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Helping Your Child Develop Resilience (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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April 23, 2024 8:09 am

Helping Your Child Develop Resilience (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 23, 2024 8:09 am

Dr. Kathy Koch explores the importance of resilience in our lives and how we can nurture that trait in our children. As a parent, you are the key to your child’s resilience! Through intentional modeling, ongoing conversation and observation, and encouragement, you can help them learn to bounce back from struggles, get unstuck, and move forward with courage and confidence. (Part 1 of 2)


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If they don't develop an ability to walk out of their trauma, they won't become who God intended for them to be.

And that grieves me, because God has a plan for every person he creates. And it's only when we're resilient, where we come back from difficulty, that we'll learn and grow and discover how life works. We'll develop character, faith, perseverance and diligence, problem-solving, health, mental health, all of that.

That's Dr. Cathy Cook, and she joins us today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller. Hey, John, when it comes to instilling character in our kids, what a great goal.

How do we do that? That's the question. I think the most important aspect we can teach and model for them is bouncing back from struggles and difficulties. This is known as resilience.

A lot of psychologists talk about that, the importance of it. I think the Bible, first and foremost, talks about it in 2 Corinthians 4, 8 and 9. It says through the Apostle Paul, where he writes, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. That's good. Perplexed, but not driven to despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken.

Struck down, but not destroyed. Yeah. Isn't that great?

That is a wonderful, beautiful picture. Now, the question is, how do we teach that to our children? And how do we live that out? When challenges arise in our child's life, you want them to be able to face those situations with courage and confidence. And that's where resilience comes into play. And today we want to give you a solid idea, help you create that plan of instruction for your child, and teach them how to embrace that. We'll also give you some tools to help you develop and nurture a spirit of resilience yourself.

Yeah. And our great friend, Dr. Kathy Cook, will help us do just that. She's been here a number of times, a perennial favorite. Kathy is a speaker, educational psychologist, former teacher.

She's a blogger. She's written a number of books. Today, we're really going to zero in on her book called Resilient Kids, Raising Them to Embrace Life with Confidence. And you can find more details about the book and our guest at our website.

The link is in the show notes. Kathy, welcome back to Focus on the Family. Thank you, Jim. I'm honored to be here. Really happy to be here. It's always good to have you here. And people respond so well to the content that you provide. So thank you for that partnership coming on and helping instruct parents how to do a better job parenting.

I value you and focus on the family and what you do. So it's super cool to be here. It's one of the great things where we can work together to get the word out. You found it Celebrate Kids. It's dedicated to helping kids better understand who they are and their purpose in God's kingdom.

Wow. There's a purpose statement, isn't there? As you're out speaking and working with children and their parents, what are you hearing about the importance of resilience in all of our lives? Yeah, I appreciate that question. I think people are aware that it's necessary that we allow our children to suffer a bit and struggle and learn how to step up on their own or they'll become way too fragile. But I think a lot of parents are afraid to let that happen.

They don't know the balance of allowing the struggle, but also preventing the struggle. I think there's tension there with a lot of our parents. Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm thinking when the boys were young, I mean, Jean would have this Jean and I would have this little discussion about whether they were safe enough outside climbing a tree.

And right. You know, it's funny today we talk about the bubble wrap parent and I think we did both. Sometimes we were probably not as in tune as we should have been. We were at a beach one time. Some father had dug a six foot hole and they were probably about 20, 30 yards away from us.

And there was really not many people on this beach down in Florida and they're playing. They decided to play who can push who into the hole. But I didn't know how deep the hole was. I just knew there was a hole down there. Should have got up out of my beach chair. I know, but I was relaxing.

And sure enough, Trent, the bigger boy, push Troy, the younger, littler boy into the hole. Boom. He sprained his ankle. I didn't know if it was broken. So we spent like four hours at the emergency trying to get x-rays and everything like that.

That probably was not a great time. But then there's the other end of that continuum where you put your helmet on, put your elbow guards on. Where's your knee guards? Where's your knee guards?

