Raise Resilient Kids

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Empower kids to do things for themselves — and reap the benefits of their independence!

All kids, no matter their age, want to be independent.

And that’s a good thing, because you need them to be, and the sooner the better. The best way to encourage your child’s independence is to give them the skills they need for it. But easy does it. First efforts and big-kid things require a lot of parental encouragement and participation. Children need to be able to take risks without feeling that their parents will criticize or correct them for doing something wrong. How to raise a resilient child begins at home, says Robert Brooks, Ph.D., co-author of Raising Resilient Children (McGraw Hill; $17). When parents incorporate healthy doses of empathy, practical optimism, respect, unconditional love, keen listening skills and patience, kids can begin to take off!

Here’s a collection of a few simple things kids can learn to do with a parent’s help:

Tie a Necktie
A “pratt tie” looks great on any dress occasion. First, face the mirror, tie in hand then put it around the neck. 1) Start with the necktie facing inside out, with the wide end (“W”) on the right, extending about 12 inches below the narrow end (“N”) on the left. 2) Then cross the wide end under the narrow end. 3) Take the wide end over and under the narrow end. 4) Pull the loop down and tighten. 5) Then, take the wide end over to the right. 6) Pull the wide end up, behind the loop. 7) Bring the wide end through the knot and tighten gently.

Grow a plant from a seed
Head to a garden center or home improvement store to browse their seeds. In a beginner’s case, start with a small styrofoam cup you can place on a windowsill. Fill your cup with planting soil. Using an easy-to-grow flower seed, show your child how to place it on top of the soil and gently push it under the surface of the soil. Place a small amount of soil over the seed and gently sprinkle a bit of water on the soil to moisten. Keep an eye on the seed each day, not allowing it to dry out and not over-soaking it. Watch what happens!

Write a thank-you note
Some parents have their children do this, some don’t, but how else do you teach them the kindness of gift giving? For younger children, they can simply draw a picture of some kind. As they get older, they can move onto one or two sentences and evolve in time to note writing that includes more thoughts. Don’t make it a chore, make it a pleasure and talk about the thank you notes you aim to write, also. Older children also need to know how to address an envelope; this will need to be a task that is repeated often until it is learned.

Tie your shoes
Tie your shoe while he learns to tie his and start with an easy, friendly attitude. Use lots of praise as you go through each step. Sit next to your child if you are both right or left handed, opposite him if you’re not. Cross the laces to create an “X.” Slide one under the other and pull. Form loops (“bunny ears”) with each lace. Next, cross the ears and tuck one under the other but say, “The bunny is crawling through a hole” then tighten it.

Blow your nose
This one’s easy but stumps many a parent. With tissue in-hand, tell your child to breath in through the mouth then close the mouth and let the air out the nose.

Learn to Swim
Knowing how to swim is essential for personal safety and enjoyment. The Centers for Disease Control says formal swimming lessons can prevent young children from drowning; drowning is the second highest cause of death involving unintentional injuries. Private or group lessons are available year round through the YMCAs, The Red Cross, Vanderbilt University, MTSU and other facilities. Don’t delay in giving your young child lessons.

Ride a two-wheeler
Put a helmet on your child, a long-sleeved shirt and pants. Have your child help you to remove the training wheels from his bike. Next, lower the seat together until your child can sit down with his feet flat on the ground, knees bent. Head to a flat, uncrowded area such as a dead-end. Next, let him learn how to balance without your help, moving the bike along, lifting his feet, etc. DO NOT HOLD HIS SEAT OR WALK ALONG SIDE HIM. Show him how to use his hand brake or foot brake and let him experiment. Allow him time to learn balancing/walking/stopping the bike as he needs. When you both feel confident, move the seat up so your child’s leg is about three-quarters extended at the bottom of the pedal stroke. To start, getting enough speed to provide balance is what riding is all about: Tell your child to step to the left of the bike; press the handbrake so the bike’s motionless; swing his leg in front of the seat and over but do not sit. Place the right foot on the right pedal and let go of the brake. Keep standing, push hard on the right pedal and push off the ground with the left foot. Keep pedaling and sit down!

Hammer a nail
Use a standard nail and a piece of soft wood. Have your child position his nail where he wants to “drive” it. Hold the nail exactly perpendicularly to the surface. Hold the nail between the thumb and forefinger. Next, tell him to keep his eyes focused on the head of the nail and use the hammer to gently tap the nail in place. Once the nail is standing securely on it’s own, remove your hand. Next, use three full strikes on the nail to hammer it “sweetly” to the surface.

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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