It is gratifying to observe how strong in the Lord our children have become (3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”). Resilient, and growing in resilience. You know you grow strong and resilient through being stretched, tried and tested, right? They weren’t always strong and resilient–not by a long shot. So, how did we raise strong kids with resilience?
They are able to courageously fulfill their responsibilities even when it’s hard, do hard things, be strong, and have gone through their fair share of trials. I pray they continue and finish their race well. After our son came for a visit recently, I thought about the fact that he confidently communicates with people around the world in his work. In his private life, he passionately pursues his dreams and goals, and stands strong in his beliefs, ably sharing Christ when opportunity arises, based on God’s Word. I respect the strong, courageous adults (not perfect, but growing:) that my children have become. All by God’s grace.
If you are looking at a child who is fearful–not courageous–one who falls apart at the slightest thing, is controlled by their emotions, cries too easily, and is weak, be encouraged. They can change! God can change them!!! And He will use you to train them, teach them, mold them, help them–and pray for them!!! The man my son is now was not the little boy he once was! Please read on!
What is the Character Quality of Resilience?
I remembered how fearful my kids were as children. I worked hard to help them be faithful, fearless, mature adults. But, it was God who changed them inside. He led us to do certain things that worked and I want to pass some of them on to you today. First, some definitions.
Resilience is defined as:
- an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change synonyms: flexibility, adjustability.
The recovery that occurs in this phenomenon can be viewed as analogous to a person’s ability to bounce back after a jarring setback. Author P. G. Wodehouse took note of this when he wrote: “There is in certain men…a quality of resilience, a sturdy refusal to acknowledge defeat, which aids them as effectively in affairs of the heart as in encounters of a sterner and more practical kind.” From the Webster dictionary.
- the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
- ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
I heard an interview this week of an Olympic coach who talked about training athletes (but it applied to all people and parenting) to be tough and resilient in their mindset. To be courageous, and not afraid to fail. She said not to tell your kids, “You’re amazing!” for no reason! Give them real praise and critique what they can do better, when you’re training them, so they can improve! I recommend you watch it:) I shared it on Facebook, because I resonated with it so much. Though I don’t think the speaker/coach was coming at the subject from a Christian perspective, she espoused my beliefs almost entirely. See Ai Addyson-Zhang’s interview of 2x Olympic coach, Shawnee Harle, on my Facebook page here.
Be Strong and Resilient Yourself, Mama!
- Don’t let your child manipulate you by their emotions.
- Teach them to identify and know what their feelings are and describe them.
- Teach them what to do with their emotions–Biblically.
- Be an example of controlling your emotions.
- Teach them how to be ruled by the Holy Spirit, not ruled by emotions.
Be Strong, as you Raise Your Kids, Consistent and Compassionate
Pray for wisdom, because you need to find that fine line between being compassionate and holding them to a high standard.
- Expect them to be responsible and to keep their word no matter what.
- Teach them self-discipline and be an example of it.
- Make them go back and do it over when they try to slack off, are slothful/lazy, or do half a job, when they’re capable of doing it well and completely. (If you haven’t trained them properly, then it’s on you, but do train them, and then expect a job well done, age-appropriate.)
But, the Bible tells us to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. This includes our kids.
Examples From Real Life of How to Raise Strong Kids with Resilience
I thought I’d share some examples from our family:) It might help you to see how we did this. Some situations immediately came to mind as I wrote this! When our son was 6 years old, we had him in music lessons. Piano. We had him in pre-music lessons as a preschooler. Music was a huge part of my family’s life, and I wanted them to start young. I don’t think the lessons were very rigorous at 6 years old and he was fully capable of doing what was expected:) He was fairly emotional. Moms, we need to especially raise strong men! It’s so easy to be a softie with a little boy, when he really needs to be strong.
“Expect them to be responsible and keep their word no matter what.” Wendy Gunn 2020
So, one particular day, he was supposed to be practicing piano, and I just vividly remember he fell off the piano bench onto the floor literally in a puddle of tears! I discerned that this was one of the times to be tough. I just told him calmly to get back up and try again. I’m sure I also encouraged him that nothing is easy at the beginning, and yes, sometimes it seems too hard, but by being faithful in practice, he would get better, and then he’d reap the rewards of his faithfulness and hard work! And, not to give up!
