how to create the ideal environment

so your resilient child can flourish

We have built this guide in relation to the biggest challenges that parents face- see the results of the questionnaire in graph format below.

We highlight a number of steps you can take right now that will help create a resilience focused environment at home, whilst at the same time helping your child learn how to be more resilient.

1: emotions getting in the way

It's little wonder that 'emotions' are the biggest area of concern, the tween and teenage years are a tricky time, for 2 reasons:

  1. 1
    Kids don't fully develop the part of the brain that regulates emotions (prefrontal cortex) until their late teens.
  2. 2
    A fundamental misunderstanding of how emotions work. We have been led to believe that external circumstances cause us to feel the way that we do however, the latest in neuroscience tells us that we couldn't be more wrong.

1. Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)

Although kids don't full develop the PFC until their late teens, there are some things that you can do to help and just like any other part of the brain, the more you use it the more it develops.

The activities we recommend engage the PFC, we list them below and if you want to see how we incorporate them into our daily lives, then click on the link:

Decisions

The act of making decisions helps your child to develop an internal locus of controlPeople with this recognise that their choices influence their outcomes, and as such, they are more likely to take action. Whereas a person with an external locus of control believes that outside forces are responsible and is therefore less inclined to be motivated to act.  

Part of being resilient is self-motivation, your child needs to develop drive and determination, and knowing that their choices influence their outcomes is key to this. It doesn't matter what the decisions are, it's the act of making them that counts.

We get our kids to decide as much as possible: what time to get up; what to have for breakfast (even if they have the same thing each day- asking them forces them to decide); what to wear; which route to take to school etc...

See below for a decision checklist that will encourage your kids be more responsible, make more decisions and feel more in control of their life.

Chores

study conducted over 25 years by the University of Mississippi found that:

" Those who had done chores as young children were more likely to be well-adjusted, have better relationships with friends and family and be more successful in their careers."

Great news... chores are actually good for kids- no need to feel guilty! Kids get to feel like they contribute, it teaches them responsibility and respect, and it also helps them to build feelings of competence and mastery, which in turn lead to confidence- all key traits of a resilient person. If the unlikely event you are struggling to decide which chores to assign to your kids, here is a fantastic age appropriate list of chores (and chores related skills) from familyeducation.com.

Unstructured Play

Unstructured play helps to strengthen the area of the brain (pre-frontal cortex) responsible for problem solvingplanningand regulating emotions, all of which are critical skills for RESILIENCE.

Why not make one evening each week a 'no screen' event and give unstructured play a chance to shine? 

This may not be the most popular decision ever, and there will be some resistance at first, but in our experience the kids soon find ways of entertaining themselves (funnily enough).

2. How emotions actually work

This might seem a little strange, but as much as you might think that life works from the outside-in, the reality is in fact, the opposite. It's our thoughts that determine our life experience, not our circumstance- and this is exactly the same with our emotions.  Emotions are not something that happen to us; they are something that we do.

Here are some ways that you can help your child to develop their emotional intelligence. 

Mindfulness

Managing your emotional state is a key part of resilience. We often fail to act as we'd like, because our emotional reaction can trigger our ‘fight or flight’ response.

Studies show that meditation is one of the best activities you can use to create this distance between emotion and action.

Meditation also helps to manage stress and anxiety, it helps to induce a state of calm, from which you can behave resiliently, without fear.

To help our kids develop their mindfulness, we use Headspace. It has a free 10 minutes for 10 days trial, it's a great activity to do together as a family, and it will teach your kids a valuable skill for life.

Emotions Exercise

A PRECISE emotional vocabulary gives your child's brain better tools for dealing with life's challenges. In this activity, we show you how you can get more PRECISE with your emotions.

Start the day right way

We like to make sure that our little dudes head off to school feeling happy. Not only is this a nice thing to do, it helps to set them up for a positive rest of the day and helps to build resilience too.

We learned this thanks to the work of Positive Psychologist Dr. Barbara Fredrickson her research found that emotions tend to work in spirals; namely the emotion you feel right now in this moment, actually helps to create the next emotion that you feel.

Feel grumpy and angry?  You are more likely to notice something else that makes you feel grumpy and angry, thus perpetuating the mood and creating a downward spiral of negative emotion.

And as this works in exactly the same way for both positive and negative emotions, we like to help our kids start an upward spiral of positive emotions in the morning.

We have a little routine where the kids choose one of the items on the printable below and we all have to do it as we leave the house for school. It's a bit of fun, but we head off each morning with a smile on our faces: job done!

How does this help with resilience?

Fredrickson also discovered that experiencing positive emotions builds resourcefulness in ways that helps you become more resilient to adversity, learn to see new possibilities, and bounce back from setbacks. 

So by helping our kids to feel more positive, we actually help them be more resilient too!

End the day the right way

We like to help our kids to end their day in a positive and resilient way too.

We live so much of our lives on autopilot that we never really stop to appreciate the things that we do and when we do, we rarely give ourselves much in the way of credit.

We like to ask our kids ONE simple question each night as we put them to bed so they stop for a moment to recognise and appreciate those RESILIENCE building moments that would otherwise just be forgotten.

This one question does a number of important things:

  1. it helps your child to frame each day in a positive light, so whatever has happened they remember that something good happened too
  2. it helps them to be more positive, imagine if your memory of each day was that it was a good day in some way, you are literally building a positive memory bank by depositing a positive memory each day
  3. it helps to sends them off to sleep feeling happy and good about themselves.

Here's our one-a-day-for-a-month last thing at night question list. Print it off and put it next to your child's bed. Get them to check off the question when you've asked it.

