Research Paper By Marichelle Ciniglio
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
We wear many hats, we are adults, parents, siblings, daughters, sons, professionals, and friends; however, we manage these hats to the best of our ability, probably enduring some kind of challenge at one point or another.
When we are faced with challenges, we tend, unconsciously for the most part, to deal with these situations the same way we have always dealt with it; with whatever skills we have learned as children, or perhaps, you have learned new skills along the way. Resilience is just that, it is the ability to adapt to stress and adversity. There is a healthy and an unhealthy way. There is one that comes from a place of empowerment and there is one that comes from a place of fear. One can easily assume which one is which. Don’t get me wrong, fear is not a bad thing, it is just that in small quantities, it does wanders for our drive to move forward. But when we allow fear influence our thoughts, beliefs and values; it becomes a paralyzing agent to overcome challenges. However, when we allow our strengths to be our guide to succeed, they become our engine for overcoming any stress. One’s ability to adapt is first learned as children, and our main teachers, our parents.
When coaching parents, we must be very conscientious of all the effort they have put in in raising their children and in doing so, identifying their own resilience in themselves. As a parent, one’s resiliency ability gets tested over and over again and in recognizing that, coaches can help identify the areas of strength and weakness in the different situations children may put parents in.
When coaches use the parents’ own upbringing as a way to help them understand the process of learning resilience, it becomes easier to bring awareness to their own methods of bouncing back. This is when coaches provide a space to sharpen their own resiliency and in turn, transmit the information to their children.
In the next pages, coaches and parents can benefit from the information provided to help in looking into our own resiliency and help others.
During childhood, we start encountering challenges early on. Then we start managing situations with the help of those around us: parents, grandparents, peers, siblings, teachers, and/or any adult in our lives. There are 3 ways we can develop resilience, the ability to bounce back: by observing how those around us manage stress; by how the adults in our lives offer resources and tools to help us overcome adversity; and by how our own life experiences shape our behavior.
As parents, we want to be able to teach the skills necessary for our kids to be resilient as children and as adults. But the questions is… how do we teach children to “bounce back”? Below, you will become aware of the reality we live in and how to help parents use this information to come up with ways to teach resiliency to their children using their own life experiences.
Lets take a walk… A story of a resiliency
When children learn how to walk, they don’t understand the concept of failure just yet, they fall and they get up again without hesitation, and then, fall and get up again and again. Why do children keep trying despite the constant falling? Is it because…
- We as parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, we are constantly encouraging?
- There is no doubt in our minds that he/she will walk?
- We make a big deal for every step he/she makes?
- When he/she falls we say “oops” and get him/her up again?
- We are the role models? We are constantly walking.
Well, the answer is “all of the above”. You just taught your child resilience.
What would happen if one of the reasons listed above wasn’t present, or was distorted at the time of teaching a child how to walk? would he/she be successful?
Let’s analyze this…
There is four very distinct factors present when teaching resiliency: support, expectation, model, and perception. These factors can be used for any teaching. In this case, we will apply these factors to teaching a child how to walk:
Support: Everyone is cheering for the child. Parents prepare the environment by keeping the walking area limited to the safest area of the house, keeping away any sharp objects or corners.
Expectation: The child was encouraged to TRY, and it didn’t matter how many times he/she fell, he/she was encourage to keep TRYING. The expectation wasn’t that he/she was doing to do it right the first time, it was that the child was going to TRY until he/she succeeded.
Model: Adults (even other older children) around the child, become role models for walking.
Perception: Parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts KNOW that the child will succeed and there is no doubt in their mind; Therefore, they act accordingly.
The ideal model for teaching resilience is to have all these factors present, However, beside these factors, there are some realities all parents, educators, family members, etc. need to be aware of in order to make informed decisions about how to teach resiliency to children.
There are 7 reality checks what we must face in order to help our children learn resilience.
Reality Check # 1
Everyone faces adversity. As parents we tend to shelter our children from pain and stress. The worst thing for a parent is to see them hurt.
When we show them a world that has adversities, and we still can find success, or even better, teach our kids that adversities helps them become successful. They understand that nothing happens TO them, things just happen, and that we can learn from it.
Lets take the Learning to walk example: As parents, we know the child is going to fall, we want him/her to try again. We can see how part of falling is necessary for them to learn. We transmit a sense of security to the child because, despite the falling, he/she will get back up again. As parents, we provide an environment for the child to be successful, for example, we limit the area for them to practice where there are no sharp edges; we shorten the area of to and from, and then, we make it bigger for them to walk further and further. Slowly we start taking the safeguards and the child and you became confident they could do it.
Reality Check # 2
All parents are teachers, whether they want the job or not. As parents, we are teaching, through actions, how we handle adversity and children DO pay attention.
Your perception of adversities will directly influence your actions when faced with challenges and your child will copy your attitudes and behaviors.
Reality Check # 3
Resilience as well as flakiness can be taught.
Just like we can learn the ability to bounce back, we can also learn the ways of falling apart.
Resilience is all about making a mistake, learn from it, and move forward. Flakiness is all about making a mistake, regretting it and avoiding any similar situations. Imagine for example, the child that is learning how to walk, what if he falls because he steps wrong, then he regrets putting the foot there and never gets up again for fear of falling again. It doesn’t sound very smart, but let’s think how many times we stop trying after making one mistake? If we try again, that is called resilience; if we succumbed to the fear, that is called flakiness.
At this point self-talk is mega important. The internal dialogue that you have with yourself is an important step in changing the perception from resilience to flakiness
Have you ever said one of these to yourself?
