One day as I was driving, I heard an interview with T. Berry Brazelton. Dr. Brazelton’s career spanned over six decades, writing dozens of books about child development and behavior. He passed away in 2018 but the legacy of his work remains. During his interview, he highlighted something that bears further discussion. He noted, “I think the biggest thing a parent can give a child today is resilience – helping them see they have the inner resources to overcome whatever they have to.”
Wow! Isn’t that interesting! A leading expert in childhood development after six decades of service states that resilience is the biggest thing that parents can give to their children. Since we know that life has its ups and its downs, parents need to learn how to help their children deal with the “downs.” There is an old adage that states a person is defined not by their handling of good times but by their ability to handle life’s difficulties. The ability to overcome adversities is the resilience that Dr. Brazelton is talking about. Failure in childhood is not only inevitable but also part of the growing process to acquire resilience to deal with the “downs” of life. Without resilience, we lack a basic skill to lead a productive life and to contribute positively in our communities.
But how do we give our children the resilience that they need? Let me make some suggestions –
- Remember that the critical time for childhood development is between birth and three years of age. Our attention to the love and nurturing of our children during this period sets the stage for their emotional, social and personal development. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this time and the need for constant attention to the needs of our children. Science now proves that crucial brain wiring and nerve connections can be set during the early years.
- The education of our children will define their ability to lead productive lives. Education is crucial for our children but let’s not forget school education is just one component of the overall education of our children. Parents and other adults provide the bulk of the education of our children at non-school times. We need to be ever mindful of that. Parents are the primary teachers.
- Parents serve as constant role models for their children. How parents handle adversity will define how children handle adversity when they grow up. We need to have the same resilience that we’re trying to teach our children. This is very difficult to do—to be resilient when we face stresses from so many directions.
- Children need to learn how to resolve conflict peacefully when they are young. The hallmark of conflict resolution is forgiveness. A great deal of resilience has to do with appropriate conflict resolution and learning how to forgive.
- We need to provide our children with the “inner resources” (that Dr. Brazelton refers to). These inner resources come from our early parenting and then from constant support during childhood providing appropriate limits. We need to remember that the term discipline means to teach. Not all discipline is negative. Providing our children with the appropriate inner resources is not pampering. It’s doing what parents should be doing.
Resilience is a crucial trait to be provided to all children by their parents. It allows us to be able to handle adversity in a positive way. Citizens in a community also need to have resilience to be able to improve our community when things are not always going well. That’s what defines our ability to make a difference!