Our son went on in study to succeed in college level theory and advanced level performance in piano. He blessed others, and was able to use this skill as a gift in ministry in our church and many other places. He reaped the rewards of diligence, perseverance, and resilience!
Should you Force your Child to be Strong when They’re Genuinely Afraid?
In a word, yes. However, do it sensitively! My kids, for whatever reason, were each afraid of specific things, and we had to work with them for a long time to overcome their fears! Our son was afraid to put his head under water. Many children are. I knew he would enjoy swimming, head under water, jumping from the deep end, laughing and playing in the water with friends if he learned this skill. So, we persevered. We also have lived on a lake since he was 9 years old.
We had our children in Community Ed. swimming courses when they were in grade school, and went through the Red Cross levels of swimming. It wasn’t easy, but with encouragement and progress, little by little, praising each step that he took in courage not fear, eventually he successfully went under water and passed each level. He then went on to overcome his fear of jumping from the high board, and many other difficult things! Each step of courage will support them to overcome their fears in other areas!
Dad was a Big Help and Example of Resilience
My husband gets a lot of credit for helping our son become strong and resilient! He didn’t baby him, like his mother was tempted to:) He gave him opportunities to learn skills, to do hard work, to go beyond what he thought he was capable of, over and over throughout life. That’s another tip, Mom! Give your children opportunities to surpass what they think they can do. That is also where wisdom is needed, to know how much to expect, and when. Pray!
This, however, is exactly what we do when we want to build muscle. When we want to become stronger physically, we increase the weight we’re lifting a little, do a few more reps, and gradually, we become stronger! Do this emotionally, in skill levels, spiritually and mentally, too.
Mom, do not do it for them, just because they lack courage! Don’t encourage them to wimp out!
Courage and resilience in interpersonal areas
Another vivid memory for me is one day when we went to McDonald’s. On the way out, I asked our son to go up to the counter and ask for some napkins. I don’t remember how old he was exactly, but if I had to guess, I’d say around 8 or 9? He fell apart. You’d have thought I had asked him to singlehandedly go up against a mob of gangsters, fight a bear, or go into a fire, instead of go up to the McDonald’s counter and ask for napkins. I want to remind you that this is the person I described to you in the first paragraph who now talks to people all over the world on the phone, answering their questions. Just sayin’. So, what happened?
Thank goodness on that day, and many others after, I had the sense to make him do it, anyway! Of course, it is easier and less embarrassing to do it yourself. Of course, it takes extra precious time to make him do it. Of course, you are tired, and don’t want a confrontation. There are a million reasons not to do it, but how unloving!
You don’t think it matters, but it does. Do you care about your child? Or only about yourself? You need to think long range. Every time you give in to his emotional outburst and fear, you reinforce it. And every time you calmly make him do that hard thing, you reinforce his courage. Think of the man he’s going to become, the woman she will be. And you, Mom, toughen up, and do the hard thing, yourself! Again, I say, pray! And, if you have work to do to regain ground, go to the Lord, ask forgiveness, seek His face and make a plan, (ask forgiveness of your child, too–and tell them the new plan) and start anew with your training!
Resilience Involves a good work ethic and it’s biblical
This applies when you are assigning chores, and training them to a good work ethic. I hear it’s not cool to talk about making your children work hard anymore. Well, that’s too bad, because the Bible says to, so I will continue. I can’t tell you how many doors it has opened for our children that they were trained to work hard. Again, this was more my husband’s doing than mine, and his family’s work ethic and upbringing!
The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” We took this literally when our kids were in their tweens and teens (again our son:). Our son really would have taken the easy way out at times, if we had let him. It’s hard to remember this, looking at him now! He’s so responsible and hard-working, and has such a good reputation, but once upon a time, he really didn’t want to do any more work than he had to:) And, boy, did my husband push him!
