Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Encourage Resilience in Children

It seems that certain people are just made to handle adversity. No matter what comes their way they find a solution and don’t seem overly concerned.

Though, resilience doesn’t come out of nowhere. These people learned somewhere along the way how to deal with problems and find value within life’s difficulties.

Why is resilience important?
Resilience offers protective factors against mental and physical illness, providing a buffer against stress, strain, and anxiety. When it comes to children, helping them understand risk factors in their life and how to face these competently is cruical to raising a confident and self-discplined children.

Resilience in children
A resilient child is able to adapt when faced with adversity and feels competent when solving new problems. They view obstacles as challenges to rise to, instead of stressors to avoid. From a parenting perspective we must show children unconditional love and support, and be a figure to help them grow and learn.

Here are a few building blocks for developing resilience and self-reliance in children.

Problem solving - Having a Growth Mindset
Resilience can be seen through Carol Dweck’s research on school children and their perception of intelligence and ability. Children answered a series of questions and were praised with different comments steering the child’s focus to either intelligence or effort.

For instance:
“You must be really smart!”
“You must have worked really hard at this!”

The students were then offered a choice of doing a harder or easier assignment. Students who’s feedback was highlighted with hard work were willing to try the more difficult task.

The children who focused on effort were explained to have a growth mindset, where as children which had a focus on the stable nature of intelligence and ability tended to have a fixed mindset.

Someone with a growth mindset knows that learning takes hard work and practice, and is willing to put in the necessary effort to find a solution.

Someone with a fixed mindset on the other hand will assume that how they performed predicts a fixed ability. If they didn’t know the answer to a math problem, this means they aren’t good at math. If they aren’t good at math what’s the use in trying?

We need to help children have a growth mindset by emphasizing hard work, a willingness to try, and the importance of practice.

Responsibility and achievement
Help children to understand that behaviors have consequences and to learn to do things on their own. Don’t solve all their problems or give them the immediate solution. By letting children take an appropriate amount of responsibility they can begin to develop self-confidence and build self-efficacy through gradual success.

Helping children gain mastery from experiences plants the seed for ambition, motivation, and learning.

A few suggestions to help children gain mastery:
  • Help children explore the what? how? and why? of their experiences
  • Encourage and invite them to contribute by trying new things they can do
  • Celebrate when you see success
  • Always show respect when helping to learn lessons
Adaptability and flexibility
Help children to understand that things don’t always go as planned. Being flexible and able to change is an important characteristic of resilience.

When a child is going through a life transition or big change, this can be a great learning opportunity to show how change can be dealt with and perceived in a positive way.

Help children to:
  • Gain a perception of personal control over the environment.
  • Try something new and understand there are many ways to solve a problem.
  • Recognize that different environment require different behavior.
Everyone wants their kids to be happy and successful in life. A major part of this is instilling the wisdom that life will have ups and downs, and that despite this, everyone is valuable and capable of accomplishing their goals. It may just take a little hard work and persistence.

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