re·sil·ience/rəˈzilyəns/ noun: resiliency – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.
Resiliency. It seems some people got it, some people don’t. I have often pondered and wondered about this subject. Where does resiliency come from, is it caught or taught, are we born with it or not?
Like most values in life, resiliency is most likely both taught and caught. In other words, it probably comes about mainly through parental response to their children’s struggle, along with parental attitudes towards the hardships, trials, and tribulation that life so randomly throws at us. There is certainly a biological component as well—it seems some children’s personalities and temperaments do tend towards a natural resiliency. Whatever the case, the warfare that is life with its conflict, carnage, and contention requires a warrior heart. How can we nurture this heart in our children?
There is reason and purpose to the struggle of life. Struggle builds strength. Struggle brings experience and through it, wisdom, insight, and understanding. If we overly protect our children from struggle, we run the risk of denying them the tools needed to successfully face and overcome the hardships, realities, and adversities of the battlefield. We deny them the sharpened sword and broad shield to overcome the many battles they will face.
How do we respond to the apparent injustice our children sometimes face? Perhaps they are left out, ignored, overlooked, bypassed, snubbed, or insulted. Our attitude and reaction as parents is crucial and critical. We certainly need to listen, empathize, and show compassion. They must feel heard and understood. But where to from there? Does our response or encouragement create a victim mentality or are we giving them tools to become victors?
The victim mentality is created from the misguided and ugly talk that tends towards self-pity, blame, and focusing on the hurt that was done. We can allow them to sulk, plot, and complain. I have seen some parents join their children in this pathetic path, a path that leads to an underdog perspective on life: Poor you and they shouldn’t have done that to you and that’s typical of that family. A father or mother may go so far as to call up another parent to complain on behalf of the child: my boy was left out or my girl was not included. When parents lack vision in this area, they strip their children of important tools; the weapons needed to battle the demons and dragons of life. These misguided methods do not prepare them for the rigors of relationships, challenges of the workplace, or the discipline that a godly life requires.
I believe there is a way to bind up our children’s wounds and send them back into the fray. We can and should say, I am sorry this happened to you, I feel for you, what can we learn from this? They should know that no matter what happened or how they were made to feel, they need to focus on truth: in the eyes of God and their parents they are worthy, loved, beautiful, and adequate. A parent can then gently point out the human tendency to imperfection and how that we all cause hurt to others at some time or the other. No one is exempt. We have all been hurt, and we all hurt others. A child or youth left out is just as capable of leaving out or excluding another child or youth.
Parents with a vision for the battle that lies ahead in life have a few commonalities when helping their children through apparent injustice. First of all, they realize there are always two sides to a story and recognize that their child very likely has a part in the problem. Secondly—and this is a big one—they focus away from the injustice done and rather say things like: you want friends? Then be friendly. Afraid of being left out? Then always include others. You want to be happy? Then make others happy. You want to receive? Then give.
We have focused so far on injustice. But opportunities to teach resiliency come through many more experiences in life. What about the hardships children face in school? Maybe they feel the teacher is unfair or inconsiderate. Maybe they’ve been bullied or feel picked on. Perhaps the work was not explained in a way they could understand and then, the worst, they were given homework to boot! All of these things do happen; children do experience hardship in school. But, school is exactly that: a school. It is a place whose ultimate purpose is to prepare them for life. Because eventually they will graduate and many will face the harsh and very real workplace and a boss who may be less than caring, considerate, and kind.
I recall numerous experiences in my growing up years where my parents took the high road and did not allow me to indulge in self-pity, complaining, or simply giving up. For example, I don’t ever recall my parents siding with me against a teacher. Instead they focused on my behavior and how I could improve that relationship. What was my part in the problem? What could I do to solve, rectify, clarify or clear up the issue? To be clear here: it is important that parents do validate their children and make them feel heard. Validation of lived experience does not condone, accept, or encourage behaviors. It just says, I hear you, I feel for you, but let’s take a deeper look at the problem. Then come the words that will give perspective and provide them with tools to deal with the situation in a healthy, resilient way.
On my first day in the workforce—after I was out of school at the tender age of 14 or 15—I spent an excruciating long day roto-tilling a large field with a small tractor, preparing to plant Christmas trees for a local farmer. I drove that tractor in the hot sun, moving at 3 miles per hour, for ten hours. At supper that night, burned to a crisp, I sat in a deep funk, despondently forking vittles into my slack-jawed mouth. I started to complain, waxing eloquent on the horrors of the day, saying there was no way I could do this, it was far too boring and I wasn’t going back. My dad listened quietly and then said, kindly and very simply: tomorrow you will go back. And I did.
Prepare your children for the battle. Say words and nurture attitudes that tend towards strength and victory. Avoid words and attitudes that foster and promote a victim mentality. As your children become adults and face the realities of life, and the struggle that will inevitably come, they will rise up and call you blessed.
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