Life can be a bumpy road. Some bumps leave us gleeful and squealing with delight. And some leave deep bruises that we think may never heal. If you’re a parent, you may have found yourself wishing you could find some kind of emotional bubble wrap that would protect your kids from those awful bumps.
There actually is such a product, by the way. It’s called resilience.
What causes some children to bounce back from a tough experience, while others seem to crumble at the slightest sign of stress? Angela Duckworth, a researcher at Penn State University, refers to resilience as GRIT. The word evokes images of children playing rough and tumbles in the dirt, dusting off their skinned knees and racing off to their next adventure. Tough cookies, those kids. I also picture persistent students asking questions and coming in for extra help until they understand…athletes committing extra hours to practice that results in mastery over their bodies during those crucial moments of competition…kids standing tall in the face of meanness or peer pressure.
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, in his book Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, defines resilience as the ability to recover from setbacks, the quality of bouncing back. Resilient people:
*see challenges as opportunities
*don’t seek problems but understand that they will ultimately be strengthened from them
*seek solutions rather than engaging in self-doubt, catastrophic thinking, or a mindset of victimization
*are equipped to navigate a stressful, complicated world
*push their limits and learn from their mistakes
Ginsburg encourages parents to develop resilience in their children using the 7 C’s as their guide: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control. Kids who have these assets become adults who can take on the world.
Growing these assets in our children means being aware of our purpose and how we can live that at the moment. If I want my child to be capable, I need to find ways for him to learn skills: school skills, housekeeping skills, yard skills, people skills, self-management skills…. I need to step back and allow him to practice those skills with ever-increasing levels of competence and not do too much for him just because it’ll look better if I do it instead. As he develops competence, he will gain confidence and develop character, while contributing to our home and family. If I manage my parenting challenges effectively, my child will feel a connection to me, and he’ll feel supported as he copes with his own challenges, which will, hopefully, result in his realization of the power and control that he has over his life.
If we try to keep our kids from experiencing the pain of life’s bumps, we will grow adults who can’t stand up without leaning on us. Instead, we must teach skills to soften the blow and speed the healing so they can push through and move forward. We must give our kids resilience. It’s bubble wrap for life.