Raising Resilient Kids

Teach your child to take risks and overcome adversity


Published:

Photo courtesy of iStock

Life for little ones isn’t as easy as it looks. Imagine what it feels like to be clumsy and small — frustrated with tasks that seem so simple for everyone else.

Kids face an endless amount of challenges every day. But whether at school, at home or on the playground, giving children the tools to overcome the obstacles they face in their everyday lives will benefit them for years, even decades, to come. Here’s how to help your child bounce back from failure and face whatever life throws his or her way.

Let Them Make Mistakes

The only way to be great at anything is to make plenty of mistakes along the way. In “The Little Book of Talent,” Daniel Coyle writes that improving your skills means working at the edge of your ability every day. “When it comes to developing talent, remember, mistakes are not really mistakes — they are the guideposts you use to get better,” he writes.

Unfortunately, getting better at anything means facing failure over and over again, and no one enjoys watching that less than a parent. It’s why you instinctively try rescuing your kids the moment you see them on the cusp of a misstep.

But in “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Carol Dweck writes that verbal cues from parents and teachers can have a major effect on the way they interpret situations. These hints can either encourage children to try out new challenges, or avoid obstacles altogether due to fear of failure.

Dweck goes on to explain that kids rise to more difficult challenges when they’re praised for their effort. However, when praised for their sheer intellect, they become risk averse.
There’s no doubt about it: Failure can feel crushing, to you and the young ones you love. Even though your child’s mistakes aren’t easy to watch, they’re pivotal to his or her development. And instead of waxing poetic about your child’s intelligence, choose to compliment his or her efforts instead.

Be a Role Model for Your Child

Rachel Bowman, a child clinical psychologist at the Dogwood Psychology Center for Children and Families in Hillsborough, says kids look up to parents who take their own risks. It can be in small ways, like watching you try a new food or play a new instrument. She says it’s beneficial for parents to discuss their risk-taking experiences with their children, too.

“Even if you didn’t like it, just [talk] about how glad you were that you took a risk and tried something different — that it’s fun to learn,” she says.

Bowman suggests that parents encourage their children to take healthy risks. For example, encourage your child or teen to try out for a new sport or role in a play, or to ask a friend he or she likes to the upcoming school dance.

“Kids are watching us — even our teens are watching us,” Bowman says, adding that parents should model safe ways to take risks and avoid modeling unsafe risks, like driving too fast, texting while driving or drinking too much at home.

Help Them Own Their Struggle

Jennifer Reid, director of the Early School at Lucy Daniels School in Cary, stresses the importance of parents allowing kids to struggle on their own when facing challenges, and being careful not to step in or take over when they spot a potential opportunity for failure.

She advises parents to think about the answer to this essential question: “Is my child working through something, or is my child in desperate need of help?” She says it’s worth it for parents to understand the distinction, and sit through the discomfort that can benefit their child in the end.

Not every challenge your child attempts will be successful. Though you may feel eager to offer reasons for why they’ll do better next time, kids aren’t always so keen to hear clichés of guidance such as, “Just try again” and “Don’t be a quitter” so quickly after defeat.

Help Them Take Risks and Reflect

Both Bowman and Reid recommend that parents let their children feel the loss and hurt after taking a risk that didn’t go as planned. Discuss the unpleasant feelings that come with risk-taking, and tell them how proud you are that they tried and faced their fear, even if it didn’t go well.

Say your child is figuring out if she wants to take a risk. Whether in an art class, an academic subject or a physical sport, there are always pros and cons to consider. Too often we focus on what could go wrong if we ourselves, or our children, take a risk. Shift the conversation the other way: What could go right? Let your child know that even when failure feels impossible to overcome, it’s not as bad as what we imagine in our minds. The people who truly care about our growth and development will see us as heroic, even when we fall flat on our faces.

Reid says one of the greatest gifts a parent can give his or her child is the ability to reflect on experiences in a way that encourages progress. “That’s what fuels the child’s knowledge to enter the next situation,” she says.

She advises parents to ask their child questions that encourage reflection: “Let’s think together about what went wrong. Where do you think you could have done something differently?”

No, you can’t make every challenge easy for your child, and there isn’t a perfect formula to avoid the pitfalls that come with failure. But when parents offer guidance and love, children learn how to keep their eyes on the prize, even when it’s out of their small, determined hands.

Elizabeth Kane is a writer, content strategist and music instructor. She shows parents how to steer their young musicians toward success at practiceforparents.com.

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June 2019

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500 S. Salisbury St.
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Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
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Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124963.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124691.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Ages 11 and older with special needs stroll through the woods. Register online. Choose course #124383.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Martha Kane
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy yoga and breathing exercises. Register online. Choose course #125022.

Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Park
319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
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Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join Optimist Aquatic Center as thousands of kids and adults around the world unite for the world's largest swimming lesson. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will celebrate its 10th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Optimist Aquatic Center
5902 Whittier Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Enjoy magic, storytelling and origami with Yasu Ishida. Grades K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an indoor/outdoor vendor market with food trucks, coffee, live music outside and plenty of fun for all ages.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Pine State Coffee
1614 Automotive Way
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
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More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Show Less...

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead State Historic Site
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
NC Cooperative Extension
721 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: March of Dimes/Duke Family Medicine
Telephone: 678-246-9027
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $12 advance tickets, $15 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 NC Hwy 98 East
Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
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Cost: Free

Where:
E. Carroll Joyner Park
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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