Encouraging resiliency

By Carolyn Bohm – Rātā teacher

With all the conveniences in our lives today, it can become easy for adults to try and protect children from any and all obstacles in their lives. Adults can be quick to solve a child’s problem for them, or keep them from having to struggle for accomplishment. These actions, done with the best intentions, can rob children of the opportunity to learn the tools, challenges, and joys of being resilient. While it is not helpful to allow a child to become badly injured or frustrated beyond recovery to learn about resiliency, giving them opportunities to fail or struggle safely prepares them for the challenges they will face when older.

As much of human behaviour is learned, one of the best ways to teach resiliency is to model it yourself. When eating lunch outside on a chilly day I respond to comments about the temperature by saying “I was cold too so I put on my jumper”. When we model resilient thinking (remembering to bring a jumper and wearing it when cold), we encourage children to do the same. We also teach resiliency through asking questions encouraging resilient thinking; “Where else can you look for your pencil?” or, “Is there another tool you could use to complete that job?”.

When talking to your child about school, Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, suggests questions along these lines:

  • What have you learned today?
  • What is a mistake today that you learned from?
  • What were you persistent at today?
  • What can you learn from this?
  • What will you do the next time you are in this situation?

It is perfectly acceptable to make a mistake, as long as learning takes place around the mistake. It is also completely normal to handle a situation less than ideally as long as the situation is reflected upon so the response can be improved in the future. Asking children about their experiences and working with them to get the most out of the event is a great way to teach children about resilience.

When I started eating lunch outside with Rātā unless it was raining or wet, complaints abounded in winter about being cold and not having or not wanting to put on warm clothes. Now, having weather appropriate clothing and using it has become what we do. The other week at a lunchtime, I figured we would eat inside given the wet ground but the class headed straight outside with their lunches. Upon finding the ground was wet, but not raining, they brought our class mats out to sit on. Between their resiliency to wet, wind, and cold, at lunch and on walks, I have suddenly found myself to be working with a group of kids who challenge me to be more resilient. When we encourage resilient children, we create a stronger future.