As parents, it is natural for us to want to protect our children when they struggle or face challenges in life. This means that sometimes, as well-intentioned as we may be, we may end up over-protecting or over-guiding our children. This can lead to them becoming risk-averse or unable to deal with conflict when it comes knocking at the door. But learning not to give up at the first frustration or give up after a setback is an important life skill that our children need as they grow up. That’s why it is vital to equip your children with the ability to be resilient and to learn from the challenges they face while making the best of them. As the old adage goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Here are a couple of ways you can teach your children resilience.
Validate their Struggles
When our children face difficulties, start by validating their experiences and struggles. Many well-meaning parents are often downplaying their child’s emotions by immediately suggesting solutions and overlooking the big picture. Sometimes, your child simply needs some comfort and support – before they can consider other alternatives. Children who feel that their emotions and perseverance are not acknowledged may avoid challenges, be afraid to try again, ignore helpful feedback, and sometimes even feel threatened by the success of others when they accomplish what your children were fearful of. On the other hand, if you acknowledge their hardships and encourage them, they are more likely to feel “seen” and reassured, and therefore more likely, dare to be confident to take positive risks and be inspired and even motivated by the success of others.
Failure, rejections and making mistakes can be painful, frustrating, and embarrassing experiences – for both children and parents. Since success is a source of pride, especially within Asian families, such setbacks are often seen as a sign of shame, and parents worry about losing face or what others think. But failure also has its positives by being a great “teacher”, albeit an unpleasant one. It’s an opportunity to teach acceptance and help develop critical problem-solving skills that will benefit your children in the long run.
By teaching them how to embrace failure, we encourage them not to give up so quickly, which allows them to build confidence to try again when they feel better equipped. A parent’s primary role here is to support and guide your child, rather than simply ‘spoon-feed’ them solutions or giving them an easy way out anytime setbacks occur. Allow your child to come up with ideas for solutions that they can implement. By doing this, you give them the opportunity to learn how to reflect, reformulate, adapt, and practise flexible thinking, which is essential to developing a growth mindset.
Keep Setbacks in Perspective
Start by explaining that setbacks are a part of life and happen to everyone, including you. You could also share examples of challenging situations you have experienced yourself – this can help your children relate and feel less ashamed or embarrassed when things go wrong. Do not forget to emphasise your own learning experiences that came from those failures. Being vulnerable yourself will help your child deal with setbacks and help them self-reflect after the initial pain of failure or rejection has passed.
Remind your child that while avoidance behaviours or simply giving up can feel like a better option, it can also mean that they risk missing out on enriching opportunities that could make them happy and fulfilled. You can also teach them to reframe defeatist statements and introduce them to different perspectives. Let them know that it’s okay when things sometimes do not go as planned and not let setbacks hinder them from achieving their goals. When appropriate or safe, let them experience the consequences of their actions. As much as this may pain you as a parent, it can teach them to be accountable and learn to take on more responsibility.
Praise their Efforts
Praise can have a powerful effect on children because it can empower and motivate them to keep trying hard. It can also spur them to find strategies to overcome challenges. Praising your children for their efforts while giving them honest feedback and encouragement plays a crucial role in developing their self-esteem and social-emotional learning. Focus on their progress and determination rather than the outcome. This can help children see how their efforts are paying off and can also motivate them. For example, suppose your child enjoys helping you with house chores but sometimes makes a mess. In that case, you could say, “I can see that you have avoided spilling the water on the floor, and I appreciate you trying to help.” You can also physically encourage your children by giving them a big hug, a high five, or a pat on the back to acknowledge their efforts.
Just remember that trials and tribulations are inevitable, and as parents, we can’t always be there for our children. If we shield our children from failure, intervene often, or even go so far as to choreograph success for them, we risk distorting the experiences they need to grow. A minor setback can actually be beneficial for your children – as long as you teach them how to handle failure and rise from it. This builds their confidence, character and resilience to handle difficult situations in the future. In turn, it gives you the peace of mind that your children can actually take on whatever life throws at them. Coping skills and resilience are like muscles; we do not know how strong they really are until we find opportunities to use them. The same is true for our children. So, teaching your children resilience and fostering a healthy growth mindset can help them grow up to be more independent, confident, and self-sufficient even when there are setbacks at every turn. As a result, they are more likely to succeed in future endeavours, be it achieving personal goals, academic goals, or simply integrating into society.