Most parents are aware that children will feel more competent and self-assured if they're helped to navigate challenging situations. Yet, when Michael, a twelve-year-old, became frustrated while attempting to build a radio from a kit and walked away, his father, Mr. Burton, responded angrily, "I told you it wouldn't work. You don't have enough patience to read the directions carefully." While Mr. Burton knew that what his son needed at that moment was encouragement and assistance rather than criticism, his own frustration led him astray from a helpful response to one that actually weakened Michael's resolve to persevere with more difficult tasks.
Similarly, nine-year-old Jane came home from school in tears and sobbed to her mother, Mrs. Jones, that some of her friends refused to sit with her at lunch, telling her they did not want her around. Jane was confused and distressed and asked her mother what to do. Mrs. Jones knew that one of the most important skills that children develop, a skill that is a basic component of resilience, is the ability to solve problems on their own. However, rather than engaging her daughter in a dialogue about possible solutions, Mrs. Jones, feeling anxious, immediately replied that Jane should tell the other girls that if they did not want to play with her, she did not want to play with them. While this motherly advice may have been appropriate, quickly telling Jane what to do and not involving her in a consideration of other possible solutions robbed her of an opportunity to strengthen her own problem-solving skills.
While raising resilient children is a goal that should unite all parents, it is a process that is neither taught nor, until very recently, even highlighted for many parents. We believe that the absence of this concept in guiding our parenting skills has escalated the problems that beset so many children, leaving them unprepared to meet future challenges. A lack of knowledge about resilience may lead to parenting efforts that fail or even are counterproductive. Thus, the obvious and prudent course of parenting is often sidetracked by an absence of information as well as a failure to use the information available.
We believe that the concept of resilience defines a process of parenting that is essential if we are to prepare our children for success in all areas of their future lives. Given this belief, a guiding principle in all of our interactions with children should be to strengthen their ability to be resilient and to meet life's challenges with thoughtfulness, confidence, purpose, and empathy.
Although in some scientific circles the word resilience has typically been applied to youngsters who have overcome stress and hardship, it should be understood as a vital ingredient in the process of parenting every child. Each family develops unique goals and values based on myriad factors, but in the course of achieving these goals and living in concert with one's values, the principles involved in raising resilient youngsters can serve as guideposts. The process of teaching children about friendships, religion, athletics, dealing with mistakes, learning to share with siblings, and meeting responsibilities will be enhanced by an understanding of the components of resiliency.
Each interaction with our children provides an educational opportunity to help them weave a strong and resilient personal fabric. While the outcome of a specific issue may be important, even more vital are the lessons learned from the process of dealing with each issue or problem. The knowledge gained provides the nutrients from which the seeds of resiliency will develop and flourish.
This book is not intended to prescribe what values or goals to set for yourself and your family. Rather, it reflects our belief that if you set your sights on raising a resilient child, then all aspects of parenting -- including teaching values, disciplining your children, helping your children to feel special and appreciated, assisting them to persevere, helping them to make decisions and to feel comfortable with those decisions, and encouraging satisfying interpersonal relations -- can be guided by this priority. The chapters that follow articulate and explore the mindset of resilient children as well as the mindset of parents who focus on resilience, examining how this parental mindset leads to specific ways of interacting with our children.
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