Every parent wants the best for their child, but in society today, it is impossible to protect them from negative people and situations. Rather than protecting our kids, which is virtually impossible, it is important to help them become resilient. What is resilience? Psychology Today defines resilience as a quality or trait that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise above. Others define resilience as the ability to bounce back. Resilient kids feel valued, have good relationships, and develop a perception that they have control over many parts of their lives.
So, how do you raise resilient children? Alfred Adler, a noted psychologist, identified four characteristics of resilient children, calling them the Crucial C’s. These characteristics are courage, connect, capable, and count. Let’s break each of the Crucial C’s down and learn what you can do as a parent to develop each in your child.
Connection is about developing a sense of belonging and connection with others. This starts with the parents from the moment of birth. Developing a sense of trust, connecting with a child through paying attention to them, playing with the child, and providing a safe and secure environment at home is the beginning of connection. Things you can do to help develop a sense of connection include:
• Work on strengthening your own connection with your child by spending time with him/her, pay attention to them (stay off of your phone) and listen to them (before speaking).
• When communicating, try to understand their point of view; restate what they have told you.
• Be understanding of their feelings and beliefs; reflect their feelings and validate those feelings. Let them know it is okay to have feelings….even the negative ones.
• Provide your child with encouragement rather than praise. Encouragement focuses on the doing, the effort, the deed. For example, instead of “I’m proud of you for getting an A,” state something like “You worked really hard for that A. I know that feels good.”
• Give your child positive feedback about efforts in building relationships with others.
• Help them learn social skills so they can connect with others. You can use books to help with this!
Capable is the belief children develop that they are competent and have the ability to take care of themselves. This means that children take responsibility for themselves and their behavior. This starts by offering kids choices when they are young….they begin to learn from the consequences when the stakes are small. I often see parents who do everything for their child….solve all of their problems, clean up their messes, etc. This really works against raising capable children. How do you develop a sense that they are capable?
• Focus on your child’s strengths and assets – focus on the positive.
• Use encouragement rather than praise. Praise tends to provide kids with a hollow sense of competence.
• Invite your child to engage in activities where he/she can experience success (games or projects). Gradually introduce harder projects, and encourage them and help work alongside them to accomplish (don’t do it for them).
• Notice the things that he/she does well and comment. For example, “You worked hard on those math problems – you kept at it until you were finished!”
• If your child does not want to try something new on their own, make guesses about their lack of belief in themselves, pointing out the positive. Say something like, “Looks like you thought you could not do that, but, when you tired, you were able to figure it out.”
Count is the idea that the child feels significant, they feel valued. All of us need to feel value and worth as a human being. Knowing that you count and feeling valued cannot be conditional (If you … then you are …). Many kids feel conditional value. So, how do you develop a true sense of value and the belief that you count?
• Consistently make comments to your child stating your belief that he/she is special and important.
• Convey honest excitement about your child…and tell them how much you like to spend time with him/her.
• Focus on what the child is doing/saying.
• Give them feedback on how much you value their opinions, beliefs, experiences, and interactions.
• Help your child find ways to make a contribution to their family, school, community (helping a younger sibling, working at a food bank, starting or participating in a project at school).
Finally, children need to be courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is the willingness to take risks, to try new things, and to get involved in situations or experiences in which they don’t know if they will be successful. There are many ways you can help your child develop courage.
• Avoid doing things for your child that he/she can do alone.
• Provide your child with new experiences slowly so they can develop courage to try new things. Don’t overwhelm them with too much at one time.
• Allow your child to make his/her own decisions about everyday things (never about things regarding welfare, safety, etc.).
• Look for opportunities to encourage your child when they take a small risk or have tried something new.
• Find and read books that have a theme of a child who demonstrates courage.