Tips for Building Resilience in Your Kids

Tips for Building Resilience in Your Kids

After decades of experience working with thousands of kids of a all ages I am astounded and dismayed at the lack of resilience in young people today.  And to be fair, it’s not at all their fault.  It is ours.  As adults we have shielded, buffered and protected them to their own detriment.  Instead of having kids who can say to themselves “It’s ok that I didn’t get what I wanted or that I performed badly, I can still move forward.  I will try again.  I can do this.”  We have teenagers smashing windows because they got a low ACT score, didn’t get in to the college of their choice or they weren’t invited to a birthday party.  Even our younger kids are throwing tantrums and physically assaulting teachers when they have to redo a homework assignment or retake a spelling test.  These kids are lacking resiliency.  Here are a few tips to build this essential life skill in your child.

1. Be present in your kid’s life.  While some parents are over-parenting and hovering, research also shows a swell of parents not making meaningful emotional connections with their kids.  Being present means setting aside what you are doing when they walk in the room and let them see the joy their presence brings to you. Make eye contact.  Take interest in what they are saying.  Show them you care by being empathetic (not to be confused with sympathetic) when they struggle even if they played a role in their own demise.

2. Back off.  I know, I just said be present and now I’m saying back off.  There’s a delicate balance.  Be present but don’t do everything for them.  Don’t check in with them before, during and after an event or important assignment to see if they need you. Let them make choices and decisions about how to do things whenever possible.  For example, when they are young they can choose what to wear, when they are in middle school they can decide whether it’s cold enough outside that they need a jacket and when they are in high school they can determine in what order to do homework assignments.  Let them take risks and make mistakes without  you acting like the world might end.  When they take work hard or take a risk and succeed it will build a tremendous sense of authentic accomplishment.

3.  Model it.  Your kids see you as successful and are often unaware of the twists and turns and setbacks you’ve experienced and continue to experience.  The best way to normalize struggle and build resiliency is to let your kids know when we have, or have had a setbacks such as a failure or disappointment at work or even a falling out with a close friend.  Allow them to see you feeling down for a bit.  Let them hear you say that maybe you could have done somethings differently or better… or that you know you did some things wrong.  After they hear you reflect about the situation let them see you smile then move on.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Know if You are Overparenting

The other day someone made the comment to me “People are so stupid.”  I thought to myself “That’s probably because they were overparented.”  Overparenting produces ill equipped, incapable, irresponsible adults who don’t know how to problem solve, how to navigate life and usually expect others to carry their burdens.  This is never the intended outcome of a parent but it is the outcome they will get.  What a disservice to their kids.

Do you overparent?  Here’s three indicators that would suggest you do.

1. Your child calls or texts you with every problem he encounters.  If your child is contacting you all throughout the day about everything, whether it’s a hang nail or a really grumpy teacher, this shows they don’t have the confidence or skill to resolve issues on their own.  It’s likely they don’t have the confidence or skill because you have not allowed them to grow emotionally as they grow physically.

2. Your child can’t handle disappointment.  No one enjoys disappointment. But disappointment should not cause a complete meltdown.  Resiliency is one of the strongest signs of good parenting. If your child has never practiced resiliency because you have done everything you can to protect him from disappointment, he will not be able to handle the inevitable adversity he will face in life.

3. Your child avoids hard work and looks for short cuts.  Kids today are used to having service providers… and by service providers I mean parents who do everything like driving, cooking, laundry, cleaning, paying for everything, etc.  This produces unrealistic expectations in your child that everything will be done for them throughout life.  So when this child (now or as an adult) needs to complete a task they see as difficult or unappealing they will do anything they can to get out of it or take a short cut.

No one reading this blog has the intention of producing incapable, irresponsible adults.  But by shielding them from hurt, hard work and disappointment we are doing just that.  It can be really difficult to change his dynamic.  But it’s possible!  Don’t lose hope.  If you need some help with it, give me a call.  You’re not alone.

Written by Lisa Smith


Parenting Exaggerated

Lisa Smith is the expert guest on Answers for the Family.  She discusses the growing challenge of overprotective parents, the disservice it is to teens and children and how to take a more balanced approach within the family.

Mama-bear Parenting

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Are You a Mama-Bear?

Have you heard the expression “Momma-bear”? Well according to the Urban dictionary It means “ a wonderful mother who is protective, but in a good way. She acts like a mother bear in all senses of the word; caring, protective, helpful, loving, powerful, strong, a refuge of sorts.’

 This sounds like a great Momma and many of those qualities are wonderful but while being protective may work well for a bear, being overprotective is not always helpful for us humans.

 It is our desire to be protective but I see parents rescuing their child from things the child should learn to work through. Why do we always want to rescue our children from hard work? We see them making a bad choice and we want to step in and show them an easier way or help them take a short cut, or simply solve the problem for them. Are we really helping them?

 It is hard for many of us as parents to step aside and watch our children struggle. It starts when they are very young. We watch our one year old crawl under the coffee table and then try to stand up and he bumps his head. We immediately want to get under there and help him out. We could watch and allow him to struggle and figure it out. He is learning where his body is in relation to space and the table. When we whisk him out of there he has no idea how that happened. He may later find himself in the same situation, bump his head, cry and wait for you to magically get him out. You didn’t allow him to figure it out himself. 

 This rescuing behavior goes on as they get older, we don’t allow our children to feel the natural consequences of their own behavior. The problems are different but the learning still needs to happen. These hard times teach a child to develop perseverance, resilience and courage. 

 Parents may think that when a child fails, looses or is turned down that this will hurt their self esteem. But children will soon learn that life is not always fair and they are going to be faced with challenges and the child who is successful at pushing through these adverse situations will develop a true positive self esteem.

How can we help our children when they are faced with a challenge? We can acknowledge that it is hard, empathy goes a long way, but we can follow this by being an encourager and maintaining a positive outlook. This will help them keep moving forward even though it may be difficult. It is very easy to get caught up in the self pity, unfairness of life, or ‘why me?’. As parents we can guide our children out of that unhealthy mind set, teaching them to let go of self-defeating and unproductive thoughts and get down to the business of dealing with what’s before them. Parents who use strategies like these can change a child’s outlook and help their child develop determination, persistence and problem-solving skills.

 I feel this quote is appropriate, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” -William Feather

We can teach our children to hang on, to not give up and to learn from their mistakes. This will also develop in them strong character. So don’t rescue your children from adversity but support them as they walk through it.

 Written by Lisa Strong