Modeling Resiliency and Resourcefulness in Children

Children learn how to be resilient and resourceful from behavior modeled by their parents

Children learn how to be resilient and resourceful from behavior modeled by their parents.

I bet you want your children to be resourceful. I bet you want them to be able to leave your home some day and be able to fend for themselves and find ways to take care of themselves outside of the realm of your wallet and your house. I bet you hope they can make decisions and handle the consequences of those decisions. Yes, I bet you believe being resilient and resourceful are necessary skills to teach and model to your children.

There are many ways that parents can accomplish this. As I mentioned, we know that children will eventually need to make good choices. Most mothers will begin to allow their children choices from a very young age. I remember asking my son when he was a toddler whether he wanted carrots or broccoli as his vegetable. He knew he had to eat a vegetable, so we gave him two options. Being able to choose empowers the child. As they to grow older, the choices begin to carry more weight. So, you may ask a three-year old “would you like to play in the sand box or would you like to go on the swing?” To a four-year old you may ask “would you like to wear the sneakers or would you like to wear the flip-flops?” Eventually, the child feels and becomes empowered to make daily decisions and begins to adapt (making a decision based on two choices given – being resourceful) to the privileges or, perhaps, consequences that come along with decision-making.

As we just learned, with each decision comes a positive outcome or a negative outcome. Most children react favorably when a decision yields a positive outcome. For example, the broccoli is not only delicious, but it is also filling. But what happens when the outcome carries a consequence or a negative reaction (i.e. I chose the flip-flops and now my feet are hurting)? How a child reacts emotionally to this situation is one way to determine the resiliency of the child. With their limited emotional range and life experience most of how a child learns to react to the negative outcome will be something they have internalized or borrowed from the behavior modeled to them from the adults and/or caregivers in their lives. The way we handle situations as parents speaks volumes to our children more so than what we actually teach our children (although both are considered integral in their development). So while both methods are necessary, they will most likely do something or react in a way that they have seen before in their experience. This is where the notion of “monkey see, monkey do” comes from. Children will most often learn how to react (resiliency) and learn how to adapt (resourcefulness) by watching the adult models in their frame of reference.

So, let’s take some practical application. Last night, we went to the park with friends. Although my children were hungry and tired, we made the decision to head to the park on our beach cruisers. Within the hour we had two hungry and exhausted children not at the brink of temper tantrums, but beyond brink and well into bronk (ok, I totally made that up). In any event my husband and I are resourceful and uncomfortable experiences build resilience, so husband left the park on bike with our youngest to feed her and then return to collect me and our older son. Midway through this very brief period, my son encountered his first “fall off the swing.” It was not a bad fall, no scrapes or bruises but more of a scare (resilience). But because he was so tired and hungry it was a very big deal. However, resourceful, resilient parents know how to manage. Husband arrives and we load oldest and his bike into our car and head home. I left my bike at a neighbor’s house and decided we would pick it up in the morning. Everyone survived, got fed and went to bed. Resourceful and resilient.

Fast forward to this morning. Family bike ride. But Mommy’s bike is still at the neighbors (about 3/4 mile away). No biggie. You guys head to the park, I will meet you there. I arrange with my friend and neighbor to pick up my bike. I do not want to drive my car down because then we would be left in the same situation as before but this time our car would be stranded not my bike. But, I am a resourceful and resilient parent. No biggie. I survey the available and viable transportation in our garage and settle on my sons Razor scooter. Being resourceful means that I know better than to attempt the tricycle or the Fisher Price bubble car. Being resilient means that I will have to deal with the uncomfortable feelings of passersby seeing this:

38 year-old mother of two Razor scooting three-quarters of a mile in her neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and seems to be in a honking mood this morning en route to pick up a beach cruiser at her neighbor’s house that was left behind after last nights frolic with cranky kids at the park.

Believe me I can assure you that any mental image you have ever had of the aforementioned was, in fact, in reality a thousand times worse in person. That there, my friends is how you model resiliency and resourcefulness to your children.

Or, perhaps, there are other ways too.


Categories: All The Rest

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1 reply

  1. Oh my goodness, Priscilla. This was written perfectly. Thank you for that mental picture at the end.

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