Last week out family had plans that fell through and when we mentioned this to our 4-year-old happily declared “That’s ok. You don’t have to apologize to me. I understand.”
I sat there in a little bit of disbelief, expecting to have to squash the meltdowns and fires that I just knew would burst onto the scene at any given time.
“But you might need to apologize to Emma,” Jenn Said. “You know, because she’s a baby.”
It’s these moments that I have hope in these hard days of parenthood that striving to raise resilient kids, while difficult, has a payoff and teaching emotional regulation works. In fact, maybe by allowing my children to work through their emotions and working so diligently to help them understand how and why things happen the way they do, they are learning to more appropriately handle disappointment even as young kids.
So I started thinking of all the ways we encourage our girls to bounce back from tough situations and all the ways I forced my high school students to work through their challenges.
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How to raise a resilient and confident child
While we might like to think that childhood is all fun and games, the truth is, it isn’t exactly stress-free. Kids have to learn to overcome obstacles even as toddlers, take tests when they’re older, learn new information, change schools and neighborhoods if there’s a move, deal with bullies, and make new friends.
Teaching our kids to be resilient helps them to cope with these changes and stresses that they encounter. And it helps them more appropriately deal with hard emotions and challenges they have.
Resiliency teaches kids to be problem solvers in the face of tough situations so they can find a good solution.
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Allow for appropriate risk.
It’s normal to want to keep your kids safe. But overprotecting them keeps them from learning to be resilient. It is important to allow appropriate risks to teach your kids essential skills. Give your kids age-appropriate freedoms to help them learn their limits and build their confidence.
Explore other ways to boost a child’s confidence.
Teach them to problem-solve.
Encourage problem-solving skills that will help them feel confident in their choices. If your child is nervous about doing something they really want to do, like going to a sleep over for the first time, help them figure out how to deal with their nervousness.
- Ask your child to think about a way they can practice getting used to being away from home.
- Help them brainstorm ideas.
- Give them the opportunity to figure out what will work best for them.
Read more about teaching children to problem solve so you don’t have to.
Don’t accommodate their every need.
No matter if you’re raising a toddler or teen, letting our children struggle is actually a blessing and an important life skill they should encounter before growing up.
Overprotecting a child can fuel anxieties because they tend to become afraid of the unknown even more. Instead, help your child deal with their anxieties by giving them options or helping them understand a bigger picture.
On many occasions, we have had to tell our 4-year-old that we had a certain plan, but if it didn’t pan out, it was not in our control to fix it.
Avoid “why” questions.
“Why” questions aren’t helpful when teaching problem-solving skills. Most likely, your child won’t know “why” they did something so they won’t know how to respond. It’s part of the growing brain and the prefrontal cortex is in charge of making rational choices and overall decision-making… and that part of the brain actually is not fully developed until a child’s mid-twenties.
Instead, ask “how” questions.
“You left your bike out in the rain and it rusted. How will you fix it?” Asking “how” questions will encourage them to figure out the answers they need on their own.
Teach your kids to think in specifics.
Get them thinking about what they need to know to deal with situations. Ask them to think about “where they are going”, “what they will need for an activity”, “what will they say to someone they are meeting for the first time”. Asking them specific questions instead of providing them the answers will allow them to figure things out on their own.
Get more information on how to cultivate out-of-the-box thinking in kids.
Don’t provide all the answers.
Instead of answering every question your child has, start using the phrase “I don’t know.” or “How can we find the answer to that together?”.
Using these phrases will help your child to learn to accept uncertainty and think about how they can deal with challenges.
Discover ways to nurture a child’s emotional intelligence.
Let your kids make mistakes.
Failure is not the end of the world. Or as the sign in my middle history teacher’s room declared: “Failure is not fatal.”
It’s a great place to start learning what doesn’t work. Letting kids make mistakes can be painful for parents. But it helps your child learn how to fix problems and make better choices next time.
More resources on managing emotions
Have rough days? We all have them when raising kids.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!