Resilience is enormously useful, from young childhood throughout adulthood. Many of us know an adult or two who hasn’t learned the importance of resilience, and it shows in their mental and physical well being. The ability to be independent, problem solve, and handle difficult situations is invaluable, and young children must learn to develop some of these skills even in their toddler and preschool days.
- Stop accommodating all needs. This is a hard one. Your child doesn’t want to sleep in the dark in his room, so you provide a nightlight. The nightlight isn’t enough to calm him, so you lay with him until he falls asleep. Eventually he wakes up in the middle of the night and crawls into bed with you…every night. Providing a certain level of assurance and comfort is important, but remember to talk about boundaries and which ones are crucial to reinforce.
- Limit risk, but don’t eliminate it. A parent is afraid their toddler will fall out of their toddler bed, so he put a second mattress outside the toddler rail. A preschooler is still eating strawberries diced to the size of corn kernels to prevent choking. Obviously, we use car seats and bike helmets and talk to our kids about safety around strangers. A one-foot fall from a toddler bed isn’t the end of the world, even if it does produce some momentary tears.
- Teach problem-solving. Is your child stressed about something? Maybe a field trip with his preschool class sounds a bit intimidating to him. Don’t keep him home. Instead, talk to him about his fears and what he can do to make himself feel more comfortable when he is out in the world in a new place without mom and dad.
- Don’t give them every answer. When your child is building a school project or trying to figure out his homework, you can help them to figure out larger concepts that will help them get started, but don’t draw every conclusion for them. Allow them to work out individual answers on their own.
- That brings us to our last point: let them fail. If your child simply can’t figure out an equation on a math test, or if a younger child doesn’t pay attention to her coach at soccer practice and winds up making a mistake in the next game, she’ll have learned a valuable lesson.
As parents, it’s in your nature to nurture, but there is always a line to be straddled between nurturing and caring for your child’s needs, and making sure he learns on his own, acts independently, and makes wise choices for himself.