Resiliency Overview

If our children came with a guarantee that there would be no hardship, trauma, or other difficulty in their life, they wouldn’t need to develop resiliency and we, as parents, wouldn’t need to explore ways to help this process. But no one’s life is exempt and it is important that we do everything we can to provide our children with the necessary skills to bounce back from problem situations in life. Resiliency is that ability and it is here that you will find entries abut the skills children need and the parental behaviors that help those skills develop.

Resiliency: Self-esteem and Competency

Helping our children learn the many skills and abilities that will enable them to recover from setbacks and find the strength and courage to pursue their goals, i.e. become resilient, is one of the most important tasks we as parents can encourage and support.  Unlike some skills resiliency has many facets, but probably the most important as well as one of the most basic components relates to the development of a positive self-concept.

There are numerous theories regarding how to encourage self-esteem, and I particularly like the perspectives of psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.  Maslow suggests that in order to develop a positive self-concept we need love, respect, and acceptance from the important people in our lives along with an inner belief that we are competent and capable.  Rogers echoes Maslow when he states that unconditional love and acceptance are critical.

There are practical things we as parents can do from infancy onward to let our children know they are loved, valued and respected.  There was a time when it was believed that responding to infants’ cries would lead to spoiling them, however we now know that responding in a calm and loving manner to the infant’s efforts to communicate a need conveys the message that they are valuable and valued.  All the nurturing things we do with babies from providing nourishment when they are hungry, to rocking, singing and making eye contact as we talk to or coo with them validate our babies and enrich their sense of “I am important and loved, and I have an impact on my world”.

That desire to have an impact on their world, to have a sense of control, becomes a major focus for toddlers.  Our task then becomes to guide them to activities where they will be able to experience success.  Toddlers need to make decisions in order to develop that important belief that they are competent and capable so we encourage choices but generally limit the selections to two as more options can be overwhelming.  Our choice of toys and attention to physical needs for food and rest can also significantly reduce potential frustrations and foster those very important successful outcomes.

As our children continue to mature we need to remain attentive.  We find time to truly listen to them ignoring any potential distractions, and we notice what activities interest them.  We help our children to find ways to pursue those interests respecting and validating their feelings as they experience frustrations as well as successes.  There are of course behaviors that are not okay but we remember to send a clear message that while we do not accept certain behaviors our love remains unconditional as does our belief that they are competent people who can resolve problems (of course at age appropriate levels) and accomplish what they wish to do.   There are various styles of guidance and discipline which we discuss elsewhere but if we keep the focus on helping our children to learn and increase their sense of self-responsibility and competency in finding solutions to problems they will become stronger and more resilient.

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