Probably the most fundamental qualities a child can have in order to have the requisite “survival skills” to make it in the world no matter what the odds, obstacles or set-backs is resilience and persistence – resilience to withstand whatever life throws at your child and persistence to keep on going in the face of those challenges.
I love the message depicted by the following image:
If there is one belief I hope that my children can hold onto in life, it would be this: never give up. As with most things in life, some children naturally have this mindset, and others need to work on it.
But how do you teach such an important lesson to a child? Can it even be taught?
“Resilience can be broken down into a set of specific abilities, and those abilities can be learned and applied over time,” Reivich says. By altering the way we think about adversity, we can actually teach ourselves, and our children, to be more resilient.
In my younger days, I used to challenge myself with activities to strengthen my mind. I started rock climbing to beat the fear of heights. I ran a marathon with very little training (not one of my brighter ideas, I’ll grant you, but I made it) just to see if my mind was stronger than my body and it was. They say that the biggest obstacle for any runner attempting to complete a marathon is “the wall” – thankfully, I didn’t “bonk”.
All these activities fed my belief in myself that I could endure and I would survive, no matter what. But they strengthened a foundation I already had. Where did the persistence and resilience stem from? When everyone told me I was crazy to quit dentistry, I still went ahead with it. It was like the more convinced they were that I would eventually come crawling back to dentistry with my tail between my legs (after having tried my hand at others things only to discover that I had it good with dentistry), the more determined I was succeed.
Was I just a kid who naturally had it? Or was it something my parents did when they were raising me that helped to instill this mindset? Even as I look at my two boys, it is evident that Hercules is a child who has a natural reserve of resilience. Aristotle is the one who will have to learn this lesson the hard way. As a parent who identifies more readily with Hercules, how do I teach such lessons to Aristotle without alienating him with my unrealistic expectations? The more I try to encourage Aristotle, it seems the more convinced he is that he can’t do it. Perhaps what sounds like encouragement to me is “pushiness” to him? So how do I speak his language?
Apparently, we can start by taking this quiz for parents – Are You a Parent Capable of Fostering Resilience? If you failed the test, don’t worry. There is still time to make changes, and the following articles are a great place to start:
- How do parents promote resiliency in their children?
- 10 Tips for Raising Resilient Children
- 10 Ways to Raise Resilient Kids
- 10 Tips to Raise a Persistent Child
- Teach Children to Persist
- Teach Your Child to Operate with Optimism
Persistence is unfortunately a two-edge sword. There are probably times in your child’s life when you wish they were less persistent because it makes handling their behaviours much harder from a parenting perspective. As much as we would like to crush these behaviours, it is important to remember that persistence has its value and when your child is older, you will appreciate his persistence.
At its most basic and fundamental level, teaching persistence and resilience to our children boils back to our children’s mindset (there is a book on this by Carol S Dweck). You can allow your child to develop a fixed and limiting mindset, or you can encourage them to develop a growth mindset. A fixed mindset can cripple them for life, while a growth mindset can open a whole world of opportunity.
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