2: their fear of failure

No one likes to fail, but, look behind any successful person's story and you will see them overcoming failure, often multiple times- which means that unless your child gets comfortable with this fear, they run the risk of not fulfilling their potential.

Your child's fear of failure may present itself in different ways, but like almost all fears is actually only about one thing: 'the fear of not being good enough'.

Just examine one of your fears for a second... peel back the layers and you'll find lurking somewhere in the murky depths either the fear of not being good enough, or the fear of not being loved.

This is why the gardener approach is so effective, overcoming this fear takes time and effort. This is precisely what we do in the BEST ME program. Through learning new skills,practicing them in the real world and then taking on the beliefs and identity of a resilient person, your child will develop the belief and confidence in themselves to feel good enough, to feel worth it, to feel comfortable with making mistakes and failing.

Take Risks

Our natural instinct is to protect our little treasures however, by clearing their path of any danger, we raise kids who are unprepared to take risks as adults.

The problem with this is that success often comes after you take action in the face of fear and risk. 

So, to help our kids to become more comfortable with 'risk', we love Gever Tulley's Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do). It's filled with fun and crazy ‘dangerous’ activities from using power tools, licking 9-volt batteries, to driving a car. 

If we can help our kids to learn to act in the face of their fears, that is a very powerful skill. Also doing stuff that’s dangerous and scary helps your child to realise that they are capable of more than they thought possible, which helps them to build a positive self-image- an important feature of a resilient person.

Finally, life is about taking risks, in order to achieve anything, some risk has to be taken, this will teach your kids that dealing with risk is part of life and if managed correctly, has its rewards.

Practice Failing

We want our kids to do well, so it's bloody tempting to step in whenever they are about to 'screw up' and tell them what to do offer them our advice. 

Or, when they've just made a mistake, we come riding to the rescue and show them how to do it 'properly'. Unfortunately, this problem solving approach can actually do more harm than good. In the first instance your child doesn't get exposed to failure and its consequences, so they don't develop the emotional resilience required to cope when you aren't there. 

And in the second instance, they never get chance to solve the problem for themselves because you've already done it for them. This means that they never learn how to problem solve and to think for themselves. 

This is really important because emotional resilience and creative problem solving are both key components of resilience.

So, what's the answer: Do you just let them flounder, and not help at all? 

No, we wouldn't suggest that, kids need our help and guidance, we like to help in ways that teach them to be more self-sufficient:

DON'T STEP IN: Let them fail, as painful as this might be your child needs to desensitise themselves to the emotional effects of FAILING- you can help them pick up the pieces (see failure is feedback- below).

TEACH THEM: If the consequences are heavy and you feel that stepping in before is appropriate, teach them how to prepare for difficult situations, but don't tell, ask instead: "How are you feeling about this? What are your thoughts? What's your plan? Is it worth asking for help? Do you want to role play? What happens if things don't go according to plan?" 

FAILURE IS FEEDBACKWhen something has gone wrong, again it's time to ask not tell: "How did that go? What did you learn? What could you do differently next time?"

ASK FOR THEIR HELP: Ask them to help solve some of your problems. Kids LOVE to help out, it shows them that you are a fallible too, it's great practice for them, and they sometimes come up with some brilliant answers that you'd never think of.

3: they lack confidence / self-belief

The word confidence comes from the latin 'fidere', meaning'to trust'. Self-confidence therefore, is having trust in yourself, a belief in yourself and your abilities.

Your child might lack confidence for any number of reasons: low self-esteem, poor performance at school, a stressful experience etc.., however the key to helping them to develop their confidence will be to build their resources in this guide and in THE BEST ME program.

One thing you can do right now however, is to praise your child.  Praise is a powerful weapon to have in your armoury and used correctly it can motivate your child to develop their resilience. 

See how we praise and what we praise for specifically to develop RESILIENCE below.

4: they lack motivation / give in too easily

In her research into why some people succeed, Angela Duckworth author of perhaps the most famous book on resilience, found at the heart of each individual story of resilience success, there was a meeting of ‘passion and perseverance’. Being passionate about something helps you be more motivated to persevere.

So, how do you help your kids to find their passion?

The simplest way is to try lots of different activities, as Duckworth says ‘don’t be afraid to guess’. We second that, because on a hunch, we took our kids indoor climbing recently and they loved it.

However, if you want to avoid the legwork involved in this scatter-gun approach, we would recommend that you copy Jane Andraka. In her fantastic TedTalk 'Hijacking your child's education', she talks about how she first tried the scatter-gun approach but success came when she started to look for activities for her kids to do that lay in the intersection of their interests and their talents.

So, if your kid loves computer games (interest) and has a logical mind (talent), try programming,  or game design, or robotics. If they like fashion (interest) and are good at drawing (talent) why not look at fashion design, or sewing classes.

Click below for some more tips and ideas about how to help your child find and develop their passion.

click for some more tips and ideas...

The other activity that Duckworth mentions in her book to promote perseverance is something she calls the Hard Thing Rule, this rule has 4 features:

  • 1
    Everyone has to do something (mum and dad too).
  • 2
    It must be something that requires daily deliberate practice.
  • 3
    You can quit, but only when the season (or some other natural break) is over
  • 4
    You get to pick your ‘hard thing’.

This ties in quite nicely with the finding their passion idea.

Once your child has decided what they want to do, then you can talk about the 'hard thing rule'.

Resilience is about experiencing the highs and the lows whilst knowing you are in it for the long run. We all have those moments when we want to give up, but the hard thing rule will teach your child not to “quit on a down day”.

what next?

If you would like your child to develop this vital life skill check out our full RESILIENCE building program.