Raising a Resilient Child

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  -Nelson Mandela

We all want our children to become independent, strong, and caring adults. This, however, is no easy task; building resilience in our children takes work and should be started as early as possible.

Resilience is defined as “the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.” The resilient child can take a setback, use what they learned, and move forward without difficulty. It is no surprise that childhood is full of disappointments and mistakes. These mistakes, however, are a tremendous part of the growing process. Receiving a bad grade, not getting picked for a sports team, or arguing with a friend are all prime examples of common problems our children face.

While we can’t eliminate these struggles for them, we can equip them with the skills needed to face challenges head-on. Most importantly, we need to change their attitude toward failure by focusing on the positive effect it can bring to their lives.  

Even though this sounds great in theory, you are probably wondering, “how can I get my child to embrace failure and use it as a catalyst for future success?” The good news is, there are steps you can take to instill resilience and grit!


  • The ability to reframe a challenge in a way that is less threatening is an extremely useful tool for them! Reframing allows them to focus on what they have versus what they have lost. To teach this skill, you need to acknowledge their disappointment, then highlight the positive aspects. For example, if they catch a cold and cannot make it to a play date, highlight what they can do. Try something like “I know you must feel pretty sad that you can’t go to your friend’s house, and I know feeling sick is no fun, but let’s think about what we can do! Since we are stuck in the house for the day, why don’t we have a movie marathon!” This also teaches them how to have a more positive outlook on situations.


  • This is exactly how it sounds! If we expect our children to show resilience in the face of adversity, we must also do the same. Make sure that when you are dealt with less than a winning hand, you respond in an optimistic way. Share your disappointment with them, but also talk about how you will try again, and explain what you learned.


  • This is harder than it looks! As parents, our first instinct is to pick them up when they have fallen down. However, there is a lot to be learned in the process of getting up. For example, if your child comes home from school and is upset about failing a test you could say, “I can see why this makes you feel so upset, I know how much you wanted to get a good grade. Why do you think this happened? What could you do differently next time?” You are acting as a guide to their thought process, asking open-ended questions will encourage them to come to different conclusions and solutions for their problem. My biggest tip is to not rescue them! Allow them to work it out for themselves, and offer your unconditional support for when they want to try again.

Resilience is all about fostering a positive outlook towards setbacks and disappointment. I like to read stories to my students that feature main characters that have overcome adversity. One of my favorites is, “A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams. In this story, a family loses their home in a fire. Instead of letting this define and defeat them, they work together, save money, and reassemble their household piece by piece. Next time you are at the library, look for books that teach resilience! Books are an excellent and easy resource to have in your toolbox!

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