25 Ideas for Teaching Your Kids Resiliency

by Chelsea Lee Smith on October 17, 2013

This post is by CWK Contributor Chelsea Lee Smith, who writes Moments a Day, where she has an entire collection of Hands on Activities to build character in your children.  I hope you will visit her there too. ~Alissa

 “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” -Robert A. Heinlein

With the plethora of shopping opportunities, the ability to communicate across the world in an instant, and electronic entertainment coming from every direction, life in today’s world is fast-paced and full-on.  Anything seems possible.  And with so many options and devices at our disposal, parents can be tempted to make their kids’ lives very easy.

Want that $2 toy?  Okay, you got it.  (Better to avoid a melt down, right?)

25 Everyday Ways to Teach Kids Resiliency

However if we want our children to stand up to the inevitable challenges they will face in the future and keep going despite disappointment or frustration, we need to help our children develop resilience.  This means they need to practice coping skills, and therefore need some challenges to practice these skills with.

After all, life is not about figuring out how to turn off a thunderstorm or switch on the sun – no matter how much we would like this to be possible.

Our children will learn to be much happier, more resilient people, when they can enjoy the sunshine when it is around and dance in the rain when there is no other choice.

25 ideas for how you can teach your kids resilience:

The list below is not your typical “do and don’t” list but rather a set of prompts to begin reflecting on ways we can teach our children resilience through simple interactions every day.

  • Give your child independence to try new things they initiate, such as climbing at the playground or opening a container, even if you think it is “too hard” for them.
  • Encourage your child to serve others or let others go first when sharing food.
  • Give your child the opportunity to wait patiently when it is required (such as in a restaurant or during a car ride); do not always provide entertainment.
  • Show your child that it is worth making a good decision for the long run even if it’s not the easiest, such as choosing healthy foods over junk foods even if they take longer to prepare.
  • Do not give your child every single physical thing they desire (toys, food, clothes, etc) even if “everyone else has it.”
  • Enable your child to give toys and clothes away regularly to charity, and teach them that material possessions are simply tools and not answers to happiness.
  • Give your child opportunities to help others younger than them, starting with simple ways such as showing the other child pictures in a book.

25 Everyday Ways to Teach Kids Resilience (1)

  • Teach your child to identify struggles as challenges to overcome, not tests to avoid, and teach them phrases such as “this too shall pass” or “every challenge makes you stronger” to spark this outlook.
  • Encourage your child to maintain a positive attitude about chores or homework by teaching them creative ways to find fun in work.
  • If your child is older, give them the chance to wait for family meals instead of snacking any time they want.
  • Remind your child to be patient with a younger sibling’s interference with their toys; teach them that relationships are more important than *things*.
  • Help your child learn self control regarding electronic mediums and entertainment by demonstrating your own restraint.
  • Allow your child to experience the extremes of temperature by dressing accordingly, not hiding away from the weather.

25 Everyday Ways to Teach Kids Resilience (4)

  • Resist the urge to run to your child’s rescue immediately, such as when you see them having trouble putting on clothes or feeding themselves.
  • Do not allow your child to interrupt when adults are speaking to one another; set up an age-appropriate method for them to practice taking their turn.
  • Give your child many opportunities to share their belongings and their food, by inviting guests over and setting up ways they can be generous.
  • Introduce new experiences to your child which will help them step outside their comfort zone, such as playing with children who speak another language and trying new foods.

25 Everyday Ways to Teach Kids Resilience (5)

  • Do not give in when you have set a limit, such as an amount of TV they can watch or how much dessert they can have.
  • When your child wants to find something, let them look for it.
  • Teach your child how to be responsible for their own clothes as early as possible: to sort and wash and put them away – including washing clothes by hand and hanging them out to dry.
  • Remind your children to do their best on school work, even if it means taking longer than they would like or staying up a bit later than normal.
  • Require that responsibilities be completed even when your child does not feel like it, such as making beds, taking a bath, feeding the pets, and brushing teeth.
  • When your child really wishes they had something, teach them to be grateful and find the best in whatever situation they are in.
  • Let your child own their feelings, even if they are challenging, by not belittling the emotions but giving them a way to maintain perspective through phrases such as “Every challenge makes me stronger” or “A rainbow will come after the storm.”
  • Enable your child to gain perspective about their reality by volunteering for charitable organizations that serve people who do not have the same life circumstances.

You can download a printable version of this list here!

Every child is different, and will require a unique balance of support and challenge to rise to their potential.  I do not want to leave my children totally on their own, but I also want to let them experience life and learn to solve problems independently when age-appropriate.

