How do we get our children to withstand tough challenges?
No parent wants to see their child crumble when faced with challenging situations. It’s probably a universal desire. How we respond to their very first falls, conflicts and mishaps starts our preparation for their development of resilience, ‘grit’, the good ol’ virtue of fortitude.
A great myth in parenting is believing that to be a great parent we must protect or prevent children from struggle, discomfort and mistakes. This is far from the truth. We actually do them a huge disservice when we have that approach.
When we hover like a helicopter and swoop in to rescue them from struggle, seek to assist them with every little task, we may give the unspoken message that we don’t believe they are capable, or good enough, although our deep motive is to just be kind or see the task performed to our standards.
Another result of offering too much help is the tendency of their sitting back and letting us take on the lion’s share of the work while they learn nothing in the process. We literally steal from them opportunities to learn.
We are masters of doing this when they are given a school assignment to build something at home. The exhibition day is a display of which parent was most creative and involved!
The children have been “protected from struggle” and robbed of an opportunity to think for themselves, problem solve and have their imagination stimulated.
I have seen parents feel it essential to give daily ‘support’ to their teen even with their CAPE studies, only to find that when the young adult went abroad to university, they crumbled as the parental crutch was no longer there.
Independence, resilience and fortitude do not click in overnight. Like muscles, they must be developed.
Show empathy with failure
When our toddler stumbles and our five-year-old falls off a bike, do we react as if it’s a big drama? Yes, we must empathise and quickly comfort them, acknowledge their pain and encourage them to go off and try again.
This gives the positive unspoken message that it is safe to continue exploring, riding or running again. Sweeping them up and saying it’s too dangerous, when indeed it is a safe setting, will convey fear and insecurity to them.
Too much ‘mushy’ baby sympathetic talk will also give the message that too much danger looms ahead and it’s not ok to get hurt.
When a child has a test, are we insisting that they revise, or can we allow them to fail so they can learn a lesson? There is wisdom in allowing them to make mistakes when the price is small.
Failing a weekly test is small. No-one ‘wants’ to fail. Most humans want to do well. Children do not innately want to appear less capable than peers. When a child does not pass a test, do not berate or criticise them, show empathy instead, sadness at their poor decision of not having revised and you will be surprised how quickly they will avoid failing next time. Empathy is key. They own their problem when we do not react with anger.
When your child has a problem with a friend or a teacher, you may be tempted to call the friend’s parents or the teacher to try to fix the problem. A better approach would be to help your child understand how they contributed to the problem and discuss options to approach the situation and build better relationships with friends and authority-figures.
Along with struggle in adult life comes responsibility. What better way to build responsibility and fortitude than by instilling the discipline of chores into a child? The tediousness of doing chores transfers to the tediousness of doing schoolwork and when children have responsibilities in the home schoolwork improves.
Believing in their ability to create the results they want for themselves can be a huge motivator, and confidence-booster. It builds their character and gives them true hope for their future.
“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3–4).
It’s up to us to prepare them well for the real world. We are raising adults.
Follow Sophie’s parenting approaches drawn from Love and
Logic and Positive Discipline on www.sophiesparentingsupport.com, FB and Instagram.