Life isn’t perfect. This is not a revelation of any sort. While the degree to which we’ve experienced hardships and success may vary from person to person, it’s a fact of life that we have all encountered, and will continue to encounter, successes and struggles in every part of our lives. So how is it possible that some are able to take these highs and lows seemingly in stride while others aren’t? The key is resiliency.
Our blogger Katie touched upon the notion of developing coping skills in a previous post, using the example of allowing her son to struggle with a block tower rather than swooping in to help him. I would consider resiliency to be a somewhat similar notion. I see resiliency as being able to quickly recover from set-backs in life, returning to one’s path with relative ease. I think, to an extent, we are all simply born with different personalities. I have two sons, both raised under very similar circumstances, and one of them is always happy to go with the flow, while the other has a hard time when his routines are interrupted and things don’t go how he’d like them to. However, I feel strongly that even those of us who may not enter this world as “flexible” people can (and should!) work to develop resiliency skills for the sake of our own happiness and peace. The world is a much less frightening place when we feel confident that our fate is somewhat within our own control and not entirely subject to the whims of outside forces.
How to teach this skill to my children is something I work on constantly. I’ve found it’s really, really hard to stop myself from wanting things to be perfect and easy for my own kids. I want more than anything for them to be happy, and while I may be able to make them happy in the short-term, I am not doing them favors in the long term by always being there to save them from disappointment. There have been many times I have heard them struggle in social situations and wanted so badly to intervene, but I consciously try to avoid doing so. I’ve blogged about some in the past, but one incident happened just this past week at our local playground. My almost three-year-old son was in a toy car, and two boys, about five and seven years old, tried to make him leave so they could use it as part of a game. It took every ounce of restraint I had to not rush in and say “He’s barely three! It’s a toddler toy! Sheesh!”, but when I heard my tiny son say “I am taking MY TURN in here. Come back later!” and watched two kids nearly twice his age move along, I knew it was better to let him figure things out.
It often feels terrible as a parent to standby and watch our children not be picked for teams or lose while playing a game, but it’s important to keep in mind what these little lessons are teaching. Knowing they can handle a small setback on their own is much more empowering than feeling like they need their parent to step in and save them when faced with adversity. If anything, constant “saving” may end up leaving them feeling less confident in their own abilities, not more. Life is not always perfect, and life is not always fair. Since these facts are unlikely to change anytime soon, I hope my sons will go into the world knowing they can choose to succeed in spite of these things.