Any parent knows that a hungry toddler often becomes an angry, tantruming toddler if not plied with some kind of snack within 30 seconds. That’s why when my extremely famished three year-old was able to hold off eating his snack (which he had in his hands, by the way) for the whole duration of our MRT ride – eight stops to be exact – because I told him that eating on the train wasn’t allowed, I was surprised. He was able to control his hunger, and most importantly, his emotions – pretty mature stuff for a toddler!
Looking back, he was showing signs of resilience, a valuable quality that even us adults could benefit from. Being able to bounce back from failure and adversity, and adapt to new situations can not only help us cope with trauma and stress in the future, but also gives us the confidence to tackle everyday challenges. According to research, resilience also develops problem-solving skills, social skills, goal direction and sense of purpose – definitely one of life’s greatest skills. And it shows that the foundation of resilience lies in the hands of parents. The Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University says that “The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult.”
So, apart from giving our little ones the love and support they need, here’s how else we can help our kids develop resilience and thrive:
We get it, everyone is busy. There’s laundry to do, bills to be paid, documents to sign and e-mails to send and it’s not always that easy to fully let go of our other adult duties. But when we’re spending time with our kids, we need to try and be present. This means giving them our undivided attention when we’re dressing their Barbies for gym class, building sandcastles or even just having dinner as a family. When we let our kids know that they’ve got our full attention, they feel more comfortable about sharing their feelings and more importantly, that they are worthy of our sole attention.
No, we don’t mean let the one year-old scale the fridge, but if said one year-old is feeling particularly brave, be on standby and help out – but not too much unless it’s really needed. While we may think that hovering around our kids while they’re playing and exploring and anxiously pointing out every dangerous thing helps, it actually doesn’t. In fact, it hinders kids from taking risks, and could also cause anxiety. Let them figure out what works and what doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, give them a hug and encourage them to try again.
Show them that mummy and daddy make mistakes too
Many people think that being a parent means you should appear perfect and in control at all times. The truth is quite the opposite. Showing your kids that mummy and daddy don’t always win Snakes and Ladders, or that they can forget to bring their towel down to the pool shows them that making mistakes is totally normal. What’s important is that we own up to our mistakes and learn from them.
“Help me do it myself”
According to Maria Montessori, kids learn best through hands-on experiences and practice. This helps them become more independent and encourages risk taking. When we see our kids struggling with a task such as feeding themselves or using a glass to drink water, we should try and resist the urge to help them. Instead, we should accept that they probably won’t get it right the first few times and being independent is a process that eventually leads to resilience.
Building resilience in our kids, especially toddlers, takes a lot of patience and understanding. Sure, there’ll be lots of tears and screaming (from both parties) but rest assured that it is all worth it in the end. By teaching them how to rise above their anxieties and be confident about their ability to cope, we’re giving them a skill that will be useful, even indispensable, beyond childhood.
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