Today we have a guest post from JT over atJust Making Centsthat you’ll really enjoy if you have kids or plan to have kids someday…
Raising Resilient and Resourceful Kids:
“You can’t do that here.”
We were just about to wrap up. And before my children could sell their last two cups, the authorities came and told them they had to pack up their lemonade stand because they didn’t have a permit.
My daughter, Zuzzy (then 7 years old), was in tears. “Daddy, are we going to jail?” she asked.
It was cute. It was also a teaching moment.
My children had a choice — either go out of business or figure out a way. If they were going to stay in business, they were going to have to draw from two deep wells: resilience and resourcefulness.
Why are Resilience and Resourcefulness So Important?
We live in a world of “No.” There is a lot of good in “No.” It clarifies boundaries. It keeps us safe. “No,” don’t touch that flame. “No,” don’t cross the street yet. You want your child to obey these types of “No.”
But there are other types of “No” that your child will experience. “No,” you didn’t get into your first-choice college. “No,” you didn’t land your dream job. Your child is going to work their hardest on something and be told it’s not good enough. They’re going to work extra-long yet feel like getting out of debt is 1,000 miles away. You hope your child doesn’t allow these types of “No” to be the final word over their self-worth.
To overcome it, they’ll need resilience (the ability to handle challenges) and resourcefulness (the ability to overcome challenges).
What Happens Without Resilience and Resourcefulness?
According to a recent survey by the National College Health Assessment, almost half of college students said they felt overwhelming anxiety and about a third said they had difficulty functioning due to depression. In other words, they feel stuck and don’t know how to cope when life tells them that “No,” it’s not going to be easy. And the reason?
Specifically, helicopter parenting. You know, when we’re hyper-present and incessantly intervening. When we email their teachers wondering why they didn’t get an “A.” When we pack our weekends with soccer games and private soccer coaching and piano and viola and math tutoring and creative writing tutoring. And that’s just Saturday morning! I joke, but helicopter parenting is a real issue. And it’s affecting our children.
The Journal of Child and Family Studies found that students who were raised with helicopter parenting reported higher levels of depression and use of antidepressants. Psychotherapist Brooke Donatone writes in Slate:
[Milliennials] are unable to think for themselves. The overinvolvement of helicopter parents prevents children from learning how to grapple with disappointments on their own. If parents are navigating every minor situation for their kids, kids never learn to deal with conflict on their own.
We hover because we think we can catch them from falling in life and skinning their emotional knees. But by doing this, we actually prevent them from learning how to get up. Perhaps we focus too much on child development and not enough about parent development.
So, how do we teach them resilience and resourcefulness?
6 Tips for Teaching Resilience and Resourcefulness
1. Help Them Start a Business
You don’t become resourceful unless you actually have opportunities that force you to be resourceful. And few things require resourcefulness like entrepreneurship. My small children have started various businesses and made hundreds of dollars. They know how to make, spend, and invest money so much better than I did even as a 21-year-old! Importantly, they’ve also had to figure out how to overcome multiple obstacles.
(Want to help your child start their first business? All it takes is a simple question. Go here to get started!)
2. Don’t Solve Their Problems for Them
Instead, guide them so that they can solve their own problems. I know, it’s so much easier just to give them the answer. Sometimes you want to pull your hair out waiting for them to connect the dots. But if you answer for them, you’ll miss out on the magic that happens when they figure it out. The other day, my son spilled milk. He cried, “Dad, help!” I said, “How do you think you can solve it?” After some thought, he got a roll of paper towel and started cleaning it. Then he beamed: “I solved the problem!”
3. Help Them Practice Good Judgement
Learning when to take “No” for an answer and when to persist is one of the harder things to do. In Originals, Adam Grant cites research that teenagers rebel when they are regulated by yelling or threatening. But, when parents offer a clear rationale for why rules are important, their children are much less likely to break them because they’ve internalized the rationale. When you give a reason and rationale for your “No” it communicates respect. They become more self-guided and are more able to understand when a “No” is to prevent them from hurting themselves or others, and when it’s based on the potentially faulty rationale that should be challenged.
4. Let’s Make a Deal
This is one of my favorite tips because it reduced the whining and lessened my need to referee my kids’ disagreements with each other. If there is a disagreement between them and me or each other, I try to get each child to figure out (better yet, ask) what’s important to the other person and figure out how to get what they want while giving the other person what they want, which takes compromise. In other words, I encourage them to make deals. In the recent Times article “To Raise Better Kids, Say No,” Rice University professor Scott Sonenshein observes that “No” is “not the end of pursuing goals — it’s the beginning of activating their resourcefulness to find another way.” This past weekend, my children wanted to invite their neighborhood friends for a sleepover. I said “No” and explained that they would be too excited and not sleep well, making them too tired for all the fun the next day. My daughter and her friend came up with a plan that would make sure they wouldn’t stay up late and ended up convincing me. Now, there are times when you won’t take a deal of any sort. They’ll just have to learn to deal with those moments.
5. Minimize Their Toys
This is hard because everything around them tells them to be consumers. Instead, we sometimes make our own toys. For example, we just made our own fidget spinners with just cardboard and imagination. In fact, when we have Daddy Weekends (which is when Mommy needs a Ladies Weekend with her friends), we always have a craft time. And with that craft time, we make things out of cardboard boxes and brown paper bags that we would normally toss, instead of those “craft-in-a-box” kits that take little effort, we try to make something where the final product looks nothing like what it started off being.
6. Model It
Let them in on how you’re dealing with problems and how you’re figuring out the solution. Kids assume that once they’re older, things should get easier. Once they start using social media, where everyone posts a beautified version of their lives, it is hard to understand that real life has many non-Instagram worthy moments. But when you share with them obstacles that you’re working to overcome, they get a front-row seat in seeing how an adult approaches it. Also, they realize that overcoming challenges is just a regular part of life.
Out of Business?
After getting shut down, my children and I talked to the other sellers in the area. Did they have a permit? No. So how did they do it? They just pointed us to specific areas where you can sell without a permit.
By not accepting the “No” and asking the experts, my children were still in business. They realized they could draw upon the resources of others for help — this is part of being resourceful.
As parents, it’s all too easy to see your child’s limits. They’re small enough for you to bench press. You can beat them in just about any sport or game. You can write circles around them. (Lucky for them, they’re cuter than we are.)
But, when you see your job as unearthing their strengths rather than protecting their weaknesses, you give them the space to develop the resilience and resourcefulness they’ll need to thrive.
Life is going to tell your child “No” too many times. With resilience and resourcefulness, they can say “Yes” to the challenge. They can say “Yes,” I’m going to keep trying until I figure it out.
Bio: JT writes about money from a perspective of faith and as a parent. He’s had to be resourceful to go from really broke to hitting his retirement number in his 30s, and raising 3 spunky kids. Check out his site Just Making Cents!