Five expert tips to help children develop resilience

This past spring, revelations around the college admissions scandal in the U.S. drew attention to the efforts parents will make to ensure their children do not “fail.” While the elaborate system of bribery and corruption mostly concerned families of above-average means, it still led to broader discussion in the media around parents over-protecting and over-managing their children’s lives.

In the wake of the admissions scandal, psychology researchers Nicole Racine and Sheri Madigan at the University of Calgary wrote a thought-provoking summary of the issues concerning “helicopter,” “snowplow,” and “bulldozer” parenting. They also provided useful tips to help parents develop resilience in their children.

According to Racine and Madigan, over-involved parenting ultimately hinders the development of kids’ resilience. In short, by preventing their children from experiencing adversity and failure, parents prevent them from learning how to overcome the inevitable obstacles they will face in their lives.

Racine and Madigan highlight three major negative consequences experienced by the children of overprotective parents:

  • Mental health difficulties and low life satisfaction during childhood and adolescence.
  • Fewer coping skills required to solve problems independently.
  • At college age, decreased confidence in their ability to succeed.

In contrast, when parents help children to develop independent problem-solving skills, research shows these children do better in school and experience improved mental health and well-being.

To help parents promote resilience in their children, Racine and Madigan offer these five tips:

  1. Foster a loving and positive relationship with your child.
  2. Help your child develop other relationships in their families and communities that are supportive and caring.
  3. Model and support problem-solving.
  4. Encourage children to participate in extracurricular activities that develop new skills or take them out of their comfort zone.
  5. Help children to develop confidence by recognizing the process of hard work and persistence rather than specific outcomes and results.

The goal of helicopter, snowplow, and bulldozer parenting has been to reduce children’s exposure to hurt and failure in life. Ironically, the research shows that it has the opposite effect. In this light, parents may want to consider the tips provided by Racine and Madigan for developing resilience in their children.

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