Creating True Resiliency

Posted on November 1st, 2016


Answer this question honestly: Do you celebrate with more gusto your teens’ high achievements or their honest failures?

Most of us beam over their achievements. And there’s nothing wrong with that on the whole. Yet, to foster true healthy resiliency in our kids—and the fortifying self-respect that comes with it—we need to fall in love with their honest failure. I call it honest failure because I’m not talking about loving their clear acts of rebellion or knuckle-headed scheming. I’m talking about when they risk vulnerability, exposure and land on their faces.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the hardest on myself, focusing on my shortcomings more than my assets. I had an unhealed primary parent who did the same—toward herself and me. You could never really get it right in my house. I built my resilience to keep going, but it looked more like survival mode—I’m not talking about that either.

These steps can create the space for imperfection to boost your (and your teens’) resiliency:

Redefine everything! Self-respect is “knowing you’re a unique contributor to the greater whole.” Adopting this definition is the first step toward resiliency. In other words: you matter. But so does everyone else in equal measure. Self-esteem (our opinion of ourselves) is less important—especially because our research shows self-esteem is fed by outside influencers we can’t control. Resiliency is your healthy ability to bounce back after setbacks or disappointment, and learning from mistakes/failures versus falling victim to life – thriving, not surviving.

Create an “honest failure” scoreboard. Start talking openly about your honest failures in front of your teens (without trying to fix the problem or stealthy lecture them about life lessons!) Be real. For example, my son noticed I was sad. I was honest with him: “I failed in a relationship at work. I didn’t have boundaries and eventually blew up at the person. I wish I had done better. I’m thinking about it.” Actually post the failures on a scoreboard on your fridge, but don’t list how you fixed it. You can discuss what you learned organically when the lesson is really apparent to you. Tell your teens why you’re doing it: to learn more from honest mistakes and failure, rather than getting things right the first time, every time (aka “perfection”). This is you priming yourself to have a growth mindset, which is what we want for our teens too.

Be trustworthy when your teens share. You’re creating a space for your teens to share and celebrate their honest failures too. However, they will rescind their trust the minute you get upset, try to fix, or try to impart a life lesson. Listen to understand them. Let them reach you with their vulnerability instead of trying to reach them with your guidance. Ask powerful questions to help them unpack this experience: What does this experience mean to you? What are feelings that come up? What are ways I can support you?

Resiliency is a process, not a program. Investing in our growth mindset and self-respect is how we truly impart this to our teenagers. If you want to practice more, check out The Respect Basics and try our #irespectmyself challenge.

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Would you like additional guidance in this area? Teen Therapy Center provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.