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How To Raise Children Who Are Resilient Enough To Handle Anything

A Foolproof Guide To Raising Resilient Children

I was in Pre-k and it was a regular school day.

I had just put my bag in my cubby and sat down.

The teacher began handing out small dry-erase boards along with markers. She said we were to write our first, middle, and last names on the board and then go to her desk and show her when we were done so she can see how we did.

The moment she finished giving us instructions I picked my marker up faster than I could say my name and quickly wrote down my first, middle and last in what I thought was excellence.

I looked up and noticed the rest of the kids were still writing their names, some were even struggling to get started.

When I noticed that I was the first one to finish, I got super excited and felt really good about myself.

I felt like the smartest kid in the class, and with confidence, I walk up to the teacher, proud of my work and glad to be the first one.

I gave her the dry-erase board and waited for her to approve what I thought was perfect work.

Instead of that happening she turned it around and said loudly, "This is not how you spell your name!"

She pointed to the first letter in my first name and said, "This is not an A, this is an H!"

Then she aggressively erased my name and handed me the board back, yelling for me to "Go back to my seat and correct it."

My shoulders dropped, my stomach sank, and my head tilted down.

I walked slowly back to my desk feeling like a complete fool.

And it was at that moment that I decided to believe something about myself.

Something that would stick to me like a tattoo for the next 20 years.

"I'm Stupid."

I said those words to myself, about myself, and thought they were absolutely true.

Then I sat at my desk, looking up at all of the other kids finishing up their names and lining up to show the teacher.

I remember sitting there watching kid after kid receive a "Good job" and a green check mark on their board.

Seeing this happen made me come to another conclusion about myself.

"I'm not as smart as other kids."

And although these moments may seem small, they were core memories of mine where I picked up core beliefs about myself.

From that day forward I dimmed my light, ignored my own genius, and began seeing my world through the eyes of "I'm stupid" and "I'm not as smart as other kids."

I underperformed in school my whole, I didn't try to solve hard problems, I didn't apply myself to anything education-related and I compared myself endlessly to other kids in school, all the way up through high school. Not because I actually was stupid and not as smart as other kids.

Rather because I believed those things were true.

In other words, I lacked the resilience I needed to experience that moment and not let it affect me in the way it did.

Because that's what resilience is.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is beautifully defined as, "The ability to cope mentally or emotionally with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly."

Simply put, resilience is the ability to bend and come back.

Come back to a state of groundedness, ease, and certainty.

Come back to the fact that you are worthy, loved, and safe to be yourself.

With true resilience, you can experience an emotional "crisis" and not let the crisis become stuck to you like glue.

Emotional crises' aren't always extremely traumatic events either.

One could argue that the story I told you at the start of this blog wasn't a traumatic moment, but the reality is that moment was a lot emotionally for a 4-year-old who didn't even understand what he was feeling.

With resilience, I would have been able to use that moment to bounce back to the fact that I was unique and intelligent in my own way, even if I didn't know what that way was.

As I have written in my article "How To End Child Suicide":

Resilience isn’t mental toughness — it’s having the emotional capacity to use every thought and emotion in a constructive way that brings you back to yourself. Your whole self.

Do you see why giving your kid the gift of resilience can easily be the most important thing you do as a parent?

But the question is, how do you do it?

Thankfully for you, I am going to show you exactly how to do that in this blog, in-depth.

The 8 Steps To Begin Building Resilient Children

1. Modeling Resilience Yourself

I couldn't bring myself to talk about how to show your children how to be resilient without covering the most important factor in whether or not they build resilience.

Modeling it yourself.

As I've shared before in other articles, every single one of us learns behaviors by activating mirror neurons when we observe others in our environment.

One time I was meditating in my office and when I opened my eyes I saw my 7-year-old nephew meditating next to me.


Because he saw me do it, and his mirror neurons were activated and led him to do the same thing.

Mirror neurons are the cluster of cells that are activated when you see someone perform a behavior or do something as subtle as making a facial gesture.

They allow you to easily model the behaviors of somebody until they become yours.

So if you demonstrate behaviors of resilience, your children, without trying, will begin modeling the same ways of being and will "wire" themselves to resort to that way of being when they find themselves in difficult moments.

It all starts with you.

2. Teach Them How To Be Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional intelligence is having the ability to use every single emotion in a constructive way by understanding it and using healthy means of expressing your feelings.

When kids understand their emotions, they know how to process them.

When they know how to process their emotions, they know how to "let them go."

This is the basis of the psychological resilience this entire article is about.

If you want to teach your kid emotional intelligence there are a few things you can do.

  • Show them how to talk about their feelings by naming them

  • Increase their emotional vocabulary using something like an emotions wheel.

  • Teach them healthy means of expressing emotions by giving them examples.

  • Teach them how to use somatic exercises like breath work, body scans, sensory awareness, self-regulating touch, and other somatic techniques to process emotions.

  • Act out scenarios where conflict can occur and allow them to solve the problems with "play-like" energy. This will help them learn through experience.

  • Show them how to regulate their nervous systems.

  • Ask them about how they are feeling daily and let them describe their feelings without judging them. Validate their feelings and normalize talking about them.

  • Show them empathy by modeling empathy. Acting out scenarios here can be very helpful too.

  • Play emotional intelligence games with them.

  • And of course...model emotional intelligence yourself.

3. Let Them Solve Small Problems On Their Own In The Beginning

When your child is growing through their toddler and pre-teen years they are bound to create problems for themselves that may seem trivial or mundane to you.

