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The Bounce Back, Resiliency Part 2

In the first blog post about Resilience, we discussed how resilience is built by experiences. Our abilities to have experiences, adapt to the impact of those experiences and where we put our energy and time into the experiences we have daily.  The ‘bounce back’ factor is based on the dimensions just mentioned about experience.  This is applicable to all types of experiences, small to large.  With each experience we grow our bandwidth of handling daily struggles that arise.

Strengthened by Response

Our ability to grow a capacity is related to how we respond to our experiences. This development begins at birth and continues until death. Our children endure struggles daily, and sometimes we, as parents interrupt the process our children need to be having. Allow me to explain.

Emery is struggling to pick up her Cheerio from the tray table. She has been working at it for some time now.  She begins to grunt and moan that she can not get the Cheerio. What do we do as parents?

  1. We give her the Cheerio and say nothing
  2. We tell Emery it is OK and give her the Cheerio or lift it off the tray for her to grab from your palm of the hand
  3. Encourage her; “Emery, the Cheerio is challenging, I know it will feel good when you finally get it.”
  4. Mix it up, sometimes you get the Cheerio, sometimes you let her struggle.

Whatever the choice made, the choice will directly impact Emery’s experience in getting the Cheerio. It also provides a memory of future experiences with picking up a Cheerio. Since our children’s brains are building connections in mil-seconds, our response is strengthened by the child’s connection of that experience.  IE: If we always pick up the Cheerio for our child, we may be teaching the child that someone else gets things when the child struggles.

Let the Struggle Begin

In a short video by Simon Sinek, Teaching Kids to Lead, he discusses the impact of failure; the need for children to make mistakes, handle natural consequences and build a capacity for courage. Courage is an external attribute that comes when children feel someone they love, ‘has their back.’ How can a struggle with a Cheerio build character traits?  Emery needs to fail in order to gain confidence to try it again. WHAT?!

Struggle for a toy builds perseverance
Struggle to get up & try again  builds determination
Struggle for a Cheerio builds persistence 

As parents, we do not realize how our small, loving gestures can encourage our child to give up,rather than fail. We do not want them to struggle, we want our child’s life to be perfect, seamless.  Trust me, I know and get it.  Yet, in my learning and growth in child development, I changed my perception and realized the struggle is what brings growth and resiliency for my children.

Circle of Concern & Circle of Influence

I want to influence my child over be concerned for them. When I let my child feel the struggle for a Cheerio, or get up after a fall, I know I am guiding them toward being resilient adults.  I use moments in infancy to build a securely attached adult. With this knowledge I feel more confident in my ability to be a parent of possibility, influence and not so concerned about their well-being and confidence.  This is also achieved in daily interactions.  We say more than “good job” and work to enhance our language to our small children. IE: “Emery you struggled with the Cheerio and I am so proud of your hard work to get the Cheerio, let’s do it again.”  We influence our children’s’ brains, actions and memory of the experience as positive. “Good work” is too abstract for the growth we seek in our children. Be specific and our influence is greater.

All things are Possible, not Controllable

Most of my parenting philosophy comes from my experience with residential treatment center youth and Love & Logic. Love & Logic is based off of relationships and setting enforceable limits.  Click on the link to learn more.  Working with traumatized, abused youth for several years also brought to light how true it is that all things are possible, not controllable.  Having that paradigm shift has helped me not only become more resilient on my own, but it has extended into how I respond to people on a regular basis.

Putting energy toward what can be possible helps yield out some ideas that I have to control the situation.  Sometimes the need to control can become a common issue for parents and people in relationships.  The energy to see all sides of an outcome also brings an internal acceptance that ‘it will be OK.’  For example: My child is learning to walk. I can be right there to rescue or pick her up promptly after a fall.  This helps control my pain I would feel, if/when my child falls.  Whereas, if I realize that it is possible to walk and it is possible to fall, my ability to want to control actually lessens.  Let’s jump a few years to tween and teen years.  The same is true for our children at that age.  It is very possible a child will revolt, resist, backtalk, etc to parents. It is also possible that through relationships nurtured daily can mitigate those negative experiences.  The ability to develop a relationship with our children is directly proportionate to how we interact with our children.

This is not an attempt to control, rather realize the possibilities that we have before us on a daily basis.  Realizing parenting is not easy; thinking of all the possibilities in life over what I can control and protect my child from seems like an easier concept.

Putting it Together

Let them fail I say! With every small mistake as a child, the easier to manage difficulties they will face daily as a mature human being.  Perseverance, determination and persistence are attributes that come from struggling.   Perseverance, determination and persistence are essential to having resiliency in our experiences. The bounce back is once we can accept the possibilities of life, we begin to bounce back from the difficult experience endured.
As parents we can reach a point when we allow the natural consequences of life to navigate our parenting.  Instead of control, direction, expected outcomes, we trade them all in for possibility.  This new framework bring less anxiety for me to let my child fail, and still feel to be a confident parent. My child will fail to grow and grow to fail. Failure breeds expansion. Resiliency is the metaphorical box that holds the failures.  The size of that box is the capacity factor. As we bounce back from difficult experiences, our relationships will become the seams of the box, keeping it together. Knowing someone has his/her back changes how that person approaches all of life.  The final resilience blog will focus on nurturing relationships as the final component for raising resilient children and confident parents.