How Can I Teach My Kids Resilience?

“It ain’t about how hard you can hit.  It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward … How much you can take and keep moving forward” – Rocky Balboa

I have teenagers in my house.

They are really good people, but they are still teenagers.  While we have felt the sunshine on our faces more days than we deserve, we have not been immune from periods of darkness.  Our family has felt the depths of depression and the intense sadness that can come from loneliness.

In the depths of these challenges I have knelt by the beds of my children, sobbed, and pleaded with God for the strength and courage to be a better father.  I have asked myself repeatedly, “how can I teach my kids to be resilient” in the face of these challenges?

I don’t have the answer, but I know what seems to be working for our family.  I have learned that I can’t teach my kids how to be resilient.  However, resilience is largely the byproduct of a moral life.  Some mistakenly believe that resilience comes from learning to fight.  I believe it comes from the inner peace of knowing who you are, living a life of integrity, and being selfless.  

For me, one of the hardest parts of being a father is consistently absorbing criticism and reflecting credit.  I’m a dad, and I have feelings too.  However, there are times I have to fall on the sword even though it isn’t my fault.  Similarly, I’ve found it difficult to compliment the kids for their hard work when I started long before they did, and will continue long after they have returned to their video games.  However, my relationship with my teenagers started to improve as soon as I got over myself and focused on expressing more gratitude, asking for forgiveness, complimenting more, speaking less, and listening more.  These things spring naturally from the confidence and peace of knowing who I am, being honest with myself, and being true to myself. 

Life isn’t meant to be a series of negotiations or transactions.  I was reminded of this during a funeral I recently attended.  All the stories told were about the man and his positive influence on family and friends.  There was no mention of the great business deal or the miraculous 3-wood from the rough that saved the club championship.  Life is about the process of becoming the best versions of ourselves.  That journey is impossible alone.  

I have tried to help my kids get a better understanding of themselves, and tried to help them look outside of themselves.  I believe they have become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges because of their courage, their strength, and their willingness to work towards being the best versions of themselves.  It’s not a transaction.  It’s a process of building character and leading a moral life. 

It was with incredible joy and gratitude for my children that I read the following text from my son the other night, “Best day of my life! I love you!”

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