Why is Resilience important?
Children that are resilient will have less if any fear of failure.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from or cope with life’s difficulties. Resilient children
seem to face difficulty with a sturdy disposition. Instead of fight, flight, or freeze, they seem to
think, “How can I solve this problem?”
And the good news? Resilience can be taught.
What can you do to foster resilience? Below, I share 10 simple, effective strategies that you can
use every day to "help build children's bounce.”
1) Model resilience. Talk the talk, and walk the walk. Children need to see the adults in
their world using healthy coping behaviors. Of course you get frustrated and angry at
times. Let children know “I was angry this morning, and you know what? Here is how I
handled that strong feeling…” When something challenging happens, take a few deep
breaths and tell children,
“I am feeling frustrated. I am taking a few deep breaths,
and then I will try this again.” The more children see positive examples related to
coping and showing respect. For others, the more likely they are to use these behaviors
themselves (Derman-Sparks, 2015).
2) Foster healthy relationship skills. It is extremely hard (impossible?) to teach
someone with whom you have no relationship. If there is no trust, there can be no growth.
Start small with a child who challenges you. Be sure to have 20 positive interactions a
day with that child (some teachers place 20 pennies in one pocket and transfer a penny
every time they have a positive interaction with that child). Seek out the child and
attempt to build your relationship. Then, when it is time to teach her, you will have a
solid basis of trust to work from (Kaiser & Sklar Rasminsky, 2011).
3) Teach self-awareness. Some children do not understand why they get upset, lash out,
or even shut down. Do not ask them “Why?” Is there really a correct response to “Why
did you just hit her?” Instead, draw their attention to their behavior cues (“I see you are
clenching your fists,” “I notice your voice has gotten higher,”
“I see you getting closer to the door,” etc.).
Point out the behaviors they use when things are going well, and when things are not
going as well. Often, children need to be more aware of how their own actions affect
others. When you narrate these behaviors for children, you help them better understand
cause and effect, and the role they play in the process (Alvord, Zucker, & Grados, 2011).
4) Focus on feelings.There is a feeling behind almost every behavior. Although we may
want to change the behavior to something more appropriate, we want children to have a
wide range of feelings, even very strong feelings! Ask a child what he is feeling. If he
doesn’t know, try to label the feeling for him. Label your own feelings often. Talk about
how characters in stories or other children in the classroom or at home are feeling. Play
feeling games like matching facial expressions that show different emotions or using
mirrors to practice making various facial expressions. The more a child can understand
what feelings he is having, the sooner he will be able to recognize feelings in others,
and respond appropriately (Cairone & Mackrain, 2012).
5) Lead with strengths. Each child has strengths. Each child has unique interests and
skills. A child who has many chances to use her strengths has more chances to develop
confidence and healthy self-esteem. If you have a very active child, be sure there are
opportunities for her to lead others and expend her energy.
Find ways for children to dig deeper into interest areas, and even teach others (and you!)
Make a list of each child’s strengths, and add to it regularly. Refer to this list to point out
how she contributes to the positive environment in the classroom, as well as to share
the things she does well with her family. Be sure to offer encouragement
(recognizing and describing the effort) in lieu of praise (evaluating the outcome).
It is hard for a child to misbehave when she is feeling good about herself (Gartrell, 2012).
6) Provide healthy outlets. Have some spaces in your classroom for children to retreat to f
or alone time or even rest time as needed. Have an active area with mats for children
who need to throw their bodies around and let off steam. Have art supplies and projects
that engage the senses (like pounding clay, driving cars in a sand table, or painting on an
Offer a self-serve snack table with healthy options like fruit or low-sugar
cereal for children who may not have gotten a healthy breakfast or lunch. Recognize that
children, like adults, have a variety of needs during the day. And, when we can find
healthy ways to meet these needs, we all have more positive behaviors (Hyson, 2008).
7) Focus on consistency. Routines and rituals provide consistency for children, many of
whom have inconsistent routines outside of school. Children feel safer when they are
doing activities in a similar way, at a similar time each day, with a small set of rules that
need to be followed. Chaos and disorganization make most people feel nervous and
unsure about what to expect. Make a visual schedule at the child’s eye level (image) and
revisit it often. When there is a change in the schedule, provide several reminders to the
group, as well as individual children who may need more reassurance.
When we provide a consistent approach to routines and transitions in the classroom,
we are helping the child feel comforted. A child who feels comfortable is more ready to
learn (Howell & Reinhard, 2015).
8) Foster self-regulation. Self-regulation has two major components: 1) Doing something
you know you need to, even if you don’t want to (like washing your hands when the t
teacher asks you to), and 2) NOT doing something you want to because you understand
that behavior has negative consequences (like pushing another child when she takes your
toy). Adults can foster self-regulation using a popular strategy known as
FLIP IT ®. FLIP IT includes these four steps to handling strong emotions in non-hurtful
Set or remind the child of the Limit.
For example: “I see you are getting angry. We use our hands in kind ways. What is
another way you could ask for a turn? Could you ask your friend to make a trade with
another toy, or, ask how much longer they’d like with the toy and we can set a
timer?” (Sperry, 2011).
9) If you're a teacher, connect with children's families. Children know when there is
dissent between their teacher and parent. When a parent doesn’t trust the teacher, and
doesn’t think they care about their child, they are not able to form a connection.
This lack of connection leaves a child with inconsistent messages
between home and school, and the knowledge that two people she likes don’t really like
each other. It is never too late to form a connection with a family. Just like with a child,
start small. Reach out more often to share some fun anecdotes about the child, something
she said or did that the class enjoyed. Send pictures of the child at play. Ask about things
that are important to the family and child. Make a note to follow-up later about
a special event in the child’s life. Get good at the everyday chit chat so when something
more difficult comes up you need to discuss with a family, they are more willing to
receive it and be your partner in coming up with solutions (Bilmes, 2012).
10) Be available. More than anything else, let a child know you are available when he
needs you. You are there to listen, hug, play, talk, or just sit nearby in silence.
Some days will be harder for children than others,If you regularly give the message that
“I am here for you to help your
day go as good as possible,” children will learn that you are a consistent and caring
presence in the (sometimes scary and unsure) world (Dombro, Jablon, & Stetson, 2011).
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