How do you raise resilient kids?

Girls in particular are taught in a million ways that they should please others. What if we honoured their natural differences?

According to koodakpress، Resilience is one of those buzzwords that was dropped in the lap of parents and educators a few years ago and has sat there since like a puppy – squirming, whining and demanding our attention. It’s adorable and you’d definitely like to keep it, but hold it too tightly and it will jump right out of your lap. And then who knows what to do with it?


In generations past – and in simple terms – resilience has essentially meant being tough. It usually referred to a physical object or institution that could outlast the weather, time, and slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.


This is still the case in a modern context, but the concept of resilience now applies more frequently to humans and has evolved to understand “toughness”, less as rigidity and more as elasticity. In other words, resilient humans need not be indestructible brick walls that the wolf can’t blow down, but more like trees who can bend and sway with the wind.


Human rigidity, we now know, isn’t good for mental health; and human indestructibility is a façade.


I mention this because most articles on resilience assume a shared understanding between writer and reader of what a resilient child looks like. One of the most common visions is of a child who is contained. That is, they face challenges, they do their best in all circumstances and they solider on through adversity. Basically, they suck it up. Even if “it” involves very big feelings in a rather little body.


In this sense, raising resilient children is about teaching them to cope. Which seems a rather meagre vision of a life if you ask me.


Another common vision of a resilient child is one who is not necessarily tough, but who can bend to the world around them. They do well with change, they’re positive, they adapt, they look for solutions and they seek out the silver lining. They’re glass half full kind of people. You can throw almost anything at them and they’ll thrive.


It all sounds extraordinarily positive until you consider the fact that this idea of resilience denies them the experience of being human.


We don’t always cope, we can’t always bend (and nor should we, sometimes the group is wrong) and the pressure to luxuriate in the silver lining can lead to a denial of circumstance and self; to a false reality.


I know this because I was one of those kids. I was compliant, mature beyond my years, hard working and adaptable. I was easy to parent (while I was young!) and I was a dream to teach. But ultimately, the adaptability, the coping, the high-achieving and good manners masked the fact that I was suppressing – containing – my feelings to please the adults around me. It took me well into my 20s to learn how to even experience my own emotions, let alone work out who I actually was. And yes, I’m still a work in progress. We all are, but teaching a kid to deny their selves and their lived experience in order to fit in is a recipe for a mid-life Corvette.


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