HOW TO RAISE INDEPENDENT, RESILIENT CHILDREN
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From the day our little ones are born, our protection instincts kick in and we naturally take over doing everything for them. As they grow it becomes difficult to find the fine line to start letting them do things for themselves and let them make a few mistakes. We have just a few short years to instil in our children the independence and resilience to cope with life’s ups and downs and failure in general.
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician and leading expert on child resilience, organizes these characteristics and elements into the 7Cs.
The 7 Cs of Resilient Children
Competence - A child's competence is built through opportunities to fully develop and master specific skills or strengths. This includes concrete skills like math, softball, reading or piano and less concrete skills such as the ability to solve problems, be a good friend, or make thoughtful decisions.
Confidence - Children need to have a general belief in themselves and their abilities, believing that they are important and can make a positive difference and worthwhile contribution to the world.
Connection - Strong relationships serve as a safety net for all individuals, particularly children. When children feel connected, they feel protected and are more likely to explore the world knowing that they have support when they need it.
Character - Although the lines between right and wrong are still blurry in early childhood, children are beginning to develop an internal moral code to guide them (hence their ever present focus on fairness) as they make increasingly complex decisions. It’s important to teach integrity so that children can define or develop their personal values.
Contribution - Having opportunities to make a positive impact are essential to children's sense of worth, whether it be through gestures of compassion (hugging a tearful friend) or participating in activities that affect the larger community (trike-a-thons or park clean-ups).
Coping - Children need to develop internal coping responses that allow them to navigate challenges without turning to destructive behaviors or relying solely on others to help them through difficult times.
Control - From their first assertive, "NO!"(often bellowed at full tilt in the middle of the grocery store), young children are practicing asserting control of their lives. Children need clear boundaries and the ability to assert control when logical to develop a sense of their abilities and feel in control of their lives.
Giving your children the support to think each problem through for themselves instead of advising them how you would solve the issue will teach them how to work through their own delimas. When children are given the opportunity, in a safe environment, to struggle and sometimes fail, you allow them to develop important social and emotional skills.
Share simple strategies to help them physically if the panic sets in. Counting backwards from 10 when they are upset or taking a few deep breaths when they are stressed. If they get sad let them learn to laugh out loud with a friend to help express themselves.
There will always be times when they are sad, worried or angry and letting kids work through those emotions by themselves, given the right tools to help, is healthy. If parents swoop in to fix every issue, children miss out on that critical skill-building that results from learning from mistakes or failure. Further, children that don't have opportunities to fail or struggle and recover have lower self-confidence and a less developed self-concept. They tend to be more fearful of failure and less willing to try new things because they don't know how they will handle it.
Above all else, be a good role-model. Your children are watching and learning from how you approach life and respond to challenges. Finally, some wise words from Ann Landers, "It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings."