something wrong, not require them to challenge themselves and send them off to therapy, thereby only indulging and pathologizing their child’s fears, rather than helping them find and grow their resilient selves.Parents take their child’s fears as a symptom of something wrong, not require them to challenge themselves, and send them off to therapy, thereby only indulging and pathologizing their child’s fears rather than helping them grow their resilient selves.Click To Tweet
How To Help Your Kid Deal with Life's Imperfections
So Tricia, first of all, you’ll never be able to do all the things on your list perfectly or necessarily consistently. If it is your intention to do all these things, and it is a great list, do your best, work at doing better, but don’t shame or guilt yourself for your imperfections. Life simply isn’t perfect and kids need to learn to deal with life’s imperfections.Life simply isn’t perfect and kids need to learn to deal with life’s imperfections.Click To Tweet
So the other thing I’ll invite you to add to your list is; allow kids to suffer from the limitations of life’s realities. Some kids are mean, some people are mean. All living things die. We don’t always win. Human history is fraught with individuals and groups taking advantage of and holding power over other groups and individuals. Of course, there is the other side of things as well where there are wonderful compassionate individuals and communities all around the world as well, and that needs to be celebrated and invested in. It’s knowing that and often experiencing that beginning at home that will make our children secure, resilient kids.
But kids have to get used to the reality that life isn’t a storybook. If you do treat your kids as full-fledged human beings with their own set of unique thoughts and feelings and listen and respond with validation, they will be prepared to live with, manage, grow through, and thrive as they experience life’s real-time challenges, including the challenges of your limits, rules, and imperfections.
In this week’s NY Times editorial section I read an article by Lara Bazelon. Ms. Bazelon is an author, law professor, an attorney who works in the area of defending individuals who have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. In this article, she wrote about her guilt and chronic ambivalence managing the challenges of doing the best for her clients and her career, vs. doing the best thing for her children. She writes of often prioritizing her clients’ needs and the anguish she felt, for instance, not being present for her young daughter’s birthday. And on a parent appreciation day in her son’s third-grade class, she was horrified when the kids were all getting up in front of the class to say what they appreciated most about their parents. The students were talking about how their moms cooked them their favorite foods and made a nice home for them. Lara knew that she fell short in these areas and was terrified by what she anticipated being a weak public appreciation. But, to her amazement, her young son spoke firmly of his mother’s work getting people out of jail, and teaching him to reflect on right from wrong, and being a positive role model. This third grader realized that not getting all the time, attention and goodies he wanted was not about being unworthy. He realized that it was just part of life and I’ll bet good money, he grows up to be an effective and resilient adult.
In the same editorial section, I read an article by author Bari Weiss who wrote about the San Francisco School Board voting to destroy a mural at George Washington High School. The mural was created as part of the Franklin D Roosevelt public works program and depicts George Washington with his slaves picking cotton in the background and colonists walking over a dead Native American; the mural clearly depicting some profound injustices of American history. I’ll mention that the mural is a typical mural style being representational and not gory. The board members wanted the mural destroyed since they believed it would be hurtful to the students and make them feel unsafe. How do we teach justice if we don’t acknowledge injustice? How do we talk about what is and what was if the requirement is to make history and reality the way we wish it was.
If we are going to raise resilient kids, they are going to have to be able to know and understand hardship, injustice, and have the skills to talk about it and deal with it. And we’re talking about high school kids here, not grade school kids.
I think of the school shooting in Parkland Florida last year. These kids were and I’m sure still are all traumatized and there’s been at least one student suicide since the shooting and yet some kids like David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, and Cameron Kasky and many of their classmates formed Never Again MSD a gun control advocacy group. That’s resilience at its best under the worst circumstances we can imagine.
There’s plenty of hardship and injustice in our world and in our communities right now. So we need to be a “can do”, gutsy society with “can do” gutsy world citizens.
Tricia as you and I are talking about how to raise healthy resilient kids, at the US border with Mexico right now, we in the United States are committing child abuse to thousands of children by separating them from their parents and denying them healthy food, basic hygiene, medical care, not to mention love, support, and empowerment. They are getting none of the things you mention for growing resilient kids. This is ongoing chronic trauma that will profoundly undermine their development and rather than these children and teenagers growing up to be healthy resilient adults, these kids will be dealing with trauma and attachment issues that predictably results in unhealthy self-destructive and otherwise destructive adult functioning. Hopefully, there will be some exceptions where some remarkable kids breakthrough, but these kids are being beaten down.
When a parent treats their child the way we are treating thousands of children, they are arrested and criminally charged. A question that occurs to me is how in the US can we charge a parent with child abuse when we are abusing children as a matter of policy.
In any case Tricia, my point is that there is plenty of reality for our children to come to terms with and life isn’t and won’t be a storybook for anyone. We can’t be perfect parents and life will always have major challenges. As long as we as parents are doing our best with your excellent list and we let kids have their feelings without parents feeling responsible to make sure their world is perfect, things can work out great.
Tricia’s given us a great list and if we add “let our kids struggle and not try to run interference” It should be pretty darn complete. Let’s all work to make the world a better place not just for our kids, but for all kids to grow up with confidence and resilience. Let’s acknowledge injustice to children everywhere and have the courage to stand up to it.
Thanks for tuning in today everyone and thanks to Tricia for her thought-provoking question.
And I really mean it when I say, please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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