- I am very proud of myself for putting forth the effort in this project
- I am so dumb, how could I have thought I could this?
Or said one of these to someone else:
- I am very proud of you on how you kept working on that math problem until you figured out the answer.
- What is wrong with you? Don’t you know how to do math?
In the walking example: Do you clap and give kisses when the child gave for the first time five steps and then fell? Do you punish your child when he/she falls after the 5 steps?
Reality Check # 4
“Everyone gets a trophy” mentality does not show the value of hard work.
Self-esteem is the overall emotional evaluation of his/her own worth. Children develop positive self esteem through effort and experiencing mastery, persistence, overcoming frustration, boredom, and meeting challenges.
What message are we sending when children get rewarded just by being present? When does that happen in real life? It is not real. One thing is to have children who fail and stop trying for fear to fail again and another is to have children who fail and try again. If we transfer this scenario to the walking example: The child cannot identify much less communicate emotions and feelings at this age. However, the child is putting forth effort by trying, and trying and finally succeeding. It would be very different if the child falls and cries and at that moment, we become concerned by the child’s self esteem. How would we act? Our intention changes, we no longer want the child to walk we want to prevent him/her to have traumatic event, so we act upon the intention we set forth…that we give them a reward for being there because we fear that he/she may fall again… This is how the four factors will unfold: The support will encourage the child to be there and our intention is to make him feel good for anything. The expectation will be that he/she will not have a traumatic event. The model: Do not try because you may fail. The perception: if he fails he will have low self-esteem.
Let’s say that we, as children experienced failure. If that failure is perceived as something terrible and the feeling is awful, as parents, we are going to do everything in our power to spare our children from that experience. It is our job to protect them from harms way, but us is our responsibility to prepare them for challenges. When we try to prevent our children from experience failure in small dosses (to learn that there is room for improvement); then, later in life when they fail they may never learn the internal dialogue that helps a person bounce back from adversity.
Reality Check # 5
Success does not come from intelligence, looks or talents. Success is in the effort.
What makes a child succeed is to learn that not everything is easy; an effort of some sort is required to succeed. Intelligence, looks and talents are innate characteristics of a person that required no effort to acquire.
Reality Check # 6
There are 4 basic feelings: anger, sad, scare, and happy. They are normal. It is important to recognize why we feel them at any particular moment.
It is important to learn that these feelings can be overwhelming when we give them power. If your child is angry because another boy took his toy, he has a choice of how much thought he wants to put in this event.
Our brains trick us and distort our perceptions. Our self-talk can build us up or can bogs us down. Which one you choose to use will determine your success rate.
Reality Check # 7
Repetition is the best way to learn a new skill. Parents can spend 5 to 10 minutes a day teaching resilience.
Ways to build resilience
- Build up sentences: Sentences that can be used by parents and teachers to help model the mindset of children to build resilience.
Like in the example of the child learning how to walk, Parents are motivating the child to get back up and try again… Parents are not punishing the child because he/she fell. Parents know he or she will be successful, therefore they act like they are certain it is going to happen.
Examples of sentences:
- I can see that you tried several times to get that problem correct.
- Your grades showed that you really work hard, I like the person that you are.
- Become a role model for your child: Children learn faster by mimicking. It really doesn’t matter how many times you tell them that failure is part of growing and becoming better, if you throw fits of rage because you didn’t get your way; our child will throw fits of rage too. If you encounter a problem at work and your child sees you genuinely concerned, but you handle it by talking it out with your partner, your child will learn that is safe to express your feelings and rely on a trusted friend for support to solve to problems.
- Help internalize behaviors by letting the self-talk out. Once a child has made a mistake or experienced failure, ask non judgmental questions:
- what happened?
- If the same situation occurs again,
- would you do the exact same thing? If not, what would you change?
- How much effort did you put in?
- What did you learn from this?
- What worked for you this time?
- How did you feel?
Let’s make an effort to become resilient ourselves and serve as a role model for our children. Let’s notice how are we bouncing back from situations outside of our control. There is reflection questions below that will help you come up with ways to teach resiliency to your children.
Power Questions for Parents
- How resiliency would benefit your child in the future?
- How did you learn resiliency growing up?
- Would you use the same way you were taught to teach resiliency to your children?
- Do you display resiliency around your child?
- If not, how would you incorporate resiliency in your life?
- Are there role models showing this resiliency often in front of your child?
- Can you think of a time he/she showed resiliency? If yes, in what situation?
- What was the trigger that helped your child display resiliency?
- What are the obstacles that are preventing from teaching resiliency?
- What would happen if there were no obstacles?
- What is it that you can start doing right now that would help your child to learn resiliency?
- If there is anytime in his/her life that he/she could benefit brought by having resiliency?
- Does he/she observe the value of resiliency on a regular basis?
- Notice his/her environment. Observe how does he/she interact with it in a way that would allow him/her to manifest resiliency?
- How can you use technology to teach him/her resiliency?
- What length of time do you think you need to teach him/her resiliency for it to stick?
- How do you teach things to your child usually? Lecturing, through punishment, or actions?
- How did you learn this skill and how old were you?
- Would you teach resiliency the same way to your child in the exact same manner?
- How would you know that resiliency is part of him/her?
McInnis, M. Resilience in Children: 7 Simple Parenting Rules. Ebook.
Namka, L. Lesson Plans on Teaching Resilience to Children [Kindle Edition].
Seligman. M. The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience [Kindle Edition].
Tough, P. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character [Kindle Edition] .