Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Metairie Park Country Day.
On Building Resilience in Children
As parents, we are often conflicted. We want our children to be resilient, but we are protective, afraid to see them struggle, and even more so, to fail. We go to almost any length to shield them from tough experiences. Is doing so a disservice?
In some ways, yes.
As an educator, I see firsthand how building resilience (aka grit) in students can help lead them towards greater academic and life success. But, what does resilience look like? What are the key elements that define it? How do we encourage and nurture resilience in our children?
At Metairie Park Country Day School, our Middle School is part of a national, longitudinal study, examining six key character traits and their effect on academic success and life satisfaction. Among the six character traits is resilience. The data from this research shows a direct, positive correlation between student GPA and student life satisfaction. What I have learned and observed as a teacher and principal is that several traits are key to being resilient.
When I think of resilience, I usually imagine a student’s ability to persevere through some form of adversity. While resilience includes the ability to overcome setbacks and see something through to completion, it also requires an individual to have confidence in themselves. Optimism and curiosity are also key as they provide hope and motivation, and spur the desire to learn and seek solutions. Individuals must also learn to be flexible and adaptable to the changes life throws their way. This flexibility allows them to think creatively. Finally, relationships are key. I often see resilience in situations where individuals work together to reach a common goal.
What does resilience look like the classroom?
Resilience is practiced and nurtured in every aspect our school life. Our faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees subscribe to the belief that children learn best when they are allowed to construct their own understanding through discovery. One teacher coined the phrase “productive struggle” to illustrate the approach. Either as individuals or when working in small groups, students are presented with ideas, situations, or problems that are not readily understood or solvable. However, using their skillset and their background knowledge, they are given the opportunity to discover the meaning, the connection, or the solution on their own. Teachers allow the time and support needed and intervene only when necessary. When this process happens, learning occurs, confidence is nurtured, and resilience is developed.
Our school’s mission statement drives everything we do at Country Day. I believe our mission clearly defines resilience as being at our core: “Our students learn to be flexible, to be adaptable, and to face the challenges of life with honor, optimism, confidence, creativity, and a sense of humor.”
I often remind parents that we have done this before, when our children were fledgling toddlers. They were eager and ready to take their first steps. In order for them to learn, we had to let go, allow them to fall, and pick themselves up. With eagerness, optimism, and determination, they were willing to take each fall in stride, until they meet their goal. We cannot protect our children at the cost of holding them back from succeeding on their own. Instead, we can continue to encourage the spirit of resilience they embraced so long ago. Without resilience, how will they continue to take the many “first steps” necessary to lead a happy, healthy, and successful life?
Middle School Principal Paul Frantz earned his BA in both religious studies and psychology, with a concentration in child and adolescent psychology, from the University of Virginia. He went on to earn his MEd from American International College with a focus on brain research, learning styles, and differentiated instruction. Principal Frantz joined Metairie Park Country Day School in 2012.