Today, more than ever, it is important that we teach our kids about the importance of resiliency, which relates to effort and the ability to persevere despite challenges or obstacles.
That’s true in school, but even more so in the real world where problems can be very complex. Unlike television, problems aren’t neatly solved in a 30 or 60 minute time frame. In real life, closure doesn’t necessarily come at the end of the show, end of a class period or end of a semester. Therefore, it’s critical that resiliency be developed, fostered and encouraged throughout the school years so that our kids have the skills in their lives once they complete school.
Carol Dweck has done considerable research on mind sets and the beliefs that children, as well as adults, hold about intelligence. She found that some people believe that intelligence is fixed, meaning that it is static and will remain the same throughout life. Conversely, others believe that with effort, intelligence can grow. In short, those with a fixed belief are concerned with ‘looking smart’ while those with a growth belief believe that the goal is to get smarter.
Those with a fixed belief think that no matter what they do, it won’t help them to get any better, so why bother trying. Ultimately, that affects their thinking and what they do. They tend to give up at the first sign of a challenge, in hopes that someone will come to the rescue and provide what’s needed. This is known as learned helplessness. Whereas, those with a growth belief know that if they persevere, despite temporary setbacks or momentary failures, they will succeed. Students need to have a growth belief, as there will, invariably, come a time when they will fail at something. That requires grit and resiliency.
There are several factors that foster resiliency. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to: Using good decision making, having caring relationships, high expectations, opportunities to participate and contribute, being assertive, having self-control, perceptiveness, independence, flexibility, a love for learning, self-motivation, competence, perseverance, creativity, and having a positive view of their personal future.
Most certainly, these factors are all important, but can they be taught? Yes. Resilience begins with beliefs. Our actions, words and behaviors project that message and can foster resiliency. It is the understanding that this is a process. As we successfully work through challenges, stress and adversity, we become increasingly resilient. It’s having the belief of a survivor, not a victim. A high percentage of people who come from high-risk environments achieve good outcomes.
Our responsibility as educators and adults is to teach our children that failure, albeit painful, is not necessarily a bad thing. The experiences from which we learn are often shaped from adversity. It is a reality of life, and as much as we would like to buffer our kids from painful experiences, we have a responsibility to prepare them for adulthood, not always attempting to remove all obstacles. Building resiliency is a critical life skill, and it requires OUR resiliency to develop that skill in our youth.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.