Resilience is important for our growth and survival.  But did you know that resilience, is in decline?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point wrote in the New Yorker that contemporary western society overemphasises the psychological impact of adversity and turns people into victims.

Research shows that adverse childhood incidents do not have the huge negative impact we think they have. What does have an impact is neglect!

When a child’s basic needs are not met over a sustained period of time, that does indeed blight their future life. But while the notion of resilience may be eroding in various western countries, the reasons for this erosion may differ from culture to culture.

In the US, for decades now there’s been lots of interest in analysis and many people have recounted childhood incidents to their psychologists/counsellors. This may well have led to a culture which exaggerates the negative influence of external events and underplays the individual’s capacity to deal with them.

In Australia, we haven’t had the same emphasis on psychology but in some poor areas, we have had a proliferation of public services to address people’s problems. Such services might, unwittingly, undermine the resilience of the individual and encourage them to feel like powerless victims.

On the other hand research in America shows that 85% of parents think that praise is very important for a child’s confidence and performance.  However, it is thought that constant praise could undermine a child’s natural motivation and resilience.

So here are a few helpful tips:

  • Be specific with your praise.
  • Recognise the effort the child is putting in.
  • Use language such as perseverance, growth, willingness.
  • Encourage them to be optimistic about being able to improve.
  • Tell them that they are capable of learning with effort and concentration.
  • Well-judged praise helps young people to learn what they are doing well and what they can build on.
  • Describe their behaviour not their personality ie: “you are working so well” instead of “you are so clever.”
  • Don’t go over the top with praise, it can lead a child to feel anxious that they may disappoint you in thefuture.
  • Ask questions about how they think they are doing; what help they may need; what obstacles they face and how to overcome them.
  • Only give praise if it is truly warranted ie: for effort, concentration and good strategies – not for looks, talent, ability or intelligence.
  • Praise that is unwarranted can be counterproductive and so it may be better to use encouragement instead ie: show that you feel positive about the child by being interested in them and their work.  Rather than saying ‘what a wonderful drawing’ it is better to say ‘tell me about the person in the picture.’
  • It is normal for everyone to experience setbacks and challenges, do not try to shelter your children from these valuable experiences, allow them to overcome these obstacles. They were born to survive.

How do you teach resilience to your kids? Tell us in the comments below. 

  • Kids need to hurt, they need to fail, they need to be told no to learn that life isn’t all beer and skittles. Life can be tough, but you’ll get through


  • Resilience is disappearing in our kids because of the PC brigade. Things like sport carnivals with no 1st, 2nd or 3rds. Football matches where there are no winners or losers, just participants and fun.


  • My mother always said ‘only give praise where it is truly warranted ‘ and it is so true!


  • We’ve had a lot of temporary foster children gone through our house and with 2 foster children permanent here I think it certainly helped my kids become more resilient. they learn to give and share and learn about real heartache and pain and learn what they can mean themselves to the other.


  • Always hard to balance praise and giving too much for me


  • If you praise a child too many times for doing a particular thing they expect it all the time. Some even throw a tantrum if you don’t praise them if you do it too often.


  • I have not seen a proliferation of services and support services should be funded and available to support children and adults in building resilience. Resilience needs to be taught and developed from a young age.


  • As a teacher I see a lack of resilience and persistence in children all the time. There is a decline in this for many reasons and we work really hard to support kids and build their confidence.


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