Because you're riding the bike down the driveway of 50 yards or whatever it might be. So first of all, how do we become mindful of it as a parent that, okay, are we balanced ourselves? And then how do I mean, there's a lot in here, but then how do we not project fear into our kids that you've got to have every limb taken care of? You know, things do happen.

They do happen. And these are difficult days in comparison to when we were younger. So, you know, there are helmets now.

I rode bikes with no helmet and it was fine. We had cars with no seat belt. Yeah, exactly. And oh, we could go on and on.

We used to slide around in the back and go, this is fun. So it's, you know, it's a different world now, but here's the better. Here's the thing, Jim, I want us to all remember what the scripture teaches because it ought to be the guide that we turn to.

Right. And God teaches us in Romans and in James that in the struggle, we grow up. We know that when we walk through the values, don't sit down and count the blades of grass per square inch in the Valley. The scripture says Psalm 23, even though I walked through the Valley, so we're going to walk through the Valley. We get to the mountain top on the other side. And in that experience, which will be a bit of a struggle, a step forward, a step back, two steps forward, one step back, we develop our character and our faith. We endure, we develop our hope. When I ask audiences, how many of you have benefited from the struggles that God has allowed you to experience?

Almost every hand goes up. Sure. How many of you have a better character? How many of you have a deeper faith in the God of the Bible?

Because you had to rely on him in a difficult time. So the parents in my audiences are admitting that they've benefited from the struggles that they have encountered. It's grown them up in spiritual maturity and in character maturity. Then I say to them, then let your children struggle. Sometimes let them suffer the consequences. They forgot.

There was a test. You chose not to remind them. They earnest see that and get it. They earned it. And they complain.

You look them in the eye. You chose to forget to study. There's a consequence for your actions. And we have to realize, we have to realize Jim, that it's not about us. This is where moms and dads have to take a step back and go. If my kids struggle a bit and I look like a bad parent, I am not a bad parent. I did a wise thing by teaching my child that consequences are a result of the choices you make. And I know it's not easy, but if we don't do this, we're going to have fragile kids who boomerang back home all of the time and do want to be bubble wrapped and they won't succeed. And they will not fulfill the purpose that God created them for.

That's a good point. When you were a child, you put this in your book. You had a frightening experience while swimming in a lake. Yeah. How did resilience show up in that experience? I'm looking forward to this because I only got a part of it. So I want to know more. Yeah.

That's an interesting connection to what we were just saying actually. So I'm a young girl, family vacation, swimming in the lake and I hit, something hit my forehead. I felt it get out of the water, put my hand up on my forehead, take it off and it's full of blood.

And of course it's way worse than it was because the water's making the blood go everywhere. I'm screaming, mommy, she comes running down and lo and behold, somebody had been skipping stones in the beach next door, unfortunately skipped badly and it came into the swimming area and I'm hit. Mom and dad take me to the hospital. I get my first stitches. But guess what? You guys, I went swimming the next day.

My mom and dad. You got the stitches wet? Yes.

Yes. I'm hoping it was okay. You know, my dad, the night that this happened, my dad had been in a rowboat with my brother fishing.

My mom had to wave them down to get their attention. The next night my dad went fishing. He didn't sit on the beach worried that I would get hit by another rock.

My mom didn't say, Oh, you better not swim again. You just never know what might happen. So resilient people understand life comes with heartache and hardship and even some trauma, but we don't, we don't succumb to that. We don't let that bring us down. We still walk forward. Otherwise we don't grow up. Yeah. And in that regard, I mean, what are the benefits of resilience in our lives? You're tipping that direction, but let's just get it out there.

I love that. Yeah. I mean, most people wouldn't see it as a benefit. If you suffer, there's no benefit.

It's just painful. But Valley walkers as I like to call them, right. Typically do life better, stronger with a better attitude, more balanced because well, like that old adage, you know, trust people that walk with a limp. Oh, see, that's so good. Well, like I said, I think primarily we develop our character and our hope there. We know that God will come forward for us. We know that he's on our side.

