One of the primary character strengths we work to build with Bounceback Parenting® is resilience. This vital quality is what allows people to make it through challenges and come out stronger than they were before. Today we have Dominic Chapman, a dad to twins and resilience teacher, sharing 9 awesome and doable activities parents can do with kids to build resilience.
Resilience Building Activities for Parents and Kids
By Dominic Chapman
We would all love for our kids to be Resilience Jedi Masters, but, the question is, how do we teach them? Especially if you could do with being a bit more resilient yourself?
It's a tricky question – resilience isn't a skill that can be taught in the traditional sense, however, as parents, we are uniquely placed to help our kids develop this aspect of their character and we can do this in two ways.
First, we can create a home environment where resilience is both front of mind and is the lens through which we help our kids to make sense of their life experiences.
Second, we can provide them with learning opportunities and activities, through which they can acquire the skills, attitude and way of thinking will help to develop their resilience.
Below we list 9 activities you can do with your child this summer that will keep resilience front of mind and help them to expand the resilient side of their character.
1. Do Something Dangerous.
Our instinct is to protect our kids, but, modern parenting appears to have taken this a wee bit too far, we steer kids away from risk, whereas we should help them to develop an attitude that is more akin to ‘feel the fear and do it, anyway'.
Success in life is in part, dependent on your capacity to take risks and manage fear. Often, resilient behavior requires us to take action in the face of this fear.
To help our kids to develop this mindset, we love Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) and its list of dangerous activities. Plenty of fun things to do – with varying degrees of risk to keep the parental heart attack at bay- that will occupy the kids throughout the summer and teach them to overcome their fear and just ‘do it, anyway'.
2. Find Some Headspace
Being able to manage your emotional state is a key part of resilience. We often fail to act because our emotional reaction can trigger our ‘fight or flight' response. One of the best activities you can use to create this distance between emotion and action is meditation.
It might sound new-age, but studies show that meditation can help the brain to be less reactive to this ‘fight or flight' response and can help to improve attention and concentration.
Meditation can also help us to manage our stress and our anxiety, it helps to induce a state of calm, from which you can behave resiliently, without fear.
We love Headspace which has a free 10 minutes for 10 days trial and is a great activity to do together as a family and it also teaches your kids a valuable skill for life.
3. Help Your Kids to Find Their ‘Passion'.
In her research into why some people succeed, while others fail, Angela Duckworth found at the heart of each individual story of success, there was a meeting of ‘passion and perseverance'.
Wouldn't it be great to help your child discover their passion this summer?
We love the approach suggested by Jane Andraka in her fantastic Ted talk. She describes helping her kids to find their passion by looking for activities that lay in the intersection between their skills and what they enjoyed doing.
- What does your kid enjoy doing without prompting?
- Where do their natural skills lie?
Find activities that lie in the intersection of the two and then explore these areas until your child has chosen one they like and enjoy. It's important to explore (you don't know if you like something until you try it) and to allow your child to choose. You will have more chance of success if it's their choice, not yours.
Once you have helped your child to find their passion, the next thing is to help them to learn how to persevere, to do that you enforce…
4. The ‘Hard Thing Rule'.
Duckworth mentions how she helps her kids with perseverance by using 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 is over- (or some natural break in proceedings) you must finish what you began
4. You get to pick your ‘hard thing' (see previous activity: Find Their Passion).
We are doing this with our kids, which is great because it's a perfect opportunity to show them what resilience looks like, leading by example.
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 rules of the game, discussed and agreed with upfront, won’t allow you to as Duckworth says, “quit on a down day”.
Once you take this possibility away, it’s amazing how resilient kids can be- often grit is simply a matter of choice.
Suggested timescale for the ‘hard thing rule':
- under age 7 – 6 months max
- 7-12 years old – 6 months to 1 year (sliding scale)
- 12+ years old – 1 year to 2 years (sliding scale)
5. Develop a Personal Resilience Journal
This is a lovely, creative way to spend quality time with the kids. The idea is to remember experiences of resilient behavior so that your child can build a mental picture, with plenty of personal evidence, to support the belief that they are a resilient person, belief is more than half the battle.
Think about the times that your kid showed their resilience:
1st day at school/ doing something really hard for the 1st time/ doing more than they needed to/ trying again after failing at something/ trying out for the team/ overcoming a fear or something they were scared of.
Buy a nice notepad for the kids to fill in as a keepsake or, do it online with something like keepy. Find photos or get the kids to draw pictures/ create art to remind them of each event.
