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Raising Resilient Kids

  • June 1, 2022
  • By Donielle
Raising Resilient Kids

I was excited to share this talk on resiliency at Moms On a Mission, and now am eager to share it with you! The following is my accompanying article from their magazine:

My little had a playdate.  This little girl walks right in my house and says, “I can’t have dairy. And that is cheese and milk!”  I said, “Ok, I will not serve you any milk or cheese!”  She came back a minute later and asked, “Do you have any hot chocolate?”

I said, “Yes, I do, but hot chocolate has milk.  You said you can’t drink milk.”  She stands there thinking for a moment then says, “I think my mom would let me have milk if it is in hot chocolate.”  Chocolate changes things!

Next time she came over I had cleared the milk issue with her mom (it was a Lent thing) and had hot cocoa all ready.  She sits down in front of it and says, “You know, marshmallows are really good with hot chocolate.” Healthy kids are natural problem solvers! We joke that kids are resilient.  And they can be!  How do we raise resilient kids?  The Bible uses the words steadfast or perseverance.

Paul on resiliency

2 Corinthians 4:8-9  says: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

History has taught us what Paul and the early Christians went through for the sake of the gospel. Did you know we are 20x more likely to label something bad than good?  Our labels in a situation color our attitude. We must teach our children to wait on the Lord to know whether it is good or bad. This reframing, this choosing to see things God’s way is not pretending the very real struggle does not exist.  Only God’s grace can make us desire His will, to die to our own desires.  It is something we ask God for.

Perfectionism is an obstacle

It has been a struggle for me to rid myself of a perfectionist mindset.  To admit I am only human and make mistakes seems like a small, very obvious thing.  But to understand and acknowledge my limitations has been freeing; to agree with God when says that he knows “we are but dust” is allowing God’s grace into our lives.  There will always be afflictions.  They don’t have to crush us.

Two Mindsets

How do we teach our children this resiliency?  There are 2 mindsets that we and our children have-

Fixed mindset: Focused on results.  Believes intelligence, skills, and talent are innate.  Won’t ask for help for fear of looking stupid.

Growth mindset: Focused on the process.  Hard work pays off.  More effort can help me meet my goals. Not afraid of trying new things because not afraid of failure.  Knows how to ask for help.

I am very proud of my daughter when she headed to college she joined the choir, something new for her.  She joined the mock trial team and turns out she is really good at it. I love that.  I hid in college. 

When I graduated from law school they gave out honor cords with a bit of ceremony in front of everyone and when I got up to receive mine I heard someone ask, “Who is that?  Has she been here the whole 3 years?”  This is a graduating class of 150 students.  Not a huge crowd.  When we sat for the Bar exam they seat you alphabetically, two to a desk.  So I was seated with a guy that had the same last name as me.  I recognized him from my graduating class.  We had never spoken once in 3 years at the same, small law school.  I knew at this point I had to grow in this area to be successful.

Say this, not that

How do you get from fixed to growth mindset?

Imagine your child is creating an art project.  What do you deem more important – the painting they end up with at the end – the product? Or the process that got them to the end product?

Some of it comes in what we say to our children:

Instead of-                                                                Try this-

You’re so smart!     I am proud of how hard you worked.  What did you learn from this assignment?

Great win today!    I noticed you were respectful to the ref after that call seemed unfair. OR You treated your teammate kindly even though you were disappointed. OR

                                    Your kicks/hits/strokes/scores are benefitting from that extra practice!

What a beautiful kid!        You put a lot of effort into your outfit – nice work! That color goes well with your skin tone! Your smile is contagious!

You are so talented.          God has given you a gift – use it for His glory! Your practice is paying off.

Make failure an opportunity to learn. Share embarrassing moments from your childhood with your kids.  It’s encouraging to your kids to see you where you are now and where you were then.  It opens communication.  And it makes them laugh. They can see where you have modeled resiliency.

Ask yourself: What kinds of kids are pleasant to be around? Humble ones or ones with over-inflated egos? Resiliency is being able to tolerate discomfort and have a sense of personal competence as a result.  “Part of growing up is learning how to release negative emotions in the face of inevitable stress.  If kids never learn to do that, they’re more likely to experience severe anxiety as teens.” (Derek Thompson, “Why American Teens are So Sad” in The Atlantic). What builds this ability to tolerate discomfort and gives a sense of personal competence?  Chores at home and summer jobs!

The Bottom Line: Resilience is how you think about the problem.

Action point: Help your child re-label things that they have labeled “bad”.  Have your child help you, too!

Movie Night!

Watch and discuss the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons with your family. It was a bit of an overlooked movie when it came out.  My favorite line is “From failure you learn, from success, not so much.”  The Robinson family celebrates failures because something is learned. Ask your children questions to bring up the topic of resiliency, like these: Why do the Robinsons think you can learn more from failure than success? What do you consider your greatest successes?  What did you learn from them? Which have been you biggest failures?  What did you learn from them?

Books about resiliency for parents: The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene Brown

Surrender your Junior God Badge by Jackie Kendall

For older teens and adults: The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass

Tweens and teens: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Kids: Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

By Donielle, June 1, 2022
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