We know that his wisdom and love and passion and mercy and grace is real because we've needed it and we've begged for it and we've experienced it. And this is where we develop perseverance, teachability, patience and hope, other centeredness, you know, being led by someone else because we can't get out of the valleys on our own. And then we, we grow, we make progress. We become very effective problem solvers.

Most resilient people don't want to sit down in the Valley. They want to figure things out. So they try again and they try again. So these are children who don't whine and complain, mommy, it's too hard.

I can't do it. But instead they go, shoot, this was hard. I wonder what would make it easier. So on their own, they still need a mom and dad to be the support system. Absolutely. But on their own, they begin to figure things out. So they develop a healthy independence, which I think is so great, healthier mental health.

When I wrote the book, I was actually pretty stunned at the research on hope. In fact, resilient people think of this as two guys. Resilient people can be angry obviously, but not defined by their anger. Resilient people who are angry don't necessarily act angry all the time. They're able to kind of categorize that and still act appropriately, if that makes sense. Whereas if you're not resilient, you've been bubble wrapped.

You're aware of all your failures, never your strengths. Then the anger just is who you are really dangerous. That's interesting. Makes sense.

Yeah. I think sometimes we overcomplicate it. So much of life is pretty straightforward, but we tend to derail it because we overcomplicate it. And I'm thinking as a parent, it doesn't take a lot to, you know, think about resiliency for your children. It just means you have to stop and think about what you're about to do. And I don't know that we're that thoughtful as parents.

I mean, you know, because we're just in protection mode, especially in this culture today with all the dangers that are out there, you just put the full throttle on protection and you don't stop and think, Hey, am I going to do some damage here? Or how do I let my child struggle a little? You in fact had that experience as teaching second graders in their snow suit. Right. Right. Because again, that's a simple, straightforward thing that parents should be aware of. Oh, I love your comments.

Right. So I taught second graders for four years before I earned my PhD and began to do ministry. And I, the first year I taught, I had 28 little adorable second graders and it would snow and be cold every once in a while. And it was time for recess or time to go home. And guys, I could have put on all 28 snow suits faster than watching them, but I knew that they had to figure it out, but they would put on their mittens and then try to zip their coat shot.

It's not going to work well for you. Or they would put on their, their coat and zip it and their hat and their mittens and then try to put their boots on. You can't bend over to put your boots on. There's a sequence. Yeah. There's a sequence. And so I would watch and sometimes I'd have to actually leave the hallway and let them figure it out because I do want to rescue them.

I do want to love them well. And sometimes I feel like I can't let them struggle, but no, they had to figure it out. And then what was so cool about that was the victory they felt when they did it. And they would go, Ms. Cook, I figured it out.

I should put on my mittens last. And then we would clap and it's, you can't steal their victory. If you do everything for them, you steal their victory. They don't have that chance to feel good about themselves. And that's not right. We got to let them figure it out so that they can grow up because you know what, if we don't guys, we're always going to have to follow them around.

So when we protect them at the right time, that's really wise, really good. Obviously, if a kid's going to run out into the road, yell, stop, don't sit there and go, what would Dr. Cathy want me to do? I would want you to yell, stop. But if your child is about to spill the milk and you've told her six or seven times to watch out what she's doing, maybe she has to spill it to figure out that mommy wasn't kidding. There's going to be a consequence.

If you spill your milk, you know, the book is ruined, et cetera, et cetera. So we have to recognize Jim that we're raising them for their tomorrows. Absolutely.

Right. We're raising adults, right? We're raising them for their tomorrows. And that means that we have to help them figure out how the world works.

Well, and the irony is your second graders in third grade, they didn't repeat that mistake. Exactly. That's, that's the idea of growing.

And the other thing that I think happens, Jim is not only did they learn the snow suit sequence, I think they took that ability into everything else. Yeah. If I try again, if I think it through, if I slow down, if I'm intentional, even with my spelling, even with my homework, even with taking my dog for a walk, right, you can train them and teach them how to embrace this thing called life.

