Raising Resilient Children

Raising Resilient Children


"A quitter never wins; a winner never quits.”

–attributed to Vince Lombardi

While everyone agrees with the above statement in principle, many people grow up with a habit of quitting after the first setback—or, worse, of never trying at all. If you want your children to grow up with the far better habit of resilience (rising after each fall, remaining confident of success throughout long struggles), here are the values to emphasize and model:

Self-confidence, believing in one’s own abilities. Many parents consistently jump in to handle spoons, tie shoes, or make beds long after children are eager to attempt it themselves. That sends the message “You can’t be trusted to master new things”—then we wonder, five years later, why the kids are so difficult about accepting responsibility for homework and chores! Let them try anything that’s reasonably safe, even if their first efforts are sloppy. Encourage them to explore their own interests, even if it’s not the path you’d choose. Let them develop persistence and sound judgment through trial and error. And when they achieve even a small success, celebrate with them! (Encourage them to celebrate others’ victories as well—a habit well worth continuing into adulthood. Self-confident people aren’t threatened by others’ successes; they know life is not a competition and everyone gains through everyone else’s unique contributions and rewards.) 

A willingness to fail. No exceptional achiever is a “no failure permitted” perfectionist; Thomas Edison is credited with saying he had found 10,000 ways not to reach his goal, with the implication that finding the right way was just a matter of time. The quick quitters and the non-triers aren’t those who know their limits; they’re those who lack courage to stretch to their limits and achieve their maximum potential.

The discernment to minimize stress triggers. No one is physically or emotionally invincible; there’s a difference between accepting necessary challenges and flirting with unnecessary stress. There’s nothing wrong with delegating a task, or cutting ties with people who deliberately push your buttons. Your individual stress triggers may be things “everyone else” takes in stride, and that’s okay. Resilient people don’t live by majority opinion.

Rest, refreshment, and fun. The worst thing you can do to your children is discourage play and exploration in the name of “acting your age.” Let them teach you to stay young through laughter, silliness, and adventure. Resilience means optimism, which means a lifestyle of joyful lightheartedness.

A spiritually rooted outlook. Resilient people are unfazed by setbacks because they realize that the highest values—compassion, integrity, inner peace—are above and beyond the reach of material-world circumstances. When your soul is intimately connected to the higher powers, nothing on earth has any real power over you.

In closing, it’s worth noting that a person can look like a quitter and actually be displaying considerable resilience—if they’re “quitting” to pursue a path that instinct tells them will prove a harder-but-better way. Don’t panic if your child objects to what you recommend—from Little League to Ivy League—and turns toward a less-traveled road. In such choices lie the proof of a resilient soul; by such approaches world-changers are made.