As a parent of a large family whose children run across the spectrum of educational abilities, performance, and needs- I often think about how I can best support them in their school successes and struggles. And lately I have been fascinated by the idea of “grit”, and the research on perseverance that tells us that perseverance is more important than intelligence.
So if your child is struggling in school, is having a hard time grasping new math or science concepts, is working hard but not yet successfully to decode and new words and expand their vocabulary, then what might be the most important thing for your child to learn is not just the math, science, and writing that is being covered in the classroom. What might be the most important thing to learn is how to persevere. How to stick with the hard thing. How to be resilient. So what can we learn about raising resilient children?
Raising Resilient Children
As parents, can we teach resilience to our kids? Is this something they can develop? Or is this something they were born with?
Well according to Dr. Ken Ginsburg, an author and pediatrician specializing in adolescent development, children's resilience is largely determined by how parents and communities raise them. So yes- we can help our kids develop this skill!
Dr. Ginsburg explains in his book “ Raising Kids to Thrive ” that there are two fundamental principals at the root of resilience:
A parent's unconditional love is the most important force in a child's life
Knowing that you are loved without reservation gives you the confidence to make decisions, make mistakes, and live with the consequences.
But a parent should couple that unconditional love with high expectations for effort, character, and morality- so the child learns to hold himself to high standards.
So goodbye to “Tiger Mom” parenting strategies that can make children feel that love is doled out in return for good performance.
A child will never learn life's lessons if he is protected from experiencing them
Yes, we need to protect our children from decisions and challenges that can deliver irreparable harm, but that must be balanced against the fact that resilience comes from making mistakes and learning that we can survive them.
And goodbye to “Snowplow” parenting strategies that try to clear all of the obstacles out of our children's path.
Welcome To the Era of Lighthouse Parenting!
Dr. Ginsburg offers this analogy:
“We should be like lighthouses for our children; beacons of light on a stable shoreline from which they can safely navigate the world. We must make certain they don't crash against the rocks, but trust they have the capacity to learn to ride the waves on their own.”
I think this is a beautiful idea and one that I try to embrace as a parent. But it can be hard to watch your child struggle and fail and not want to step in and “fix it”! Especially when you know your child is already a struggling learner- we want to smooth the path a bit and give them one less thing to struggle with.
But instead- it is a far more valuable experience if we acknowledge the struggle, let them know we support them but give them space and time to continue to work through their problem.
Raising Resilient Teens
The concept of resilience becomes even more important when it comes to raising teens. We all know that teens face a lot of stress and social pressures in their lives, and what teens need from their parents in order to be build resilience, are coping strategies to handle the stress and social pressures.
In this video, Dr. Ginsberg gives us his tips for building resilience in teens (the 7 C's):
Do you make the idea of raising resilient children part of your parenting strategy?