Yeah, it works well. What role does belief play in building resilience? Oh, everything we teach at the ministry that believes cause behavior. So if a child believes that one mistake means I'm stupid, they're not going to want to try for fear that they'll make a mistake cause no kid wants to feel stupid. If they believe that dad is critical and dad loves math and therefore I have to love math and I can't let my dad know I don't like it.

They're panicked and they're stressed. Anytime dad walks into the room when they're working on math, if their belief about God is that he's judgmental and you know, critical, they're not going to pray vulnerable, vulnerable prayers that they need help from God to overcome a difficulty. Well, that's an interesting one in terms of allowing that vulnerability because some parents, when you react negatively to a truth statement that your child may make that that's a testing point. The child may not even know that, but if you react too negatively, you're going to put that child into a cocoon. Great point. And they're not going to be as honest with you. A lot of parents make that mistake, right?

And then we can't help them. And the passion of our listeners is I want to help my kids. Yeah. Kathy, you write in the book that we tell ourselves stories to make sense of circumstances, et cetera. Explanatory style is what you or somebody labeled it.

There's four elements. Let's talk through this. And I know this sounds maybe a bit geeky, but this is fun. I mean, it really gives you the tools to understand your child. I'm trying to think about just that the explanatory style. If I did a lot of talking myself through something, help us understand what it is.

It's interesting, Jim. It's the story we tell ourselves. It's not sound like, yeah, it's like, am I the only one that's responsible or am I going to blame somebody else?

So there's four elements. One is who is responsible. So resilient kids tend to own their stuff.

Oh, interesting. They own their strengths. They don't run from it.

They don't run hide or rate blame others. They don't blame others as much and they own their strengths. And if kids don't own their strengths, they don't know how to overcome something. That's a challenge.

So one element is who is responsible. So does your kid, my teacher's so stupid or the test was so hard. My teacher's so mean. Well, maybe you didn't study, right? So maybe the teachers not mean, maybe you made a mistake. Resilient kids would go, Oh, I didn't study well. Make sense?

You own it. Number two is how long will it last? So resilient children understand that it was a blip in the radar. It was one pothole. It doesn't mean like if they don't do well in a spelling test, it doesn't mean the whole day is terrible. If they don't win a baseball game, it doesn't mean they're going to lose every other game. So it's not a forever kind of a thing. If that makes sense. Right.

The third element is how will, how will it affect them? And we all know kids are like, my whole life is ruined, you know? So again, spelling the teen years.

Yeah, probably. So resilient kids are able to compartmentalize things are able to say, okay, that was athletics. This is academics. This is mom, this is grandma. They separated out, but non-resilient kids, they just blend it all in a blender and they'll, my whole life is over and that's really hard to overcome. Okay. So it's, who is responsible?

How long will it last and how will it affect them? And then there's a fourth element and the fourth element is what will it require in resilient kids are able to realistically say a little bit of study and would have helped, you know, they, they're able to figure out what it will require. I should have asked mom for help. She offered, I was foolish to not accept her offer.

I should have allowed myself to do that. We're non-resilient kids. They don't believe they can overcome the negativity and they just sit down and they're overwhelmed by it. And so are adults. And I understand that. And so do you guys being overwhelmed is really easy today because the culture is chaotic and people are messy and, and truth is harder to maybe hear in the loudness of, of the liar, if I can put it that way.

That's why what you do here at focus is so important. So four elements we can train our children to think rightly and realistically about their part of the problem. Somebody else's part of the problem.

Own it. Yeah, totally. The permanence aspect of this, the other, one of the other ones, permanence in their moment, whatever that horrific moment might be. How, how do we help our children understand that bad things don't last forever?

I'm thinking, you know, the irony of that one is a teenager with acne, right? That's where this is my life and look at my face and it'll never be different. And you know, a lot of parents, we experienced that. I, we had that a little bit, but you know, you have to talk to them about this is a temporary situation. Your body's changing and, but that's a big one.

