The ten amazing characteristics of resilient children that we should all learn

Sometimes, I feel like we get dumber as we get older.

We focus on being clever.

We act like we are experts.

We try to look good in front of others.

We try to not get blamed for anything.

Yet, we forget things that we knew innately when we were children.

In fact, I think there is so much that we can still learn from children.

Children are resilient. And, we just need to learn what we’ve forgotten.

Follow these 10 characteristics to ignite your own skills.

1. Persistence

I recently had the privilege to see my niece playing and was impressed by her problem-solving skills.

I had never really thought much about how she went about playing. Especially, when she was faced with adversity in her environment.

But seeing her play made me think about how children can be adapt. And, how children focus when at play.

You’ve seen children at play, right? You’ve observed them at tasks that seem impossible? And, even though they may face adversity, they achieve their goal due to pure persistence.

Yet, how often have you seen us adults or teams give up before we even have begun?

I expect your answer to be too many times.

But, looking through the eyes of the child, we get a glimpse of how we should approach adversity.

Resilience, in this sense, is very straightforward.

It begins with one step. It is then followed by a second step. And then a third. A fourth. And, so on.

2. Compassion for others

Compassion and resilience may seem like an odd marriage but there’s a simple link.

Knowing others enables us to know ourselves.

As children, we learn compassion for others around us. This helps us play (work) collaboratively.

Note how we learn to understand how we feel/react in certain situations, through observations and interactions with others.

Resilient children intuitively know that compassion helps them form bonds.

And, I posit that these bonds propel us forward even in times of significant change.

3. Sense of humor

Let’s face the facts children have much better fun than us adults.

They fall. Laugh. And, get back up again.

As adults, we complain about how life is so hard on us. Plus, many of us never get back up again.

It is easier to complain about the hard knocks of life than to enjoy what we do.

I believe that humour often puts the magnitude of change in perspective.

This laughter helps us all to rise above adversity.

And, bounce back with new energy.

4. Strong ethics

Children soon learn right from wrong.

And, they apply this to many settings.

Their conviction is tangible. It allows children to bounce back from many situations without any of the baggage that adults carry around.

Emotional baggage distracts us from our goals. And makes us less adaptable in our outlook.

5. Get attention in positive ways

We all like praise.

I know I do.

Children especially like to be reinforced.

And they often seek out positive and negative ways to get this attention.

These positive ways usually create the change they desire.

6. Positive outlook on life

A positive outlook on life is a hallmark of resilient individuals.

In fact, it is not what happens to us but our response that predicts our emotional well-being.

Fortunately, many children start life with an optimistic perspective.

And resilient children/adults keep this outlook in later life.

Their outlook enables them to take life’s challenges on directly.

7. Efforts can change things

Children know that they can effect change in their environment. No matter what size they are.

Shall I explain?

Just think of a child who stops crying when they get what they want!

As adults, many of us act as if we have no control.

However, as the Dalai Lama said, “if you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room”.

You’ll soon accept that being small doesn’t matter.

8. Plan ahead

We have already seen how children can be persistent.

As adults, we often get stuck being clever.

However, children are very ingenious in breaking situations into manageable pieces.

And, then planning and coordinating their actions.

Let’s start to behave like children

To be more resilient, it’s important to adopt these characteristics of children.

That doesn’t mean we act like children in our dealings.

It means that we take what can be learned and apply it to the adult world.

Sources

Brendtro, L. K., Brokenleg, M., & Van Bockern, S. (2005). The circle of courage and positive psychology. Reclaiming children and youth, 14(3), 130.

Brooks, R. & Goldstein, S. (2002). Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope, and Optimism in Your Child. McGraw-Hill.

Brooks, R. & Goldsmith, S. (2002). Nurturing Resilience in Our Children: Answers to the Most Important Parenting Questions. McGraw-Hill.

Chansky, T. E. (2008). Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility, and Happiness. Da Capo Lifelong Books

Erickson S. J., & Steiner, H. (2001). Trauma and personality correlate in long-term pediatric cancer survivors. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 31(3):195-213. doi: 10.1023/a:1026477321319. PMID: 11196011.

Felitti V. J. (2002). The Relation Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Health: Turning Gold into Lead. The Permanente Journal, 6(1), 44–47.

Ginsburg, K. R, & Jablow, M. M. (2011). Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings. 2nd ed. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Goldstein, S. & Brooks, R. B. (2006). Handbook of Resilience in Children. United States: Springer

Henderson, N. & Milstein, M. M. (2002). Resiliency in Schools: Making It Happen for Students and Educators, Updated Edition. Corwin.

Hornor, G. (2016). Resilience. Journal Paediatric Health Care. 31(3):384-390.

Jun, A. (2002). From Here to University: Access, Mobility, & Resilience Among Latino Youth. Routledge.

Luthar, S. S. (2003). Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities. New York: Cambridge University Press.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2015). Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper No. 13. Harvard University Press.

Nelson J. R. & Kjos, S. (2008). Helping Teens Handle Tough Experiences: Strategies to Foster Resilience. Search Institute Press.

Seligman, M. P. (2007). The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience. HMH Books.

Thompson, R. (2006). Nurturing Future Generations: Promoting Resilience in Children and Adolescents Through Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Skills. Routledge.

Walsh, F. (2006). Strengthening Family Resilience, Second Edition (Guilford Family Therapy Series). The Guildford Press.

Catherine Fitzgerald, M.A. in Health Promotion

Catherine Fitzgerald is a health promotion specialist, training professional, educator, and entrepreneur. Catherine received her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Studies and a Masters in Health Promotion from University College Cork. Catherine is also the co-founder of Oak Innovation.

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