When my daughter stepped off the bus, I could immediately tell by the pout of her lips and the little wrinkle between her eyebrows that something was wrong.
She walked to the front door looking defeated.
After a big hug and a little stroking of her hair, she was ready to launch into the epic tale of a fight with her friend. Her story was rife with drama, lies, and a heartbreak-fueled vow to never speak to the girl again.
I listened as she told her story and watched as she tried not to cry. My momma heart ached for her.
The fixer in me wanted to march right to my phone and call up the other girl’s mother to hash it all out. To explain the misunderstandings and put a Band-Aid on the emotional booboo.
But what purpose would that serve (except, of course, for making me feel better and temporarily soothing her pain)?
My daughters need to learn how to get back up when they’re knocked down—and they need to learn how to do it themselves.
As parents, we don’t want our babies to suffer heartbreak or disappointment. We just want them to be happy. But life is full of frustration and failures. That’s how we learn. And if we don’t allow our children to bounce back on their own, we’re doing them a grave disservice.
In a discussion on letting kids fail, Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, a clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychology and the author of Parenting in the Real World, said that parents need to “Remember that one of the hardest but most important parts of parenting is to tolerate your child’s temporary discomfort knowing that it’s the only way to build the coping skills necessary to succeed in the real world where no one will be running interference for your child.”
This is not easy. In fact, it can be heartbreaking. But it’s necessary.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, expressed a similar sentiment in an article for Psychology Today: “When we help young people cultivate an approach to life that views obstacles as a critical part of success, we help them develop resilience.”
So how do we do that? How do we, as parents, help our children develop resilience?
Well, aside from stepping away and allowing them to bounce back from disappointment and failure on their own, we can model positive behavior. We can allow our children to get a glimpse of our own failures and struggles (to a degree) and show them an appropriate way to respond.
We can also expose them to as many stories of resilience as possible, showing them how different people respond to less than ideal circumstances and how they bounce back and ultimately triumph.
One of my favorite ways to do this is through books. I turn to books often, whether to show my daughters examples of strong female characters or to give them a few moments of escape when they seem stressed out.
I collected some of my favorite books that teach kids about resilience to share with you here. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start.