It is. So you teach, I love what you're saying. You teach, you communicate, you maybe, you know, you get a relationship with the doctor and let me tell you about patients I've had. You show before and after pictures of the use of medicine. All of that is right.

Maybe talk a little bit about your own story and what you've overcome. But one of the things we don't do is we don't say, Oh, just get over it. Right. That is toxic positivity.

It's they're going to run from you at the room. If they're, well, just get over it. It's not a big deal to a teenager. It is a big deal.

Cathy, it's important here because I, you know, I'm a man and I have male friends and we dads can do that. Oh, so flippantly. Yeah. Come on, get over it.

I did that. I had that and it's not a problem and you're just over worried or, you know, we can be really flippant. And I think it's part things should be honest about that. And I think it's partly because you don't want him to be suffering and you don't want him to have those awkward moments.

You love him. Or it's this thought that it's not as big as you think it is. Just get over it.

That's I think a lot how a guy thinks. Come on. Yeah.

But can we put ourselves in their shoes? Oh, absolutely. Recognize the dynamic of empathy is good. And so I think we start by saying, man, I'm so sorry that acne is part of your story. Yeah. I think we respond to emotion with emotion. So you have a right to be upset. I get that it's hard for you. How can I help you?

What is it that you would like from me? Do you want to try a new doctor? Do you are you nervous about the play? You'd rather not be in the play? Is that part of what I'm hearing? The bright lights are, you know what? Talk to me more. All kinds of things.

Braces. I mean, you know, whatever it might be. Yeah. So we say, Hey, this is a season and I believe you will overcome because you're capable of overcoming. Even if this doesn't change, you are an overcomer. Right.

But, but, and I think it will change. So that sounds like you're coaching attitude. Come on. Yeah, absolutely. Beliefs. You're coaching beliefs. Yeah. This is what you are. You may not realize it, but this is, I could see this in you.

Yeah. When we're trying to discover our child's explanatory style, what do we do? How do we, what are some of the tells for us? We, we, like I said before, we watch more, we observe really carefully. We listen to their comeback. We listen to the, even the tone of voice. What, what's the consistent story?

How was school every day? It's the same negativity. There's something wrong there with permanence. There's something wrong there with responsibility. So I think Jim, it's an intentionality to listen and an intentionality to observe and then to have the courage to bring it up and to say, Hey, we love you. We don't appreciate your current attitude and let's help you figure that out. So we have to be brave and talk about it.

And we have to make sure that we are also writing the explanatory story well within our own being because they're picking up on us. Right? Sure. Sure. Absolutely. And kids, it's normal to have mistakes and failures.

Absolutely. You can't repair this thing. You don't have the dexterity or you can't do something because you lack the ability to do it. It's more prevalent in a child than it hopefully than it is in an adult. When it comes to around the home stuff, I'm probably still stuck in fourth grade, but, but how do we, as a parent, how do we describe the difference between those two mistakes and failures and how can we help our children understand the difference?

Yeah, that's so huge, isn't it? So mistakes happen. It could be lack of training, lack of ability, lack of skill. It could be bad attitude. A mistake could be that I didn't train you well. Like I, I rushed and I was in a bad mood and I didn't give you grace. And therefore, you know, you feel like you made a mistake.

What's very frightening to me, Jim, is that there's a body of research that suggests that children believe mistakes mean that they're stupid. Yeah. All right.

That's a natural connection. And I think for, I hope for us, we know that that's not the case when I make a mistake. I think, okay, what went wrong?

What could I have done differently? So here's the thing, right? You say to your son or your daughter, innocent, you say, well, what's the big deal. You made a mistake, right? What your kid just heard was, what's the big deal? You're stupid.

Wow. So we have to be really careful of even using the word and what I would love to see families do who are listening to this is define the word in our family. What does mistake mean?

Yeah. Mistake means we try again. Mistake means I should have asked questions before I attempted it on my own. Mistakes mean I'm in school and I don't know everything yet. I love to tell children that the reason you're in school is that you don't know everything yet and you're going to make mistakes because you don't know everything yet and failure. Kids think failure means they're bad or that it's over or that it's over.

