Parents with a resilient mindset recognize that resilience and self-worth are enhanced when children are provided with opportunities to shine and taste success, especially by making a positive difference in their world. Parents who involve their children in charitable work, such as walks for hunger or AIDS or food drives, appreciate the importance of such activities in fostering self-esteem and a social conscience.
9. Teaching Our Children to Solve Problems and Make Decisions
Hopeful children with high self-esteem and resilience believe that they are masters of their own fate. They believe that they have control of their lives. Having and maintaining control over one's life is critical for all of us. When parents help their children learn how to make decisions and solve problems independently, they provide a vital ingredient in the process of developing that control. Resilient children are able to define problems, consider different solutions, attempt what they judge to be the most appropriate solution, and learn from the outcome.
If parents are to reinforce this problem-solving attitude in their children, they must be careful not to tell children what to do. Instead they must engage children in thinking about possible solutions. To facilitate this process, it is helpful for parents to set aside a "family meeting time" every week or every other week during which problems can be discussed and solutions articulated.
Recall that Jane, the child whose friends refused to sit with her at school, asked her mother what she should do. Mrs. Jones was well meaning, but by offering Jane a solution before asking her to think about what might help, she was depriving her daughter of an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills.
Here's a similar example: Barry and his older brother, Len, constantly bickered and argued. They fought about everything, including who would sit in the front seat of the car and which television program to watch. Len was frequently admonished by his parents to be more tolerant since he was the older of the two. They warned him that his failure to do so would result in his being punished. Len's response was to become distant and reject interactions with Barry. Asking the boys to come up with a solution to their fighting would likely have been more effective.
We have often been pleasantly surprised and impressed by the ability of children to think about effective and realistic ways of managing problems. When children develop their own plans of action with the guidance of parents, their sense of ownership and control is reinforced, as is their resilience.
10. Disciplining in a Way That Promotes Self-Discipline and Self-Worth
In our clinical work and seminars, parents frequently ask about discipline. To raise resilient children, parents must understand that one of their most important roles is to be a disciplinarian in the true sense. The word discipline relates to the word disciple and thus is a teaching process. We must appreciate that the ways in which we discipline our children can either reinforce or weaken self-esteem, self-control, and resilience.
While one of the main goals of discipline is to create safe and secure environments, another is to nurture self-control and self-discipline in children. This implies taking ownership for one's behavior. It is difficult to think of children with high self-esteem who do not also possess self-discipline. Family meetings, as suggested in the previous guidepost, can be used to engage children, within reason, in the creation of household rules and consequences so that they are less likely to experience rules as impositions.
Our Children, Our Future
While children come into this world with their own unique temperaments, parents and other caregivers strongly influence whether children will develop the characteristics and mindset associated with resilience or whether they will be burdened by low self-worth, self-doubt, and a diminished sense of hope. Developing a resilient mindset is not a luxury but an essential component of a successful future.
Copyright © 2001 Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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