We all want to develop and raise mentally strong kids. But how exactly can we cultivate this mindset in our children as parents? Studies have shown hope and resilience go hand-in-hand. Having a sense of hope is driven by having an inner sense of control. Hopeful children face challenges with confidence, knowing they are temporary (i.e., "It won't be like this forever, it will get better."). Children without hope often face the same challenges and tend to give up rather than persevere (i.e., "What's the point? Nothing will change.").

Parents have a critical role to play during this phase of development. Here are five strategies that you can utilize in your household to raise children that embrace challenges and tackle adversity head-on.

#1 Resilient kids starts with you, parents! 🫵

Kids are always observing their parents’ behavior because imitation is a core part of any child’s learning process when they are younger. If you want to teach your kids to be resilient, the best way to do it is by modeling it yourself. It starts with understanding the behaviors of the different types of parenting styles.

We all face stressful situations in life, so it's important to use coping and calming strategies when we're feeling overwhelmed as parents. Try taking some deep breaths to work through the stress and take a step back to label your emotions (more on this in the next section). Also, talk through your problem-solving process when faced with adversity, it will show your kids that obstacles are indeed a part of life and that there are always solutions to your problems. It isn’t enough to rely on only teaching your kids to be resilient, you also need to show them how it's done. Be careful though, as parents, we know the lines can get blurred when it comes to “showing” our kids vs. actually “being” resilient for them.

Here’s what we mean. As parents, it's only natural for us to want to swoop in and fix all of our children's problems. But what if we told you that by doing that, we're actually doing them a disservice? That's right, the better strategy is to resist the urge to fix it and ask questions instead. By bouncing the problem back to the child with questions, we're helping them think through the issue and come up with solutions on their own. This not only teaches them problem-solving skills but also gives them the confidence to tackle challenges independently.

#2 Help your kids think in terms of solutions, not problems 💡

The reality is our kids need to experience discomfort so that they can learn to work through it and develop their own problem-solving skills. We know at times this can go against our parenting instincts, but know without this skill-set in place, kids will experience anxiety and often shut down in the face of adversity.

Teach your kids that for every problem there's a potential solution waiting to be discovered. Break it down into steps for your child to follow when faced with a problem.

Step 1️⃣: Shift their mindset

Nurture your child's problem-solving skills by teaching them to think of problems as simply being an opportunity to use their imagination in search of finding a creative solution.

Step 2️⃣: Break it down into steps for your child to follow when faced with a problem

The process needs to be simple and repeatable. Here's an example of steps you could practice with your child:

  • Define the problem
  • Identify the root cause
  • Brainstorm for solutions
  • Decide on the best choice
  • Implement it

#3 Encourage prudent risk-taking ⚖️

We miss every shot that we don’t take. We’ve all heard the saying, but it’s important to convey that message to our kids as well. Risk and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. And let's face it, we live in a world where bubble-wrapping our kids has become the norm. But as parents, we need to lean against this trend and stress that taking risks isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most often, they represent opportunities for growth.

The key is we need to encourage our kids to take the right kinds of risks. Risks that push them out of their comfort zone and that don’t put them in imminent danger, should be supported. It could be trying a new sport, participating in a school play, or even just striking up a conversation with a shy classmate. When kids avoid risks, they start to believe that they can't handle challenges. But when they embrace risks, they learn to push themselves and develop the skills they need to face life's obstacles.

#4 Celebrate the small wins & maintain perspective 🏅

Risk taking can also be impacted by our kids’ perceptions around failure and the idea that they have to be “perfect.” Here are two focus areas to help them get into the right mindset, a “growth mindset.”

Focus 1️⃣: Progress is progress

If you're making gains, no matter how small, you need to reinforce those gains with your child. For example, your kid has shown a recent improvement in their math scores. Take time to review this progress together and highlight those incremental gains as milestones worth celebrating.

Focus 2️⃣: Perfection is an illusion

Nobody is perfect. Setbacks and mistakes happen. There's nothing wrong with your child striving for excellence (we should all want that!), but help them maintain perspective and learn from the times they fall short. Let's face it, nobody likes to fail. But here's the thing, when parents focus too much on the end result, it can trap kids in a pass/fail cycle. They either succeed or they don't, which can lead to risk avoidance. But if we teach our kids to embrace mistakes, it can actually promote a growth mindset. By showing them that mistakes are a natural part of learning, we give them the message that it's okay to fail and that it's all about the journey, not just the destination.

So don't be afraid to talk to your kids about the mistakes you've made and how you recovered from them. After all, it's those mistakes that helped you grow and become the resilient person you are today. Helping to cultivate a growth mindset within your child will pay dividends for their resiliency down the road.

#5 Identify negativity & find ways to mitigate it 🚫

Encouraging your kids to have a growth mindset is significantly impacted by their attitude and outlook on life. There’s one emotion in particular that parents need to watch out for: negativity. There is zero upside to being negative, and as parents, we must help our children find ways to stop it dead in its tracks before it takes hold. This starts with giving them the ability to correctly identify the emotion in real time.

One way to do is to name it (e.g., Negative Nancy) or create a signal for it to help "externalize" the negative thoughts for your child. This process helps your child get into the habit of recognizing when negativity is starting to creep in. Once you've identified it, offers ways to help "reset" their mindset. Whether it is reciting aloud a consistent affirmation message or having them simply stop and ask, "What am I upset about here?" will often help break the cycle of negativity.

Helping your child form a habit of identifying and addressing negativity will go a long way in building emotional resilience.

And remember, resilience & independent kids go 🤝

Life can be tough, especially for kids who are just starting to navigate their way through the world. That's why resilience is such an important trait to have. Understand that when you’re kids experience failure, it is not a reflection on who you are as a parent. Teach them the strategies outlined here and resist the urge to “step in” when difficulties come their way. Because much of time, they need to learn by doing. Although it may be difficult in the moment, know that you’re setting them up for future success.

When kids have the skills and confidence to confront and work through their problems, they learn that they're capable of handling difficult issues. And each time they bounce back on their own, they internalize the message that they are strong, capable, and able to handle whatever life throws their way.