7 ways to help your child become more resilient

What if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

Early Childhood Education

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.

Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has studied how resilience is a key factor in success in life, a view strongly shared by us at Avendale. Below, we share some of the techniques we use daily to build resilience in Avendale students. We encourage you to try these at home too.

1. Create a safe environment for failure

Children need to feel secure and safe to thrive. Therefore, as adults and educators, we need to create an environment (at home and in school) where children feel safe enough to take risks and experience failure. Then, if they do fail as they inevitably will at some point, they can do so without risk of retribution or harm. Building a safe environment allows the child to have full trust in you and an open relationship based on mutual respect and honest communication.

2. Use positive language

The way your word your language has a significant influence on how things are learnt. Using language that empowers and supports children, even when they are frustrated and experiencing ‘failure’ can encourage them to keep trying. For example: ‘I see you’re having difficulty with that. Can you think of another way you could try to achieve it?’ or ‘I like that idea, but how about you think about…’ Positive language and reinforcements build children’s confidence and may encourage them to continue to persist even in the toughest of times. Learn more in this post.

3. Praise effort

The process of how you get somewhere is often just as important as the end product, if not more so! When children begin something, they are going to learn so much through the process; problem solving, imagination, reasoning, predication, self-expression and more! We can observe the child and support the process of how things are done, use positive reinforcements and suggest further improvements or reflections. We should encourage children to discover, explore and investigate their journey rather than look straight to the finish line.

4. Support their efforts

As parents, our role is to support our children’s growth, allowing them to make mistakes and explore failure. We lay the foundation, observing our children and supporting them where and when they need it, encouraging problem solving with open ended and supportive questions. Lev Vygotsky’s theory ‘Zone of proximal development’ refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can achieve with guidance and encouragement from someone else. Stay in the zone. Let them work towards their own achievements - don’t do everything for them.

5. Model resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a situation that has caused stress, failure, challenge or even trauma. This is something that children develop as they grow and something that can be modelled by the adults in their life. Children will observe how you react to situations, and will have a role model for when they encounter different scenarios themselves. Children mimic their parents’ emotional responses and reactions, using their observations to interpret a situation and the behaviour to go with it. Your child learns resilience from what you do even more than what you say.

6. Don’t jump straight in

When your child hits an initial roadblock, or finds themselves bored with nothing to do, don’t provide them with the solution straight away. Instead, facilitate their own efforts to overcome the issues they have. This is particularly important in this modern world, when it is easy to fill any void children might have with activities or technology. For example, if your child is struggling with piecing together a puzzle, resist the urge to do for them. After observing your child’s behaviour and it is clear they need support, talk through the problem with them. Communicate with your child and ask ‘It looks like you’re having trouble finding where that piece goes, why don’t you try and turn it around?’ Help your child through the steps, instead of telling them where the puzzle piece goes! By supporting the child through an obstacle, you are instilling confidence in them and showing them that they can solve problems! A quote by Carol Kranowitz reflects this by saying “Life is an obstacle. When we make it easy for them as children, we make it harder for them as adults.”

7. Encourage perseverance

Giving up on something that you find difficult is easy. However, persevering shows that you can do anything if you put your mind to it! If you give your child the answers or allow them to give up every time things get difficult or frustrating, they will miss out on so many life skills. Pushing through the discomfort is natural, and children need to feel the challenges to allow them to understand future successes. Learning to persevere is important to development because it is interlinked with personal development and self-improvement. By learning to keep trying, children will learn how to reflect on their experiences and how to better them in the future.

Watch Angela’s TED talk on resilience/grit: