Teaching children to be resilient - The 4th R…

As both a mummy and teacher, I’m well aware of the importance of teaching the 3 R’s. And indeed, either fate has intercepted or I have gone right somewhere along the line as my nine year old is an avid reader and my three year old managed to write her best friend’s birthday card by herself this morning! Phew! Once the baby has mastered his number bonds we will be sorted….

Yet as important as those things are, I passionately believe that above all those skills, our ultimate responsibility lies in teaching our children to be resilient. To prepare them for a life that will undoubtedly be articulated with challenges and troubles. To teach them the skills they will need to bounce back. To teach them to overcome barriers, not to give up and most of all, that it’s ok when things are hard or they go wrong. 

Recently, and somewhat controversially, I set my class of 6 and 7 year olds resilience challenges ranging from timing the number of star jumps completed in a minute every day for a week, to teaching a new skill to someone younger than them. As with anything new, initially these challenges were met with some resistance, not from the children themselves, but from their parents. Some blind panic, some misunderstanding and one parent’s protestation that their child was actually already “far too resilient”! 

Alas, I stood my ground, reassured the parents and offered plentiful praise for the children who proudly submitted evidence in amazingly inventive and creative forms. Before long it was clear that the challenges were a success and moreover that their impact was apparent in the children’s attitude to school life. Our maths starter planned for five minutes took over an entire lesson as the children were so keen to congratulate each other’s efforts and commiserate when their peers hadn’t quite got it right. “Never mind, try again next time” and “that was so great, well done, keep going” were resounding across my classroom, all from the mouths of my year 2 children.

The results were varied but with some amazing successes; children understanding the importance of keeping going when things got tough, articulating the challenges they found along the way and sharing their coping strategies with their peers. And despite an initially mixed reception from parents, I’m hoping that it has ignited a realisation that these skills are what our children need, and actually deserve, to be taught. 

Failure is healthy. It helps us become stronger and more rounded. Even more importantly, it helps us appreciate success and those positive moments or periods in our lives. 

When I look back at my life I know I will gloss over some very difficult, shady periods. But what I will hold close to my heart is that I didn’t stop. I didn’t give up. I fought through, quite often by the very skin of my teeth, but I did it. And now I’m determined that I will help both my own children and those I teach have all the life skills they need; not just for 3 R’s, but 4 (and many, many more). 

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