Isn’t slothfulness in us all? The Bible talks a lot about slothfulness (laziness). One day when our son was a teenager, I asked him to wash the kitchen floor. Our children had been doing chores for years, and both knew how to wash a kitchen floor well. They had the opportunity as teens to work for friends of ours who owned a family business cleaning new construction. Our friend trained them how to clean a floor well! 🙂
Strength and Resilience is the Opposite of Taking the Easy way out and Laziness
Which reminds me to say, you need to train your children how to do chores, and how to do a job well. There are steps I took to train my kids in a new job, and then I inspected what I expected, corrected, and continued to patiently train. Once they knew the job, I expected them to do it well, and they would have that job for awhile, to get really comfortable with it. I learned to do this from mentors, good examples around me, and God’s teaching me through His Word. If you don’t know how to do a job well yourself, there are plenty of YouTube videos these days to help you! Or books! Don’t use that as an excuse:)
This particular night my husband and I were going to our friends’ house and I was busy. I gave my son this job to do, and I came back to find that he had tried to get away with doing half a job. He had washed the floor completely, alright, but without sweeping it first!
Honestly, my emotional softie mom side kicked in and my initial inner response was to feel sorry for him. I hated to make him do it over. I also could hardly believe he had actually intentionally done that. I thought maybe he forgot:) We all are tempted to be a softie at times. But, I’m so glad I didn’t give in to that temptation! Let the punishment fit the crime. It was his slothfulness that caused him to have twice as much work. He had to sweep and rewash the floor completely. And, I doubt he ever tried that again!
Don’t Let Your Children Emotionally Manipulate
Most of our children will use emotions to manipulate us if it will work. They start very early! When your children are very small, you need to teach them that manipulation doesn’t work! A child who can turn off and on the tears is manipulating! A child who cries LOUDLY with their voice is manipulating! Tears do not require a sound. A child who is allowed to say things to his parents like, “You don’t love me!” is manipulating, and should not be allowed to talk to his parents that way. He is also being disrespectful.
There are legitimate emotions and fears that you need to sensitively and lovingly work with your child to overcome.
Pray With Your Child When he’s Fearful
Acknowledge their fears and don’t shame them. Be calm. Pray for wisdom to discern how to respond. There is a time to be tough and a time to be gentle.
Our daughter was very fearful of specific things, for specific reasons. At around 4 years old, many children have night terrors. She did. I taught her Bible verses and prayed with her at night, and she got through it.
One time, I left her sleeping in the car right outside my open kitchen door, in the driveway in our quiet, safe neighborhood, where I kept checking on her, but she managed to wake up and become terrified because I wasn’t there. At around age 7(?), she went to use the park restroom which I could see from where I sat with other families at a Homeschool Family Picnic and was only used by these Homeschool families. I heard her screaming because she couldn’t get the door open and I went running. These two experiences made her fearful of being trapped inside places and enclosed spaces, until we helped her through it. And, then there was the dog that chased after her, tore her dress, and bit her when she was around 12. She still loved dogs after that, thankfully. But, certain breeds were a little fearful to her.
Pray with them. Teach your children what to do with their fears! “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3 We are all afraid at times. We all have to learn to go to the Lord with our fears. We are told to pour out our hearts to the Lord. We’re told to go to Him when overwhelmed.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.”Joshua 1:9
We have the example of many in Scripture who faced fearful circumstances, and we can follow those who trusted in God as our example. King Hezekiah went and fell on his face and laid out the threatening letter before the Lord and sought what to do. (2 Kings 19:1-7) In 1 Samuel 30:6 the people were talking of stoning David! The danger was real! It says, “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Can we teach our kids to use Scripture to encourage their own hearts in the Lord? That will go with them throughout their life!
Joshua was told over and over to be courageous. Commanded. If God can command someone to be courageous, then it is within our power and our children’s to obey that command with His Spirit working in us. When they say they can’t, it’s not true, (if they have accepted Christ as their Savior). (This begs another question, which I will address in the next post on this subject.) We have verse after verse which tells us to trust in the Lord, wait on the Lord and be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart. God gives us promises, and we must have faith in Him. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
Acknowledge, but don’t encourage giving in to, emotions and fears.
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