Keep adding to the journal every time they do something that demonstrates their resilience, big or small, this will help to strengthen their belief in themselves.
6. Bring the Concept of Resilience into Their Consciousness.
We did this by watching video's and then using them as a discussion point.
Once resilience is out there, it becomes a lot easier to involve it in everyday family life. Things that your kids do (or don't do), news events, a film, things that happen in your life, all become potential talking, and therefore learning points.
We've found that the more you talk about it, the more the kids notice how their own behavior reflects resilience.
Discussing resilience in this way takes the pressure off the individual and we found that everyone was open, honest and receptive to suggestions so they could improve.
7. Bring Resilience to Life Through Personal Stories.
Following on from the quiz or the videos you have the perfect opportunity to recount your own personal life story, good bits, and bad bits. In Alissa's 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child, number 17 is, “Share that sometimes you struggle too.” It's so tempting to present our kids with the image that we are perfect and in control, whereas our kids can learn a lot from our mistakes and imperfections (i.e. the reality).
Tell them stories of when you were and weren't resilient:
- What happened?
- Why did you do what you did?
- When did you give up?
- Why did you decide to?
- Do you regret doing so?
- What did you learn from your experience?
8. Get Them to Make More Decisions Over the Summer.
At some point, your child will have to do stuff for themselves, they need to learn how to self-motivate. The key to this can be found rather surprisingly, in getting your kids to make decisions; lots and lots of decisions.
In Charles Duhigg‘s best-selling book Smarter Faster Better, he tells the story of how General Kulak re-designed Marine Boot camp to improve the self-motivation of his recruits. They were told that they needed to complete tasks such as clean the mess hall and clear the kitchens, however, they were not given any instructions, they had to work out what to do.
By doing this Kulak forced his recruits:
- To develop their interior locus of control: People who have this, believe they can exert control over their destiny- in that their choices influence their life outcomes. (People who don’t, believe in fate and are less likely to be self-motivated).
- To develop a bias towards action: To get the job done, the recruits had to start somewhere. By starting, you are more likely to finish and you avoid the dreaded analysis/paralysis of inactivity.
Duhigg states that motivation is essentially a question of control, and we feel in control by knowing that our decisions affect our outcomes. So how can we force our kids to make more decisions?
Hand over the decision making process and responsibility to your kids for as many things as possible. So this summer why not get your kids to decide: What to do each day/ what to eat for lunch/dinner/ what to wear/ where to go on holiday/ how much to spend/ rewards and punishments for their behavior/ what veg to get at the supermarket/ what clothes to wear based on the weather forecast/ what film to watch etc…
The subject of the decision is irrelevant, it’s the act of decision making itself, that counts.
Not sure about you, but we do lots of jobs around the house that the kids are perfectly capable of doing. So, pick something they don’t do yet, but can, e.g. load the dishwasher/ wash their clothes/ clean the car/ do the online shopping. Tell them when you expect the task to be completed by and just leave them to it, let them figure it out.
This from familyeducation.com is a great list of age appropriate chores if, in the unlikely event, you are in need of any inspiration!
9. Help Them Find Their Purpose.
In her research, Angela Duckworth found that the successful and resilient people had one thing in common; They had all made a connection between what they were doing as an individual and something bigger than themselves.
Whether that something bigger was their friends, family, or even society this connection enabled them to persevere when the going got tough.
Why not spend an hour or two helping your child to make the connections that will help them to become more resilient?
If you want to raise resilient children, you are going to have to put the work in – no other way round this I'm afraid. The easiest way we found is to dedicate a specific day each week where resilience is the focus. So whether you do a dangerous activity, watch a film, fill in the journal, or just talk to them about their experiences of resilience, the key is to make resilience part of the family culture.
In his book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy talks about how small things, done consistently over long periods of time can produce dramatic results, by focusing on teaching resilience, even for just one day a week, hopefully, you can produce a dramatic result as your kids grow into adults.
About Dominic Chapman:
Dominic began writing about resilience for kids after researching the future his 9-year-old twins would become adults in. He realized that qualifications alone would not be enough for his kids to stand out from the crowd. Instead, skills such as confidence, resilience, communication, growth mindset and creativity would win the day. Seeing as kids learn most of these skills from their parents and like most parents he wouldn't lay claim to being an ‘expert', he set up Lifehacksforkids to develop books and courses that help parents to teach their kids these vital life skills, just like an expert would.