Child Care

Resilient Children


(Adapted from the NYSAYC Reporter winter edition article, written by Jenna Bilmes.  She works with the California Department of Education to develop training materials for teachers.

According to noted child psychiatrist, Dr. Bruce Perry, successful people have several key qualities in common.  They can attach to others in a healthy way.  They can deal with strong emotions.  They feel that they belong to a larger group and they can solve problems that arise.  These are four of the qualities that researchers call “resiliency factors.”

Children without these skills may hurt themselves or others.  They may destroy property and seem to lack compassion.  When faced with a challenge, they may have a tantrum, withdraw, weep, or quit trying.  They may have no interest in pleasing adults unless they get prizes or rewards.  Ideally children will develop these resiliency factors at home in the first five years of life, with support from teachers and child care providers.  Even children over five years of age can benefit from resiliency boosts.

Here are five sure-fire ways to put your child on the path to resiliency.

1.  Use encouragement instead of praise.  Research has found that the constant use of phrases such as “good job” or rewards and stickers reduces a child’s feeling of self worth and competency.  Instead, try phrases such as “You did it!” or “You figured it out!” or “That was very smart of you.”

2.  Teach children the beauty and wonder of close relationships with others.  Rock and sing to your child. Smooth lotion on each other’s hands.  Read books together.  Tuck your child into bed at night.

3.  Establish regular routines, rituals, and celebrations.  Have a regular routine for getting reading in the morning and going to bed at night.  Start family rituals such as going to the library every Saturday morning.  Celebrate more than birthdays and holidays – celebrate a loose tooth or the first day of spring.

4.  Acknowledge and label feelings…yours and your child’s.  Children can’t learn to manage emotions they can’t identify.  If your child kicks his feet because he can’t get his shoes on, try “I see that you are very frustrated” and then ask if there is something you might do to help.  Acknowledging and labeling children’s feelings, does not mean they get their own way.  It means that before you enforce your limit, you reflect back to the child that you understand how they feel and that the feeling has a name.

5.  Teach children that problems can be solved.  Model how you yourself solve everyday problems.  When children have problems, talk them through the process.  Help brainstorm ideas and then help your child choose how to solve the problem.

When you make it a habit to weave these approaches into your daily interactions with children, you will begin to notice that they ride the bumps and bruises of daily life with more calm and confidence.  You will have given them the critical skills they will need to succeed for the rest of their lives.

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