This past year has been different and difficult. Losses because of the virus, pandemic, and quarantine have been real, but we can’t let them define our children. 

We might prefer that our children wouldn’t have to face challenging experiences when they’re young. But, they can learn to be resilient when we’re there to help them work through them. Since challenges are a part of life, resiliency will serve them well. In fact, it might be the most essential quality motivated children have.

Resilient children recover quickly from adversity, disappointment, defeat, failure, and trauma. Resiliency begins as a choice, becomes a learned ability, and can become a part of who they are. If we don’t want our children to be victims of their circumstances, we must raise them to be resilient.

Do you remember the key line in Watty Piper’s popular children’s book, The Little Engine That Could? An “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” attitude can cause success and an “I thought I could. I thought I could.” conclusion. During the past year, children have had opportunities to learn this beneficial attitude. Have they?

Opportunities alone don’t guarantee resilience. For children to recover quickly from defeat, they need to be surrounded by optimism, be optimistic themselves, not panic when making mistakes, and be willing to apply themselves with no guarantee of quick success. How would you like this to be a description of your children? Are you willing to be and do what’s necessary?

Resilient children believe mistakes are a part of learning. They know that making them doesn’t mean they’re stupid. For them to believe this, we can’t panic when they make mistakes. Also, we shouldn’t hide all our mistakes from them so they’re more comfortable with theirs. 

Resilient children bravely ask for help when they need it rather than giving up when something is hard. For our children to be resilient, we can’t always get frustrated when they need us to explain something a second time. Also, when we let them see and hear us ask for help, they’ll understand needing help is normal.

Resilient children are optimistic and positive so they’re able to persevere when presented with challenges. They don’t stay discouraged and can identify strengths to use when facing hard things. We help them when they see that we don’t give up quickly when facing our challenges.

There’s more to resiliency than I’ve been able to share here, but I imagine you’re already encouraged to prioritize it in your parenting. Every child will experience times of struggle, pain, and loss. Life comes with surprising difficulties, work may be hard, academics can be challenging, and chores may be boring. People—even parents—may treat them unfairly. 

“I think I can” can become, “I thought I could” and “I did!”


Dr. Kathy Koch (pronounced “cook”) is the Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc., based in Fort Worth, TX, and a cofounder of Ignite the Family, based in Alpharetta, GA. She has influenced thousands of parents, teachers, and children in 30 countries through keynote messages, seminars, chapels, and other events.

Selected References

Koch, K. (2020). Five To Thrive: How to Determine if Your Core Needs Are Being Met (and What to Do When They’re Not). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Koch, K. (2019). Start with the HeartHow to Motivate Your Kids to be Compassionate, Responsible, and Brave (Even When You’re Not Around). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. www.StartWithTheHeart.net. (see especially chapter 1)

Martin E.P. Seligman, M.E.P., Reivich, K., Jaycox, L, & Gillham, J. (1995). The Optimistic Child: Proven Steps to Safeguard Children Against      Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Mayo Clinic Staff, “Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship,” Mayo Clinic, May 18, 2017, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311.

Piper, W. (1930). The Little Engine That Could. New York: Platt & Munk Publishers.

Reivich, K. & Shatte, A. (2003). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.