Resilient Kids

Last week we talked about having the right amount of healthy challenges for our kids but what happens when mistakes are made and failure occurs in the face of challenges?

All too frequently kids quit trying and choose instead to underachieve rather than bounce back quickly from their mistakes or failures. Personal disappointment is heightened by a belief that others are disappointed as well and soon discouragement colors the lens by which they view their lives.

“If you don’t try you can’t mess up” is all too common of a mindset in kids today. 

To become resilient, one must be willing to risk however.

Getting overly upset by mistakes and failures is making mountains out of what are likely molehills.  Failures are “overrated” issues whereas they should serve as signals that it’s time to get down to work and try again, to back track and fix something or perhaps even start all over. Real success is what you learn in the process of bouncing back.

Fear of failing or making a mistake cripples students in their academic endeavors, and cripples them as athletes, musicians or artists and even impacts their relationships with others. When things don’t go the way they desire, they grow discouraged. Oswald Chambers called discouragement disenchanted egotism: “Things are not happening in the way I expected they would, therefore I am going to give it all up.”

What can you do to encourage resiliency in your kids?

  1. Stay calm and don’t over react yourself to their mistakes and failures. Kids often fear your disappointment and response more than the mistake or failure itself. Understand and respond to their setbacks wisely so that they are not afraid to come to you at disappointing times.
  2. Teach kids to evaluate their own defeats and disappointments by guiding them to determine what went wrong and what can be done differently. Ask them questions rather than lecture or nag.
  3. Bring their focus and energy quickly back to what they can do better looking forward. Expect them to get up, dust off the dirt, and move on.
  4. Do not wallow in their mistakes or disappointments yourself and they will be less likely to either.
  5. Focus more on their strengths than their weaknesses. We will be defined by what we focus on over time.
  6. Give them opportunities to try again as soon as possible rather than backing away from challenging activities that include the risk of not doing well. Confidence comes by way of learning to do hard things well and overcoming challenges.

Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. The way in which we understand and respond to setbacks and mistakes are an integral part of a resilient mindset.


  1. This is really good… all six of your “tips” are really helpful!

  2. This is so true! I was so afraid of failure as a child that I never attempted anything. Hooray for a loving God and wise Father who often throws us into the places we are afraid to go, allowing us to learn from our mistakes and grow. One of the things I love about Veritas is that students are encouraged over and over again to persevere and mistakes are seen as learning experiences. Thanks for this great reminder!

  3. I especially needed to hear #5. I notice my three-year-old son taking note of things he did…”I was good when I got my shoes on,” he’ll say, “But I was bad when I forgot my socks.” I think it’s important that I focus on what he did right, so that he’s not continually beating himself up about little things he does wrong. Thank you!

  4. Thank you so much for the practical application of how we can live this out in our parenting. Having specific instructions helps me to keep focusing on going forward, not getting stuck in the incident or challenge! Thank you, Ellen!

  5. I love the Oswald quote. He definitely had the Lord’s wisdom in his life. I feel that having daughters brings this into sharp focus. Often issues and mistakes are overdramatized. I needed your reminder to refocus them towards the future and what they can change. Thanks for your words, Ellen.


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