Youth Services Law

Convincing Parents That Resilience Requires Risk and Failure

Protecting Children SmallOne of the hardest parts of encouraging children to take age-appropriate risks is overcoming parents' hard-wired instinct to protect their children from everything negative.  We must communicate to parents the benefits of risky play, and reassure them that we are not exposing their children to unwarranted danger. Fortunately, we have help with the current emphasis on teaching children resilience.

Fortunately, we can channel our protective instincts into actions that can help our children. According to the American Psychological Association, “The primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family.”

We also must find opportunities to educate parents about the uncomfortable requirements of building resilience, namely that learning how to deal with failure, requires . . . failure:

  • We need to let our kids fail, and learn from that failure. The head of Google’s hiring policies recently explained in an interview that the company is looking less and less at GPA and college credentials. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”
  • Kids need to align their dreams with their strengths. They cannot be whatever they want to be. They can be whatever they have the skill to be and want to work at becoming.
  • Allow kids to get themselves into trouble - and accept the consequences. If we buffer them from all of the consequences of their decisions, they never learn how to make better decisions.
  • Teach them that privileges come with responsibility.
  • Do not do a child’s work for them (see #3).

Communicating these facts to parents requires several steps. First, cultivate a positive relationship with parents as well as their children. Second, communicate with them frequently, through social media and your website page. Create opportunities in those venues to discuss resilience early and often. Mention it often in your newsletter. Explain to parents how your program's philosophy, activities, and staff encourage resilience. Send them links to articles that you find about the topic. Find and create opportunities to reinforce the message.

Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more about the need for resilience, and how your program helps teach that to their children.

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