How to Raise a Resilient Child and Why It Matters
Resiliency is key to living a successful life. Here’s how to cultivate it in your child.
Dr. Meg Meeker, MD
Applying for a new job.
Making friends at school.
Trying out for the basketball team.
Learning a new hobby.
All of these common life experiences require resilience.
Resilience is perhaps the most important quality a person can have, and, therefore, perhaps the most important quality you can instill in your child.
Resilience is what will ensure your child has a successful adolescence and adulthood. It will ensure she is not deterred by failure or disappointment, which are so frequent in life. And it will allow her to build real relationships and create deeper connections without the fear of those relationships ending.
Who wouldn’t want his child to be successful, able to move on from failure, and able to foster strong, loving community in her life?
Because of this, it’s important to teach your child how to be resilient now, even before the big life challenges come her way. How do you this? The No. 1 way to build resiliency in your child is to let your child fail.
We learn and grow the most not in our successes but in our failures. Any adult understands this. It’s during the trying times that we learn to be resilient and stand back up. We return stronger than we were before.
However, it is difficult to imagine our kids suffering the heartache of failure, so we often go to great lengths to protect them from it. We do their homework, we fight their battles, we don’t let them try new things, for fear they may not succeed.
My friend Dr. Tim Elmore, author and parenting coach, calls this “over-functioning parenting,” and it really is an epidemic with parents today. Over-functioning parents think they are protecting their child when really, they are doing the opposite. They are failing to prepare their child for adulthood and impairing their potential.
Stop preventing your child from experiencing failure and start preparing her instead. Allow her to try a new sport or activity that you know she will have to work hard for. Then, when she messes up, allow it to be a learning opportunity.
Letting our children fail is one of the best ways to exercise their resiliency and prepare them for adulthood.
Be aware of how you respond to your child’s failure.
When your child fails, and every child inevitably will, don’t give him a sense that you are worried or that you feel sorry for him. When parents communicate this to their kids, the kids believe that something is wrong with them. Then, they worry even more. Be upbeat and matter-of-fact with him.
Simply say, “Sorry you lost, buddy.” Or, “You did a great job. You can learn how to do better next time.”
He will be emotional and upset, but your steadiness will show him that failure isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a part of life.
Ask the right questions.
A great way to make failure a learning opportunity for your child is to ask her the right questions afterward. But be aware of your tone. Don’t jab her with questions like What went wrong? or You studied so hard. How did you get a C?
Instead, be kind and curious. Dr. Elmore suggests asking questions like, Why do you think that happened? How did it make you feel? How could you have handled that differently? Next time that happens, what do you think you could do?
These questions tell your child, You can be resilient. You can come back and win this! This will make your child think you believe in her, and she really can do better next time. Your belief in her now is key to her resilience in the future.
Protecting your child from the world will not make him more resilient. In fact, it will do the opposite. Let him fail. Then, use that failure as a positive learning opportunity. The world today might seem like a scary place, but with the right tools and a strong sense of resiliency, your child will not only survive the real world but will thrive in it.
Meg Meeker, M.D., has spent more than thirty years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine and counseling teens and parents. Dr. Meeker is a fellow of the National Advisory Board of the Medical Institute, is an associate professor of medicine at Michigan State School of Human Medicine.
A popular speaker on pediatric health issues and child-parent relationships, she is a frequent guest on nationally syndicated radio and television programs. She works with the NFL Fatherhood Initiative and spoke at the UN in 2016 on family issues. Dr. Meeker lives in northern Michigan, where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four children. You can learn more by visiting her website here.
More from Shaunti’s Blog:
This article was also published at Patheos.
Check out our all-new online resource for Shaunti’s top research and teachings: SurprisingHope.com.
More from Shaunti’s Blog: