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When I ask parents about the values they cherish as a family and their hopes for their children, the reply often centers on a simple wish: “I just want them to be happy.” As a parent myself, I understand this sentiment. However, I’ve come to believe that teaching children resilience is crucial.

Resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. It’s not about dodging tough times but learning to navigate them. Resilient individuals manage their emotions, maintain optimism, and draw strength from their experiences, which is vital for mental health and well-being.

The Myth of Constant Happiness

The idea that life should be a stream of unbroken joy is a misconception. Philosophers like Henry Sidgwick and John Stuart Mill, along with psychologist Viktor Frankl, have all highlighted that happiness emerges not as a pursuit in itself but as a byproduct of meaningful engagement with life. Focusing solely on happiness can actually distance us from the rich, complex experiences that give life depth. In emphasizing resilience, we teach children to appreciate the growth that comes from overcoming challenges, leading to a more authentic form of contentment.


Resilience Over Happiness

Teaching resilience involves practical steps:

  • Adaptability: Show children that change is inevitable and learning to adapt is crucial. For instance, after moving to a new city, encourage them to explore and find new favorite spots, turning the challenge into an adventure.
  • Self-Esteem Through Effort: Celebrate efforts and perseverance, not just success. When a child struggles with a subject but improves over time, highlight the hard work rather than the grade.
  • Support Systems: Cultivate a network of support that offers real guidance. Family dinners can be a time for open discussions about overcoming difficulties, fostering a sense of belonging and resilience.
  • Coping Skills: Encourage seeing challenges as opportunities for growth. Teach them to identify and express their feelings about setbacks, like losing a game, and strategize on what to do differently next time.

Resilience isn’t about being unaffected by life’s storms but having the flexibility to withstand them. By equipping children with the tools to handle life’s lows, we also enable them to fully appreciate its highs. This approach leads to a deeper, more sustainable happiness than fleeting pleasure.


Strategies for Parents and Caregivers

To foster resilience, focus on establishing at least one stable, supportive relationship for the child. Engage them in identifying their emotions and tackling problems creatively, which strengthens their sense of control and adaptability.

  • Promoting Healthy Risk-Taking: Encourage stepping out of comfort zones. Let them try new activities where success isn’t guaranteed, teaching them that failure is part of learning.
  • Embracing Mistakes: Show that errors are opportunities to learn. Discuss what went wrong and how to improve, instilling a growth mindset.
  • Physical Activity: Regular exercise boosts resilience by improving emotional regulation and stress management.

Modeling resilience as adults is perhaps the most potent tool. Demonstrating how to face adversity, adapt, and grow teaches children resilience through observation and imitation.

Psychologists Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein have identified key qualities that children need from their parents to foster resilience: empathy, attentive listening, acceptance of their true selves, providing a consistent and safe environment, recognizing their strengths, permitting mistakes, nurturing responsibility, and enhancing problem-solving abilities.

When facing challenging situations with your child, consider whether you’re aiding them in managing and navigating the difficulty, or if you’re promoting avoidance and a quick escape from the uncomfortable situation.

Final Thoughts

Our aim should be to prepare children not just to seek happiness but to thrive amidst life’s challenges. By integrating resilience-building practices into our daily interactions, we help them develop the skills to navigate life confidently. This doesn’t just prepare them for the inevitable difficulties ahead; it sets the foundation for a fulfilling life, rich with learning and growth.



  1. How do I teach values to my child? Lead by example. Engage in meaningful conversations and provide positive reinforcement for demonstrated values.
  2. Should discipline always involve punishment? No, it should be about teaching. Approach discipline with consistency, clarity, and positive reinforcement to build resilience.
  3. What does building resilience involve? It means allowing children to face and learn from challenges, encouraging new experiences, and supporting their efforts through setbacks.
  4. How do family dinners help? They offer a platform for sharing stories, discussing challenges, and reinforcing family bonds, all of which build resilience.
  5. How can I help my child deal with failure? Teach them that failure is a critical part of growth. Encourage them to try new things and view each setback as a learning opportunity.

Regulation first, happiness second.

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