Wednesday 4 October 2017

Do children need to be resilient?

Very recently an article on a social media site got me thinking about resilience and what the term resilience means. Actually it was a comment in the article that went along the lines of .... "children need to be taught how to be resilient" .... and it was said in the context of being able to deal with being bullied.

In effect the comment suggested that we need to teach our children how to be resilient so that they are able to "put up with" and "shrug off" bullying.

I won't repeat what went through my brain as I read the article as it was not particularly polite. My heart went out to the family in the article and in particular to their teenage daughter.

Yes, children do need to be taught how to be resilient.

No, children should not have to be taught how to be resilient so that they can handle being bullied.

To say that a child needs to be taught how to be resilient so that they can deal with the bullying is a cop out. Those are words from someone who wants to take the easy way out and not deal with the issue.

What example is that going to teach to our children that they have to be resilient to deal with bullying? 

That being a bully is okay? That being bullied is okay? That being bullied is their fault because they aren't resilient enough?

Oh hell no.

There is no place for bullying anywhere. In any environment. Schools. Work places. Social situations. No where is okay.

But why is bullying becoming more and more prevalent? I am not able to give a definitive answer to that question. If I was, I'd probably have a lot more money in my bank account!

I do have some theories though.

It could be due to a lack of discipline from parents. It could be that parents are too worried about being too hard on their children - they want to be their child's best friend first, rather than being the parent first. It could be that schools are not able to deal with bullying due to the red tape that they have to abide by.

I think a lot of the bullying issue comes back to the perception that words don't hurt. And this perception needs to change.

I've already posted a piece on just how damaging words can be, but I will say it again.

Words hurt. 

Words cut deeply and leave wounds that you can not see. Words hurt in places that are incredibly difficult to heal. Words don't go away.

Words eat away at you and your mind will replay the words over and over until you start to believe them.

Words, at times, leave deeper wounds than those that are left when you are physically bullied. Words can have long term very serious repercussions.

So why do children need to be resilient?

Children DO need to learn how to be resilient so that they can navigate through the day to day challenges that life throws at us. Children need to have the ability to be able to bounce back after experiencing a tough or difficult time and get back to feeling just as good about themselves as they did before the experience.

The day to day challenges that children need to get through could be things such as making mistakes at school, getting into trouble in class, having an argument with their friends, starting at a new school, not coming first in a sports race and so on. At times these challenges may be a little more serious such as a death in the family.

Children do NOT need to learn how to be resilient to "put up with" or "shrug off" bullying. 

Children DO need to be able to stand strong if they are being bullied - they need to be able to stand strong to defend themselves, they need to stand strong to recognise their sense of self and they need to stand strong to inform a teacher or their parent as to the nature of the bullying.

When we, children and adults, are resilient we learn from the difficult or challenging experiences that we face and we grow stronger from the experience. Being resilient means that an individual can be realistic and think rationally about the challenging situation that they find themselves in.

Do you know what some of our personal attributes are that are great building blocks for building our own resilience? Self respect, empathy, respect for others, self respect, kindness, fairness, honesty .... did I mention self respect?

To have great self respect means that an individual believes that they matter and that they should be treated respectfully by others. A strong sense of self respect will also help an individual to feel less vulnerable when they come up against the challenges that life throws at them.

But here is the catch, when you are subjected to bullying, your sense of self respect rapidly diminishes. So as parents, we need to be constantly building our children's sense of self. We need to remind our children that they are worth it.

Instead of telling a child to "shrug off the words" if they are being bullied, use the experience to build up their sense of self. 

Use positive self talk to encourage your child to see their own sense of self. Talk with your child and name the emotions that they are experiencing - let them express their feelings so that they are not hiding away from these BIG emotions. This will also enable your child to recognise and respond appropriately to these emotions that they are experiencing.

One of the things that we are constantly doing on a daily basis in superhero headquarters is attempting to create a positive family environment - this alone will assist to build resilience in all family members.

We are constantly reminding both O and L, that everyone at some point in time experiences difficult or unhappy times and this is perfectly normal. What is important to remember is that things usually get better, it might take a while sometimes, but they do get better.

We also remind O and L that they need to talk about their feelings, big or small, so that their feelings don't hijack their bodies. If they talk about what is worrying or upsetting them, that will assist them to feel better. We talk with O and L about ways in which they can calm themselves down in high stress situations.

We encourage O and L to view experiences from a positive or funny angle as this action induces positive emotions which in turn causes them to think about the possibilities of the experience and they in turn become more flexible in their critical thinking skills. By doing this, their perspective on the experience tends to shift slightly and the negative focus starts to diminish. 

We remind O and L that no one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of life and that as long as they learn from the mistake, that is all that is important. There are some things that they can do better than their friends and visa versa. And this is okay.

We also talk constantly with O and L that bullying in any way, shape or form is NOT okay. And that if they feel that they are being bullied, that they need to tell us so that we can do something about it.

Building resilience can be done from a very early age and that is what we are doing with the little superheroes.

I want both of my little superheroes to be resilient but I don't want either of my little superheroes to think that "it is okay to be bullied."


  1. Bullying is a topic that completely scares me as a parent. I was bullied as a kid and I hope and pray that my daughter never has to deal with anything like that. It feels like such a fine balance between raising kids to be resilient and making them too hard and scared of the world.

    1. I too was bullied and I do not want that to happen to either O or L. But you right, it is a very fine balance between raising resilient kids and making them too scared of the world. Just have to work out the right balance for our children.

  2. Thank you for this post! I have a child with Aspergers and I dread when the taunting and teasing starts, although he may not even notice it...

  3. I enjoyed reading this article, because as a parent it is something I worry about with my son. Bullying is something that I won’t tolerate. I notice at times that my son can come off like that and if anything it is because kids are constantly picking on him but the problem with learning to be resilient sometimes is that you get tired. Who wants to put up with constantly being bothered because your different and that is the problem. Because my son gets picked on he tries so hard to be tough and acts like some of these kids at times that pick on him. I feel like he does it because he doesn’t want to get hurt, but I don’t want him to go from being bullied to becoming a bully either. It’s like a battle between good and evil. My son is a bit out there but he is outspoken too, so if someone says something to him he will try to defend himself by saying something hurtful back, which I get but dont care much for. Idk this is a tough topic as a parent. I honestly wish that people didn’t have to deal with this nonsense. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Bullying is a very scary topic for me. I don't know how I would react if I was to find out that my daughter was being bullied. I think that the people who believe there are nothing wrong with bullying are those who either were bullies or their kids are bullies and don't want to accept it.

  5. Thanks for sharing your parenting opinions, I think putting more educated material out there helps us decide how to each parent our child and handle our own individual situations.


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