02 Feb How to grow resilient humans – Part 1
Are you excited to have your 31-year-old living at home with you, while you do his laundry and pay for his cell phone?
Or do you love picking up your 9-year-old at 1 a.m. from a sleepover because they had a nightmare?
Or sending your tween to summer camp with a backpack full of food because they refuse to eat what’s being served?
When our oldest two were littles and we were relatively fresh and green in the parenting game, we made a joint decision to let them have playdates and sleepovers at homes that operated under different rules and alternative circumstances. Sometimes this was as benign as Top Ramen for dinner and Pop Tarts for breakfast. But sometimes it was more concerning, such as a known alcoholic parent in the house or indoor chain smokers.
Either way, it was always an opportunity for family discussion and reflection (and exposure).
On the flip side, you’ll have something along the lines of those top three examples I gave, which are real and from our parenting journey as seen from the sidelines.
I know I am a short timer here and sincerely hope my children outlive me and, heaven forbid, don’t turn to shit without me to micromanage and prevent calamities.
So, resiliency. Here are a couple KEY areas and pointers within each to gently implement into your approach to parenting your children that can make a huge difference in their ability to function in this world.
FLOUNDER. Which here means: let them try and fail or have a less than amazing outcome, even if you could prevent it. Let them go to the house with different rules. Require them to try the broccolini or whatever is being served and go to bed hungry if they won’t eat it. Encourage them to take calculated risks that carry a potential gain.
- Unpleasant emotions are part of the deal. Teach and model the tolerance, acceptance, and healthy processing of emotions that don’t feel good. You can use their moments to discuss how we work through feeling bad in a healthy manner, even though we would rather skip over this portion of the human experience.
- “It’s okay to feel this way” “What are some potential lessons in this?”
- Reframe the idea of failure and mistakes into being part of the process of learning and moving forward in life.
EMPOWER. As parents, we are in part writing the software code our kids’ brains will use to operate moving forward in their lives, whether consciously or not. STOP and think before you talk to your kids, with this idea in mind.
- I challenge you to sell me on the benefit of generating guilt or shame filters in our children. Please just don’t do it. They are beautiful, miraculous human beings, period. They are learning how to human and they are learning in large part from you. Be the example of what you are asking of them.
- Focus on your child, verbalize to your child, share at the dinner table, send random love texts, brag to the grandparents about your child’s effort, their thinking, perseverance, and their methods used. Praise the shit out of that stuff!! Conversely, focusing on things like innate ability, natural talent, and end results can foster feelings of inadequacy. (What if those things aren’t always present or run out or don’t transfer to all the arenas?) Effort, perseverance, thought-work, and action are within reach for all of us in most situations and areas to encourage and recognize.
- Receiving feedback. File this one in the “why don’t they teach this in school?” category (sigh). This one is on you to teach, mama (and dad). We have unique (and likely frequent) opportunities to share feedback we’ve received in our own lives and what we made it mean. Did your boss lay into you today about being late (again)? Did your mom tell you that you don’t call her enough and she feels unimportant? These situations can be awesome opportunities to teach real-world adulting to our kids. “I will need to set the alarm 20 minutes earlier and have you guys prep your own lunches the night before from now on to ensure I get to work on time.” AND “Sometimes people take things personally, that is always a choice. But it was a good reminder to reach out to the people we love on a more regular basis.” So, feedback – let’s model to our kids how to make it something that makes us better and not lodge it into our psyches like a lifelong festering splinter, yes?
- Teach and model accountability. It is a discussion opportunity (see guilt and shame note above). If you approach life from a place of love, acceptance, and healthy communication, your child will be more open to learning to be accountable for their own choices and actions. They’ll be less prone to blaming others, avoidance, dishonesty, or feeling worthless and leaving the situation carrying any of those boulders on their shoulders.
Stop what you’re doing. Focus. Make eye contact. Hold hands. Tell your child you love them. Tell them you are proud of X-Y-Z. Tell them they are amazing, just as they are. Tell them you are so lucky and grateful to have them as your child. Tell them they bring you more joy than they can ever know. Have a good long hug.