How to Raise Resilient Kids That Face Challenges, Not Cower

“We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”
– Helen Keller

Not too long ago, my youngest daughter, who is an exceptionally talented soccer player, did not make captain of her JV team. She was devastated (Well okay, she was really disappointed, and I was devastated).

She had been led to believe by her coach that if she worked hard throughout the summer, then she was likely to earn the coveted spot. She worked hard every day, as I assured her that she would be rewarded for her efforts. When another player’s name was called instead of hers, I instantly saw the disappointment flash across her face as her body sunk into the seat like a deflated soccer ball. She looked over at me from across the room with tears welling up in her eyes, bravely giving me her best “Oh well, I tried” look, as she tried to be a good sport.

Seeing her look so defeated threw my Mama Bear mode into hyper-overdrive; and I jumped up and made my way out of the building before I burst into tears. I knew how much she wanted to make captain because she talked incessantly about it for months. I was the one who told her every day that hard work paid off. How would she ever learn to go after things in life again, if she worked so hard only to end up empty handed? All of these questions swirled around in my head, dancing around with anger, bitterness, self-pity, and disappointment.

At that moment, all that I wanted to do was give the entire coaching staff a piece of my mind then promptly put them into a banana boat headed for the Bermuda Triangle. “This is HER disappointment, not mine,” the words stabbed at my brain pulling me back into reality, “and I left her in there to face it alone. How selfish can I be?” I stood there in my “aha” moment, feeling ashamed and then instantly sprang into action. I made a beeline back inside to do what I should have done five minutes earlier – just support her.

Naturally as parents, we want to protect our children from the heartbreaks of life, but the reality is that we can’t, nor should we – because facing disappointments is a big part of life. The best thing that we can do for our kids is to teach them how to rise above their trials and tribulations so they can become stronger people.

That means we have to understand that these setbacks aren’t happening to us, because they’re not. We can feel empathy for our children when life throws them the occasional curve ball, and let them know that we love them. But it’s their lesson, not ours.

Facing Challenges

If we roll around in self-pity and belly ache about the “unfairness” of life, then our little ones may learn to look at the failures in their lives as a kind of universal spanking. On the other hand, if we possess a healthy dose of self-esteem – accepting that life is going to hand us our fair share of disappointments – our children have a greater chance of handling the unfortunate setbacks that will invariably come their way.

Here are a few lessons (which I am continually working on) about helping our little ones how to handle the setbacks in their lives:

Be supportive – Yes, we hurt when our children hurt, but our job is not to rescue them from experiencing disappointment. It’s to give them support and assure them that we will always be there to pick them up when they fall. All that they need from us is support, a hug, and a cheesy pep talk about taking life’s lemons and turning them into lemonade. The rest, they have to figure out on their own.

Be honest with ourselves – After my little story, it’s obvious that I had some work to do when it came to handling disappointment. In my own defense, it’s because I faced so much disappointment early in life. How we deal with our own disappointments is a good indicator of how we will likely deal with our children’s, and in turn, how they may eventually deal with their own by watching us. As parents, it’s really important that we take a hard look at ourselves and come to terms with the way we overcome adversity so that we can become good role models for our children.

Share our experiences – Experience is always the best teacher, so sharing our own stories with our children about how we overcame disappointment in our lives is a great way to teach them.

Create boundaries – Our children are going to be disappointed in life and that’s just a fact. We can’t rob them of their opportunity to triumph from their setbacks by swooping in and trying to rescue them. Having boundaries means that we respect their life journey and allow them to learn the lessons that they need in order to grow and evolve as human beings.

At the end of the day, all any of us wants for our children is for them to discover their own path to happiness. We do this only by standing on the sidelines and cheering them on... Not by fighting their battles for them.

How do you help your children cope with their disappointments? Share your thoughts with us.

Tags : conscious parenting   mindful parenting   

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