How I’m Teaching My Kids to be Positive and Resilient
Updated: Dec 31, 2019
After sharing my story of overcoming life’s curveballs, friends asked how those experiences influence how I parent my two daughters. “How do you try to teach your kids to be positive and resilient?” Let me caveat everything that I’m about to say with the disclaimer that my parenting experiences are based on trial-and-error like most people, there’s only so much influence a parent has on a child, and it’s too early to say what impact my attempted teachings will have on my kids. With that compelling sales pitch, read on to learn how I try to instill a positive and resilient mindset into my children.
1) Build Their Self-Esteem by Honoring Who They Are
We differ from our parents, our children differ from us, and our children differ from each other. Recognizing these differences and learning how to acknowledge them is the first step in understanding your child’s unique self and their baseline level of optimism.
My sister introduced me to this great book called The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle that claims we are each born as one of four energy types. Unlike personality types that are influenced by society, our energy type is consistent from birth through adulthood. Based on our energy type, how we perceive a situation or what words or interactions may be most effective could vary significantly. When I realized my daughters and I each have a different energy type, it gave me a better understanding of why we sometimes butt heads. It helped me understand why when we’re running late and one daughter is still playing around having fun and the other just wants to share her feelings, me focusing on efficiency and yelling “Let’s go, let’s go!” doesn’t actually help.
By realizing that one daughter has a free-flowing energy that optimizes for fun and happiness, I’ve learned that calmly saying “I know you’re just trying to have fun, but now is the time to get ready to leave” is much more effective. By understanding that my other daughter’s slower moving energy optimizes for feelings, I’ve realized taking a moment to allow her to express herself actually helps us get out the door faster. In her book, Tuttle claims that changes as simple as these tactics can help “honor” your child’s true self, building their self-esteem in the process. I believe a strong sense of self-esteem is the foundation for an optimistic view of the world.
2) Leverage Brainwashing – Um, I Mean Repetition
As early as when my girls began walking, I drilled them with the question “What do you do if you fall down?” - training them to respond with “I get back up.”
Following the belief that if you tell yourself something enough times that it becomes true, I encourage my kids to recite positive things about themselves. Awhile back, I placed post-it notes on their bathroom mirror with the following affirmations:
I am loved.
I love myself.
I am resilient.
I choose to be happy.
I will work hard at what I love to do.
The girls see and recite these messages every day (theoretically!), and when I pop-quiz test them in the line at the grocery store, they pass with flying colors.
3) Walk the Talk: Role Model & Role Play
Beyond talking the talk through affirmations and repetition, our children need to see how positivity and resilience manifest in real-life, even our day-to-day. First, we need to serve as role models for how we face and overcome daily frustrations and see the more optimistic or brighter side of things. Whether it be our reaction to the rude person at the store (someone must be having a bad day vs. they are a jerk) or the friend who forgot to wish us happy birthday (life gets busy for all of us and she must’ve just gotten caught up vs. she doesn’t care for me as a friend anymore), there’s a daily opportunity for us to give people the benefit of the doubt, choose to see life through a more positive lens, and serve as that role model to our children.
As shocking as it might seem (😉), there are indeed times (and by that I mean daily) when one daughter or the other has a break-down, often because they’ve taken something too personally or made a situation be about themselves. In the moment, we generally need to acknowledge the emotion, give them their space, and let them move through the feeling. Later on though, those incidents become learning opportunities. When the emotions have settled and everybody is thinking calmly again, we debrief on what happened and how they responded. We ask the kids what they could have controlled in that situation – what someone else did or their own reaction? How could they have reacted differently? We even ask them to role play with us how they might respond more positively in another similar situation. We might be born wired to have a certain optimistic or pessimistic predisposition, but I believe we can teach optimism, positivity, and resilience by helping our kids (and ourselves) ask themselves the right questions and make a proactive mindset shift when needed.
Being a mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and likely will ever do. This is true for many parents for countless reasons, including how emotionally vested we are in something we actually have such little control over. All we can do is try our best each day, not be too hard on ourselves on the bad days, and find ways to re-energize to do it all over again the next day. I know my daughters will face their own share of curveballs in the years to come – all I can hope to do is build and strengthen their positivity and resilience so they can overcome those hardships and design their own silver linings.
P.S. Many of you parents out there have your own tips or tactics for building positivity and resilience in your children. I would love to hear them! Feel free to share them by adding a comment, sending me a DM on any of the below social media channels, or filling out the "Get In Touch" form at the bottom of parulsomani.com.
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Mother. Warrior. Storyteller.
Parul is a business executive and cancer survivor turned storyteller on a mission to inspire others to design their own silver linings. Following a breast cancer diagnosis in her early 30s when she was a young working mother, Parul has committed to being a champion of health and patient advocacy and the power of a positive mindset, while also helping others share their own stories of resilience. She has shared her personal story through a blog that's been read in ~80 countries, films on survivorship and mindset, TV and radio segments, podcast interviews, numerous public speaking engagements, and more. Recently, she was a featured speaker at the grand opening celebration of the new $2B Stanford Hospital. Parul can speak on topics ranging from health/wellness, patient advocacy, caregiving, genetic testing, cancer, and healthcare provider education to motivational speeches related to positive mindsets, resilience, and finding meaning out of hardships to living an authentic life, pursuing your passion, women in leadership, career breaks, and more. More information about her mission, story, and portfolio of work can be found at parulsomani.com.
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