Empowering children with their own choices is essential to building their resilience

There is no doubt that the level of resilience in the current generation is low. Statistics of depression, anxiety and suicide are at an all-time high. Counsellors at schools are run off their feet. Psychologists are booked up for months in advance to see adolescents and waiting lists for paediatricians extend for incredible lengths of time which doesn't match the urgency with which our young people need help.


As parents we need to do more than "hope for the best"

There is no question that when parents are asked what they want for their child in the future it is often some version of "happy and healthy" and really that's what we all want for our kids isn't it. Unfortunately, it's become increasingly obvious in recent years that carrying on as 'normal' and hoping that they are happy and healthy isn't anywhere near enough.

A different way to think about resilience

It is essential that we as the parents learn what resilience is and how to teach it to our children. I often speak to my clients about the pinnacle of resilience being like 'water off a duck's back'. That's our goal, our aim, where we want to be and what we want to be feeling once our resilience is high. That's what we want to be seeing in our children once their resilience is high. However it takes time to build up the oil on our feathers. When we first start our feathers have no oil (ie. we have no resilience yet) and all the water (disappointments and attacks from others) stick our feathers and effect us deeply. However, as we begin to build up our oil (resilience) gradually more and more water (life's challenges and failures) simply flows off our feathers. It's like the old Pantene ads (showing my age now) that said "it won't happen overnight, but it will happen" - resilience is the same!

kids working well together at school

How does empowerment lead to resilience?

If we gradually release the responsibility for decisions over to our children it not only teaches them how to make those decisions for themselves, it also teaches them how to cope when those decisions don't always lead to successful outcomes. If we let our children make their own choices, then they will learn to fail more often than if we made all the choices for them. For example, if we let them decide what food and drinks to pack for an outing of a couple of hours and if they end up hungry or thirsty after an hour, they not only learn patience but will consider packing differently next time. Over time they develop resilience and self-reliance - two essential skills for the rest of their lives.

How do I know when to empower them more and when to maintain control?

This is a question I get asked almost weekly.  The answer isn't the same for everyone but it always begins with "as early as possible start to empower them". This can be simply letting them choose their own clothes as toddlers instead of insisting on the matching outfits you'd rather they wear. It could be letting them struggle to get their own shoes and socks on when they don't want you to help them - let them learn the rewards of persistence, or maybe they will learn when to ask for help (we can only hope, hey?!)

I always tell me clients there are two winners when you empower your children to start making their own decisions - them and you! They win because they learn how to weigh up options and make a considered conclusion and more importantly how to live with the consequences of that choice. You win because you are bringing up children that are already contributing to the running of the house (even though it won't feel like this at the very beginning) and they will continue to grow into this role as they mature.

Beautiful little boy sweeping the floor. 


Why have our children lost their resilience?

They've lost it because as a society we've decided that it's our job as parents to protect our children from disappointment and hardships rather than guide them through them. Parents frequently run things into schools that children have neglected to pack the night before so their child avoids any negative consequences (feeling bad or even detentions from the school). Parents provide social media enabled devices to very young children when they themselves don't have the ability to teach their children how to navigate them safely and protect themselves from things like online bullying. Parents don't know how to have the tough discussions with their children about consent, sexuality and how to stand up for their own rights and the rights of others. It is also a very different world that our children are growing up in - one that we didn't experience when we were growing up, one that we're not entirely equipped to prepare and help navigate our children through.

How can we help them develop resilience?

Simple - we hand over the reins to them sometimes and let them experience success and failure. We make it clear what they are responsible for and what we are responsible for. For example, if it's their responsibility to get their clothes into the dirty clothes basket then we can't go through their rooms checking for dirty clothes and picking up after them. If it's their job to make their own lunch in the mornings before school then parents don't allow them to use their devices until that is done. If they message us during the day to say they left their homework at home, then we don't run it into school and we let them suffer a consequence. Trust me, they will be more careful about packing it in the future. Now, of course these are all very small, but important, ways to build the resilience of our children. If you're interested in getting a copy of my jobs list for children listed by age it is on the Resources page of my website.

When it comes to bigger issues (you've heard the saying "little kid, little problems, big kid, big problems) there are 3 ways to increase their resilience which you can read about on my blog post about this. If you'd like to get a copy of my Resilience Card it can be found on the Resources page as well, or simply ask me to slip one into your next order.