For a hands-on activity to teach your children what the word “resilience” means, check out this learning resilience activity where I used the example of a tree and a small plant to explain the concept.

How did you learn resilience as a child?  How are you helping your children become resilient?

Chelsea Lee Smith (5 Posts)

Chelsea Lee Smith is the mother of two boys and blogs at Moments A Day (http://www.momentsaday.com) sharing activities, ideas, and resources for families to connect, build character, and make a difference. She believes in using small moments throughout the day to help children learn how to use their head, heart, and hands to make the world a better place.

Kim King
Kim King

Isn't it just resilience??!


So affirming! I catch a lot of flak for letting my kids contribute and struggle. My son can't find playmates at parks because helicopter parents are so interfering that their kids ignore mine. I have had parents try to smother and direct mine like they are incapable of just sitting and watching kids be kids! So frustrating.


i'm so happy to see that i do a lot of these already, but there are still a good half dozen that i need to pick up on. thanks for article as it pinpoints those areas that i need to work on, for the good of my little boy AND the rest of the family.


I always feel like the mean mom when I don't give in and let them cry about it, or let them find something by themselves. And doubt my choices. So thank you for the post, it's nice to know I'm doing some things right.

Jaimi@The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide
Jaimi@The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide

Chelsea, this is such an important list. Itis a fantastic resource for parents. I admit I do not institute all of them (handwashing clothes for instance) but I do see how valuable it is to step back and see what our children and we as parents miss out on with so much modern ease as the focus. Love the point about children learning to wait-we have an activity bag for doc appts and restaurants (paper, books, crayons), and often it is forgotten at home. My husband and I interact with our kids at the restaurant table and they really have developed patience over time. It is possible although it is not the easy route. The long term will be resilience!


Thank for new idea!


Great post - I am always working to build resilience in my daughter and you've given me some good tips to try.

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

I love this post Chelsea, because it is so helpful for me to think about the need for *practicing* these coping and problem solving skills. As a mom many times I fall into the trap of feeling like I should be making everything easy for my family and of course, not only is that not realistic, it's not even good for them to have me do everything. Thanks for your list, and thanks for making a printable version!


Thanks Alissa and I can totally relate. The pressures on moms to have the perfect home and the perfect routine can sway our thoughts to "easy" too often perhaps. It was very helpful for me to make this list, as well :-)


Great post! We aren't doing our kids a favor by letting them have the easiest and best of everything. Couldn't agree more with everything you wrote!


Thanks Abby! The "best" of everything reminds me of even food choices. I would like my children to be satisfied with simple foods - and natural flavors - instead of the tendency today for things to be quite fancy and also have so much variety. It's so easy to do "complicated" because it's everywhere. But they will not get that if they travel to other countries to do aid work... which I hope they will. Sometimes I just wonder at what the future holds for kids, it's impossible to imagine what will be available when they are adults!

Sheila @ Pennies of Time
Sheila @ Pennies of Time

A great list of suggestions and really like how you've placed the powerful idea for children to do for themselves in the discussion on resiliency. Kids can do hard things and it is so tempting as a parent to take care of it ourselves (because it is faster, less messy, done better) but we need to resist. Thanks for this post!


Faster, less messy, done better... how often do these thoughts come into my mind every day. Honestly this list is totally for myself too - I really need to resist the temptation to do it all myself quite often. Thanks for adding this perspective.


Thank you so much for this article! I had to share it with friends! I'm a preschool teacher and these are exactly the things we try to develop in children. I am definitely going to share it with my parents in the classroom! Wonderful!


Thanks Sandy! Oh there are so many ways to teach resilience in the classroom. Perhaps that is an idea for a whole new list! :-)


Great Post! I really like this list of prompts. Empowerment is the theme for our homeschool this year and something I have been thinking about a lot lately. It's one of those things that can be tricky because sometimes it doesn't feel good in practice. For instance if I let my child choose to leave her sweater behind but then require that she stick it out at the park when she is cold I have to deal with the judgement of others as well as that "should mama" voice in my head. The reality is, however, that is so much kinder to let her make mistakes while she is young and the consequences small. Sometimes in those moments such as the imaginary cold park I remind myself that my kids will grow into adults who don't have a mommy there to rescue them, I am preparing them for the realities of life.


Thanks so much for sharing, Lorien. I love your example and yes, I think teaching them about natural consequences when the risks are much less damaging to their long-term well-being is so important.


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