These days we hear a lot about “building resilient kids”,
But what is resilience, really?
It encompasses many skills. Fundamentally, resilience is being able to handle whatever life throws at us. It’s an inner knowing that whenever we face challenges, we will be able to find or figure out a solution. It’s the confidence that we have the skills and resources we need, and when the time comes, we will step up and handle whatever is going on.
It’s more than just “coping skills”.
Rather, resilience is an attitude. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of BEING.
When we feel resilient, we feel powerful.
And resilience is so important in our development, especially for kids, because many children feel powerless. They feel trapped, or “stuck” by the rules and responsibilities set by parents, teachers, friends, sports coaches, etc.
It’s not pleasant, to feel powerless.
Powerlessness is feeling like life is just something that happens to us, out of our control.
Powerlessness is asking “why me” when bad things happen.
Powerlessness is lamenting about how unfair our circumstances are.
Kids who feel powerless will tend to react, rather than respond.
Kids who feel powerless will tend to blame others. Or nag at others. Or judge and criticise others. Or even bully and belittle others.
Kids who feel powerless will make statements like “you made me…” or “I’m mad because…” or “I yelled because…”
So, how do we turn this around?
The key is to teach kids that they are actually in control of their thinking. And since thoughts lead to feelings, and feelings lead to actions, and actions lead to habits, and habits lead to destiny… it means that kids are ultimately in control of their destiny.
And it all starts with our kids recognising that they are in control of their thoughts. That their thoughts are the ONLY thing over which they have control. Kids can’t control their parents, their teachers, or their friends, any more than they can control the weather.
We need to teach our kids that they can control what they think about. They can control how they interpret the world. And they can control how they choose to respond.
It all comes down to thinking.
And the way to teach this is simple. We teach our kids through our behaviour.
Which means, we need to start being resilient, ourselves.
We need to start taking responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. We need to stop blaming others for our actions. We need to stop blaming our situation and circumstances for why we can’t do things.
We need to stop giving our power away.
Because whatever our kids see us doing, they will learn to do as well. And through our behaviour, many of us actually teach our kids how to become powerless. We teach kids to respond to their circumstances, rather than taking charge of them.
So to teach resilience, we must BECOME resilient. And here are three ways to do that:
1. Be deliberate in how we choose to feel.
If we want to feel happy, we can either a) wait for something good to happen, that makes us happy, or b) think about or do things that make us happy.
Only one of those is within our control.
The great thing about emotions is that when we start feeling happy, it becomes a lot easier to think happy thoughts. Which makes us even happier. Which makes it even easier to think happy thoughts. And so on.
So we can get the ball rolling, by deliberately starting our day with activities or ideas that create happiness. Some people pat their dog, some people go for a walk, and some people think about all the things they love about their life. There is always something to think about, or do, that will put a genuine smile on our face. We just need to go and do that.
2. Recognise that other people’s moods don’t have to affect our own.
Just because our parent, or teacher, or friend, or neighbour is upset, it doesn’t mean we need to join them.
People who are feeling upset, angry, sad, frustrated, etc will tend to think, speak, and act accordingly. So if someone speaks to us angrily, we can recognise that the anger is their issue, not ours.
Not our circus, not our monkeys.
I do get that it’s not easy. When someone speaks to me angrily, sometimes I want to respond in kind. It takes practice to change our habits. The more we practice, the better we become. So when others are angry, or irritated, or whatever, we get better and better at maintaining our own positive emotions, and not getting caught up in whatever they are feeling.
3. Be ok with mistakes – because practice DOESN’T make perfect.
Sometimes there will be a situation that really pushes our buttons – and we’ll lash out. And in retrospect, we’ll realise that we could have responded better.
That’s ok. We don’t need to become perfectly enlightened beings who never feel unpleasant emotions – and why would we want to, anyway? Making mistakes is human. Making mistakes is a part of life. Mistakes are how we grow.
So instead of berating ourselves for our mistakes, identify the lesson, and move on. Learn how to improve, and then let it go.
Ruminating over our past mistakes is a short trip to sadness, guilt, and regret.
Instead, put the mistake in the context of improving, learning, and growing.
Always remember that the fastest, most effective, way to teach resilience, is through example. Because kids don’t listen to what we say, but they definitely watch what we do.