“I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.” -John Steinbeck

We constantly remind families that whenever they embark on a new path, things can get worse before they get better. In a classic example, when parents decide it is time to set more limits, kids often act out even more than before.

Similarly, when partners decide to be more assertive with one another about areas of disagreement, bigger conflicts are usually the first sign of change. As any change begins, old habits must die first–which is why progress often looks a bit like destruction.

If you are inspired to make some changes in your family or in other relationships, remember that even change for the better is stressful and discombobulating. As creatures of habit, we get used to the way things are–even when the status quo is no longer very appealing.

What is Resilience and Why Is It Important?

Given that change, with accompanying losses and hardships, is an inevitable part of life, it is crucial to learn how to increase our capacity to rebound or spring back after painful life events, a capacity called resilience. Although we know that some aspects of resilience are inborn, healthy attitudes can be learned and practiced.

Parents can teach kids to have a resilient mindset–a positive lens through which to see themselves and the world. An example of this is explaining to young children why mistakes are good. If your kids aren’t messing up, they are not pushing themselves to try new things. Think of the mistakes you made that taught you invaluable lessons.

Do you remember the children’s story, The Little Engine That Could? When the little blue train has to pull a load of toys over the mountain, she succeeds only when she tells herself, “I think I can, I think I can, and then delights in her success by saying to herself, “I thought I could, I thought I could!” The little engine models an empowering self-concept, fostering perseverance in the face of hardship.

When you are taught to believe in yourself, confronting an obstacle pushes you to try harder rather than giving up. If you think less of yourself, you will have trouble even getting started let alone persevering when the going gets tough. If you anticipate failure, why bother?

Tips to Teach Kids to be Resilient

Ask kids to evaluate their performance before you give them feedback. Most importantly, have kids identify what they did well, what kind of effort they put into the task, and what they learned.

Remember that lots of praise is not going to make up for lots of criticism and negative judgments.

When giving feedback on areas that need to be addressed, give information about what your child can do in order to succeed at the task rather than what they did not do.

Remember that children learn by watching parents, teachers and other role models. Reinforce positive modeling by asking kids what they observed another child doing well.

Teach your kids that change can be both overwhelming AND exciting. It depends on how you think about it.

As Jack Kornfield offers, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

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Don and Debra MacMannis DrGreene.com contributor

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