But regardless of how small the problem seems, like figuring out how to put their pants on, turn something off and on, or simply putting up the number five rather than four when trying to say their age, let them solve it on their own.

Yes, show them how to do it, but let them do it on their own.

This wires their brain to solve problems, and they will begin carrying it on to other areas of their life as well.

As they grow up I encourage you to let them solve most of their problems on their own, even if you feel like you need to step in, resist the urge until you absolutely feel like you have to.

Your child will thank you for it as they grow up with the ability to resolve their own challenges that present themselves.

4. Teach them "Divergent Thinking"

I remember one time in 4th grade I solved a math problem using a different "formula" than the one we were supposed to use.

Although the answer I presented was the right one, the teacher marked it wrong because I didn't use the formula I was supposed to use to get it.

In other words, I used my own way to arrive at the same conclusion, but because we were brought up to believe there is only one way to solve a problem we end up with a lack of resilience.

The reason being is that this way of thinking trains us to stop looking for more innovative and creative approaches to solving the everyday problems that life brings us.

We believe there is only "one" way to solve a problem, so we lack the impetus to continue looking and thinking outside of the box to solve problems.

One of the elements of resilience is the ability to solve problems, and by learning how to use divergent thinking you can cultivate this "solution-oriented focus."

Divergent thinking is "The process of creating multiple, unique ideas or solutions to a problem that you are trying to solve."

It's the opposite of convergent thinking, which is when you narrow your focus and only see one perspective.

When you're able to think divergently, you're able to see different solutions to problems and you're less likely to get stuck.

You're also less likely to get overwhelmed because you know there are multiple ways to approach a situation.

So if your child is struggling with something, encourage them to think about it from different angles and come up with creative solutions.

It might seem like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in their ability to cope with difficult situations and build resilience.

5. Let Them Think For Themselves

Now, that doesn't mean you should just sit back and watch your kids make mistake after mistake.

You still have the opportunity to guide them and give them direction.

But when it comes to making decisions, you will see your child benefit greatly by just allowing them to let them think for themselves.

This will help them develop the critical thinking skills they need to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Kids who are used to making their own decisions are better able to handle setbacks because they know how to think through problems and come up with solutions on their own. They're also better able to bounce back from failure because they're not afraid to take risks.

Making every decision for them will not only make them become too dependent on you, but it will also lower their self-worth and self-esteem because they'll feel unable to solve their own problems.

It's important to be there for your child when they're facing difficulties, but it's equally important not to rescue them every time they face a problem._

Allow them to experience failure and struggle so that they can learn how to overcome it on their own.

This doesn't mean you should abandon them altogether—just let them work through the problem so that they can build strength and resilience._

6. Normalize failure.

When children get punished for making mistakes, they begin to associate pain with making a mistake or having a failed attempt at something.

Since our brains are hardwired for survival, we learn to avoid things that cause us pain.

So if a child grows up believing that it is dangerous to make a mistake, they begin suppressing certain desires they have and not fulfilling them because they become too scared to make an attempt at something.

Not just that, but they then identify themselves as failures simply because they “failed” or were “bad” at something.

Remind your child that sometimes it doesn’t feel too good to learn and try new things, even if we want to do those new things, but those unpleasant or fearful feelings are actually a normal part of learning something new.

Also, encourage their identity as a whole and worthy regardless of the feedback they get in life.

Teach them that just because they fail at something doesn’t mean they are a failure, it just means they are learning, which is itself a huge success!

Failure is not an identity, not feedback--make sure they know that.

7. Challenge Them To Step Outside Of Their Comfort Zone

One of the best ways to develop resilience is by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

This could mean taking on a new challenge at work, signing up for a tough fitness class, or even just trying something new for fun.

Whatever it is, make sure you encourage your child to do the same.

The more they test their boundaries and step outside their comfort zone, the more resilient they will become.

Now this doesn't mean pushing them drastically out of your comfort zone, in an article written by Jessica Stillman, pushing ourselves too far is actually a terrible idea.

Instead, "Stay in your zone of proximal development."

8. Encourage Them To Find Their Zone Of Genius

Your zone of genius is the place where your natural talents and abilities intersect with your passions.

It's that sweet spot where you feel most in your element and can do your best work, moving with energy, confidence, and excitement.

This is a beautiful place to be because it brings out parts of yourself that you never know you had, and one of those parts is resilience.

Think about it, when you're more engaged and entranced by what you're doing, big challenges don't seem no big anymore and your ability to solve problems grows.

When your child finds this, they will naturally develop an ability to withstand very difficult things.

Tony Robbins once wrote,"When you're operating in your zone of genius, you naturally become more resilient," he says. "That's because you're not using willpower to push yourself forward; you're pulled by your passion."

So if you want to see your child build resilience, then helping them find their zone of genius and explore mastery is a must-do.

Since everything is connected, this resilience will transfer to other areas of their life.


Raising a resilient child is one of the best things you can do for them. It's a skill that will allow them to go through any challenge and come out stronger on the other side.

Life will throw a lot at your child, but if they're resilient they'll be able to handle it all.

Not only that, but resilience is one of the main factors in one's ability to live a fulfilling life or not.

It allows you to experience an emotionally healthy life by learning how to feel them all and process them healthily, which will directly enrich your child's life.

Remember, resilience isn't mental toughness though. Resilience is the ability to bend and come back to yourself -- by having the ability to understand and healthily process every emotion.

If you want to see how we partner with parents and make it easier to raise confident, resilient, and emotionally intelligent children that can handle anything, tap here to see how Zamio was built to do just that.

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