You may have heard people refer to resilience as the ‘bounce back’ factor which allows children to recover from trauma or hardship. Yet, cultivating resilience isn’t just about what children do in the difficult times. It is more about what they do in the moments leading up to a difficult times. Like physical strength – mental strength is built during training, not during competition.
That means the way our children handle ‘small knocks’ is crucial, as it will be the foundation for much bigger things. It’s during the small knocks that young people develop their response patterns to life’s future pressures. Parents are wise to see each small knock as a teachable moment that has long-term significance. They are key learning opportunities.
The best way I can help parents understand the role they play in developing resilience is by using the following analogy. Think about a young person’s life like a big gym session (with lots of squats), and a parent’s role like a personal trainer.
When our tweens and teens feel the pain of doing life’s squats they are likely to want to quit. The ‘burn’ that comes from holding pressure isn’t comfortable or easy. However, it’s only through experiencing pressure that our kids develop capacity to live, grow, fail, get up again, fail some more and conquer their dreams.
Our job as parent coach is critical.
A poor coach would allow them to sit the session out every time the burn starts. He or she would pull up a chair for the young person, bring them and a Coke and say, “Take a rest. Sit this one out. I know we are supposed to be training today but you look tired. There is always tomorrow.”
A great coach will probably do the opposite. He or she might say, “You can do it. You’ve only got FIVE MORE squat to go. Stay focused. Let me wipe your sweat. Let me count you down. If you need to shake it out, that’s okay. If you need to breathe, breathe. Your goals are worth it. You are worth it.”
We don’t ever want our young people to keeping squatting to the point of collapse, but we do want them to know how to work with the burn. They grown each time they meet their limitations, and move through them. They feel accomplished when they get another five squats out of themselves.
There is a real art to saying, “I believe you can”, creatively, especially when a young person is blocking any positive input. Here are some creative ways to say that might help you be an awesome parent coach today:
- I am not sure I would have done such a good job at your age.
- You have showed so much strength so far.
- No, opting out is not an option. You have too much to offer.
- There are some things in life which are important to do, this is one of them.
- What is the most challenging part of this task?
- How are you going to approach this?
- What can I do to support you?
- What do you need from me today?
- I am really proud of you.
- How do you want to celebrate once you have accomplished this?
RECOMMENDED READING: For more, check out Michelle’s book “Everyday Resilience: Helping Kids Handle Friendship Drama, Academic Pressure and the Self-doubt of Growing Up”.