A recent CNN article argued that millennials are softies. It says kids today often quit jobs early because the workload wasn’t what they expected and they can’t handle it. That accusation is similar to the complaint that many millennials expect more than what they deserve.
These are all valid things that I think can be said of some millennials but definitely not all millennials.
Full disclosure: I’m a millennial, and I haven’t had kids yet. But I would like to think I’m a pretty resilient millennial. I lost a parent in the middle of my college education and didn’t take any time off, graduated on time and then moved myself to New York City with nothing but two suitcases to build a career.
And I totally acknowledge that there are people my age who have dealt with even worse hardship than that and they are still moving forward. But dealing with hardship isn’t the only way to gain resilience.
Before losing my mother, she instilled certain lessons in me that I believe gave me a thicker skin than some people my age. Here are my tips for teaching resilience to kids and a few tips from seasoned psychologists.
1. Make Your Kids Make Their Beds
This is one suggested by both my experience and psychologists. Robin Koval and Linda Kaplan Thaler told CNN about their book, “Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary.”
In the book, they tell the story of Adm. William H. McRaven, who told students at the University of Texas at Austin that the best lesson he learned from Navy SEAL training was how to make his bed right every morning.
Why? Koval said that it’s the first thing you do in the morning, and, after doing it enough, you learn to do it perfectly. If you have a terrible day, then you can come home and find that you did at least one thing right.
2. Let Your Kids Ride The Bus
This sounds silly, I know. But for most of my primary education I rode the bus.
Getting myself and my little brother on the bus when we were as young as 12 taught me an invaluable kind of responsibility and accountability.
And whenever my mom did have the time to pick us up and save us the 50 minute bus ride home, I was extremely grateful, and I saw it as a special treat.
3. Teach Your Kids To Problem Solve
Problem solving skills start small. Kaplan Thaler told CNN that you can start building problem solving abilities in kids as soon as they have their first school project.
If it’s a science project, and it seems daunting to them, then start by saying something like, “What are the three sources that you could look at every day? Let’s make a list,” Kaplan Thaler told CNN.
4. Don’t Talk In Catastrophic Terms
No matter the risk, Lynn Lyons, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxious families, told Psych Central that parents should avoid turning everything into a potential catastrophe.
For example, Lyons said you should never say, “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim because it’d be devastating to me if you drowned.” Instead, saying “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim” is enough.
If your child is the one thinking in catastrophic terms, you should try to show them that they can always get up and do better. My mom did this when I thought I wouldn’t get into my dream college.
She said, “If you don’t get in, what’s the next step?” And I said I would have to go to one of my backup schools and be miserable until I could apply to transfer to my dream school.
I didn’t get into my dream college, and I ended up transferring in later. It was hard, but understanding that I could make it through a “worst case scenario” made me realize that even what seem like near-catastrophes can be conquered.
5. Model The Same Resilience You Want To Teach
One of the best ways to learn is by watching an expert. Occasionally, you might lose control of your emotions or have a really tough day that seems like the end of the world.
But it’s important to admit mistakes and vulnerability in front of your kids, so they can see that mistakes and vulnerability aren’t bad at all, and that you can continue to be strong.
“Parenting takes a lot of practice and we all screw up.” Lyons told Psych Central. So, when you make a mistake, say it. “‘I really screwed up. I’m sorry I handled that poorly. Let’s talk about a different way to handle that in the future,’” Lyons suggested.
When a parent fails after attempting a challenge, or continues to find joy in the face of hardship—these are the things that inspire children to do the same. Resilience is something you can encourage and teach, but it’s also something that you can use to inspire.