It's final, it's fatal. So it's not just that I made a mistake or I'm stupid, but I'm bad. I don't like the word failure. I would like us to not use it.

Um, and you know, it's a series of mistakes can cause failure. But when I, when I read the research and realized that so many kids think that it means that they're bad, I would want us to not use the word or again in a school, in a class, in a family, let's define it. Let's look it up in a couple of dictionaries.

Let's look it up biblically. And in our family we're not going to use the word. We're going to use this word instead. Or if we use the word, this is what we mean by it. Yeah. I like that idea.

Definition. Cool. Um, I think it's so critical to lay that out there because you know, mistakes will happen. Definitely. So have the freedom to make mistakes. We'd rather have you make them now and learn from them and they're not fatal.

Oh, now let's define fatal. Yeah. Let's have confident moms and dads who don't hide all their mistakes from their kids.

Yeah. Because if moms and dads hide all of their mistakes and children think that their parents are perfect, they're not going to be willing to admit their mistakes to them because they will assume that they will have no compassion, empathy or understanding. Kathy, right at the end here, this is the last question we could squeeze in, but uh, let's come back next time and keep it rolling for a two day.

I'd love to. And uh, you know, the parent that maybe has not been mindful of this, I'll speak for the husband, the father that may have said, ah, get over it. Come on, don't touch it.

It'll, the pain will go away. Whatever we're saying is flipping dads and then whatever that mom might be doing to bubble wrap and overprotect their child. Is it ever too late to kind of correct, and I'm talking about probably having late teens in the home before they're gone. Do you sit down and say, whew, okay, I've made a few mistakes.

It's never too late. We know that. Otherwise, why would we be here on the radio?

Right? We know that people can overcome. It takes humility on the parents and the grandparents part and it would take vulnerability because what I would love to recommend is that maybe they even ask their preteens and teens to listen to the show or to sit down and say, man, I heard this conversation today and it revealed to me that I have made some mistakes and I am sincerely so sorry. And then be careful of excusing yourself. We don't let kids give their reasons for why something went bad.

Just say you're sorry. Would you give me a chance because I'd really like to improve so that our relationship is stronger and your future is brighter. Yeah.

I get excited about this topic because I could still see those improvement areas that I could use even though my boys are in their twenties now having those discussions and talking with them because ultimately I want them to be great husbands and great fathers someday. Yes. So that's all investment that I can provide them and examples and hopefully I can be the example for them. So this has been great. Let's do that. Let's come back next time, Kathy, and continue the discussion. I'd love to. And let me turn to the listener and the viewer, you know, here to focus on the family. This is why we're here. This is our mission and we want to help equip you to be that better person, especially in Christ.

I mean, that's the goal for us as Christians to be a model of how to do these things. That's one reason that we have an in-house tool called seven traits of effective parenting assessment. And that's something that our own Dr. Danny Huerta created and it's free.

You can go in and it'll give you an idea of where you're hitting it and some areas of improvement where you might need to up the game a little bit. Also of course, Kathy's outstanding book, resilient kids, raising them to embrace life with confidence. It's such a great guide on helping your child learn to bounce back from challenges to learn that resilience. We have that here for you as well. If you can make a gift of any amount, we'll send it to you as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. And if you can't afford it, we want you to be a better parent.

So just get ahold of us and we'll trust others. We'll cover the cost of that. Help is a phone call away and when you get in touch, if you can donate, we sure do appreciate that. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word family, 800-232-6459.

We're stopped by the show notes for all the details. And thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation with Dr. Kathy Cook and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. It can be challenging to inspire your community to see life the way God sees it.

So what's the solution? Well, on June 15th, Focus on the Family is hosting See Life 24. And no matter where you are or who you are, you can be a part of this free event with speakers like Ben and Kirsten Watson and real stories about choosing life. See Life 24 will inspire you to translate your faith into action. Register today at
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-23 10:17:58 / 2024-04-23 10:30:48 / 13

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