As an athlete, I had a lot of good coaches and the best ones were those who gave me the skills, abilities, mindset, and the confidence to go out on to the floor and compete.

Disappointment, challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures are all part of the human experience. In fact, the ability to handle them well is one of the keys to success in this world. The person who can bounce back, tackle problems, and handle adversity, is someone who is resilient and the focus of our theme this quarter.

As parents, we should not expect that our kids will naturally become resilient on their own. It is not something that happens overnight, comes from one event, or forms out of a conversation or two. It is developed over time, and like our muscles, takes effort, practice, and time to develop.

About 15-20 years ago, a term began to appear frequently in articles and books about the rise in overprotective parents called “helicopter parents.” This was referring to some parents who were always hovering around their children, ready to swoop in to help or protect their kids. About 5-10 years ago, this evolved even further as some parents became even more overprotective and were called “lawnmower parents.” This describes parents moving from being a helicopter that hovers around a child, to a parent who is consistently in front of their child, mowing down all obstacles or problems that may be in their way.

Unfortunately, the helicopter and lawnmower parents of this world do the absolute worst thing possible by removing the chance for their kids to practice and develop resilience. They take away the chance to face setbacks and learn to bounce back, to learn how to deal with failure and grow from it, to make mistakes and to learn from them, to see challenges not as something to avoid but instead something to tackle. We may be doing it out of love for our children, but when we mow down all the obstacles in front of them, we are cheating them of the opportunity to develop resilience.

It is not easy, but we need to let our children face the challenges of life. We need to stop rescuing them. We need to stop mowing down and removing all the obstacles. This does not mean that we just walk away and let them face the challenges on their own. Instead of being a helicopter or lawnmower, the best thing we can do is become their coach. A coach is not actually out on the floor, field, or stage, but a coach helps his/her players through encouragement, advice, questions, and strategies, and does so from the sidelines. A coach works with his/her players before the game and helps them practice and develop. We can do the same thing for our kids; coach them through their challenges, setbacks, failures, and mistakes. This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Help them see their challenges as a positive thing in life.
  • Ask them questions that help them learn from their challenges and then teach them to ask those questions themselves.
  • Coach them to face their fears, not avoid them.
  • Teach them to problem-solve rather than solve it for them.
  • Encourage them with their struggles but do not remove the struggles.
  • Give them tips and strategies to use when facing their problems.

As an athlete, I had a lot of good coaches and the best ones were those who gave me the skills, abilities, mindset, and the confidence to go out on to the floor and compete. Ultimately, we want the same thing for our kids in the arena of life – to have them know that there are no guarantees for success, there will be setbacks, mistakes, problems, and even failures, but still have them say to us “put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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