Raising Resilient Adults

It’s easy for parents to think just in the moment.  To want to save their kids from pain and worry. I know my parents did. I know that I certainly would a lot of the time. And sometimes we lose the fact that what we really should be doing is raising our children to be the way we want them to be at age 25. What life skills and characteristics do you want your children to have when they hit 25? From working with parents, they want their kids to be resilient, kind, strong, happy, honest and many other very positive qualities. So, how do you get there?

This article, written by Mickey Goodman, points out that we need to let our children fail and learn when they are young to develop many of these skills. What? Failure can lead to happiness? Amazingly enough, yes. When you fail, you have to look for alternative ways to deal with the problem. Sometimes, you learn that giving up is the best option, because you don’t have a strength in that area. Sometimes, you learn to struggle through without the aim of success but with the aim of just doing. Sometimes, you learn to do something in a new and different way. Each of these allow you to learn about yourself, about what makes you stronger, about what makes you happier. You learn resilience, which gives you power.

As a 16 year old, I had rarely failed at anything. I expected that when I took my driving test that I would pass straight away. I was smart. I had practiced. Those two things should lead to success, right? Nope. I failed it twice. I was embarrassed. But I learned. Sometimes, it takes a lot of work to get to where you want to get, and sometimes you have to fail along the way. My dad watched me fail the second time and heard the driving evaluator tell me that I did fine but that he felt I just needed a bit more practice on the stick before he felt comfortable passing me. He could have stepped in and argued with the guy, telling him that the car shuttered in the best of times and it wasn’t my fault. But he didn’t. He let me fail, again. And while I cried and was unhappy for a while, I learned. Happily, this was not the last time I failed at something. And I am constantly learning about myself and the world. Without those failures, I would most likely have never taken the risks I did – including moving overseas to a city where I knew no one for a job at a school I had never visited.

Here are a few of the suggestions that the article gives to parents for raising strong 25 year olds (and note, they call them painful, because they are):
“We need to let our kids fail at 12 – which is far better than at 42,” he says. “We need to tell them the truth (with grace) that the notion of ‘you can do anything you want’ is not necessarily true.”

Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts. Every girl with a lovely voice won’t sing at the Met; every Little League baseball star won’t play for the major leagues.

• Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences. It’s okay to make a “C-.” Next time, they’ll try harder to make an “A”.

• Balance autonomy with responsibility. If your son borrows the car, he also has to re-fill the tank.

• Collaborate with the teacher, but don’t do the work for your child. If he fails a test, let him take the consequences.

“We need to … allow children to fail while they are young in order to succeed when they are adults.”

A nagging child? These three words will help…

I have taught Positive Discipline for Parenting for three years and nagging has been one of the issues that drives a lot of parents bonkers.  This article, based on the words of Lynn Lott, one of the founders of Positive Discipline will help you understand what to do.  The basics of the article on Positive Parenting Solutions are this (but please read it):

Instead of repeating yourself or jumping in to a lecture, avoid child nagging by getting eye to eye and follow the process below:

Step One: Ask, “Have you ever heard of ‘Asked and Answered’?”  (He’ll probably say no.)

Step Two: Ask, “Did you ask me a question about digging a hole?”  (He’ll say yes.)

Step Three: Ask, “Did I answer it?”  (He’ll probably say, “Yes, but, I really ….”)

Step Four: Ask, “Do I look like the kind of mom/dad/teacher who will change her/his mind if you ask me the same thing over and over?” (Chances are Daniel will walk away, maybe with a frustrated grunt, and engage in something else.)

Step Five: If Daniel asks again, simply say, “Asked and Answered.”  (No other words are necessary!) Once this technique has been established, these are the only words you should need to say to address nagging questions.


As you might recall, I’ve joined a postgraduate programme in CBT at Oxford, in order to become a more skilled therapist.  It’s been fascinating and I’m learning a LOT.

One of the things about the learning process that you don’t really think about before going into it is that you have to lose your ego.  I’ve seen myself as a good counsellor for a few years and yet in this programme, I’m learning that I have a long way to go before I truly am as good as I’d like to be (in a CBT practitioner way).  The feedback on my first recording I turned in was positive, but there are things to focus on.

The first thing I’ve been asked to focus on is to become less directive.  In CBT, one must be collaborative with the client so that they can learn and discover on their own.  I have a tendency to try to bring things out and so direct.  After learning about this, I’ve caught myself a few times.  It’s a difficult habit to break and I think it will take a couple of months to really do it justice.  I see the point but undoing past learning is hard.

The second thing I have to focus on is really sharing what we call the formulation with the client.  A formulation is the blueprint of therapy.  It helps guide you and your client in their work.  A formulation allows you to take the information you gather and put it into a more concise pattern or drawing, which you share with your client.  Within the formulation, you put the historical data, critical events, the beliefs a person might have (if…then statements), the current situation, what happens during that situation and how you are stuck/what maintains your thought patterns.  As you share this info, you are more able to help them understand inappropriate (for now) thought patterns and behaviours…and thus make changes.

All of this is a challenge and new to me.  But I’m trying to let go of the sense that I should be better (“should’s” being a bad thing) and allow the process to happen.  I’ll get there in the end!  It’s a good lesson for all of us – you are not going to do something the first time perfectly and that’s okay.  And, in fact, you should hope that you will never be perfect, as that means you no longer have the cool opportunity to become better and learn more!