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Lessons in Resilience from the Minivan

Published on: December 30, 2013

This post by Positive Discipline Trainer Casey O'Roarty is part of our Growing Character series on raising a resilient child.

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

resilienceI started to write a blog post about helping our kids to develop resiliency last night, thinking that I would summon the perfect words to describe to other parents how to go about doing this. And now I am starting over. Because something became clear to me today…

It’s not about them. It’s about us.

Yes, I know — this is always the case. And I don’t know why I am surprised when it continues to be… But I am. I guess I find it humbling to realize that the lessons we continue to learn and grow from as parents are really opportunities for our kids to learn and grow as well.

Let me share a story from the minivan to make my point.

I picked the kids up from school today, and just as we got into the van my husband calls (of course). He has been working long shifts out of state and calls sporadically when he can. I always want to get in a few minutes with him, because I am not sure when he will be able to talk again. Unfortunately, I had just picked the kids up from school and I am now on the phone — you know where this is going right?

One minute into the phone call, my daughter begins to wail because her brother wiped a booger on her seatbelt! Seriously. They are 10 and 7. A booger. On her seatbelt.

One of the definitions of resilience is the power or ability to return to the original form after being bent, compressed or stretched.

OK. So here I was feeling a bit bent. I let my husband know that I needed to call him back, and I found a place to pull over. I took a few breaths and looked back at the kids.

At this moment, a little voice inside my head says, “Give it to them!  They just cut short your phone call and who really cares about BOOGERS??? They’re just being difficult and demanding.”

A couple more deep breaths to quiet that voice…

I let my daughter start.

“Tell me what’s going on,” I say to her.

She immediately starts to tell me the tale of her brother’s booger. He tries to pipe in, but I am firm about letting her get her story out.

Then it is his turn.

“Well, I accidentally put the booger on her seatbelt.”

“You know what, babe?”  I say to him, “When we say that we accidentally did something, we are pretty much letting go of the ownership, kind of like saying we didn’t really do it.”

“Ok,” he says, “I put the booger on her seatbelt.”

“And now what should you do?” I say to him.

My son, who is using a napkin to take care of whatever is left in his nose, lets it dangle, looks at his sister and says, “Sorry I put a booger on your seatbelt,” with so much sincerity that it sends us all into a fit of giggles.

Another definition of resiliency is the ability to recovery from adversity.

So guess who worked out her resiliency muscles today? Me. And in the process, I modeled, and my kids were able to practice, some of the skills I hope they embody as adults.

The most powerful technique for teaching our children is modeling who you want them to be. Teaching resiliency is no different from anything else — the more they see you do it, the quicker they will be to practice it.

Casey O’Roarty is a Positive Discipline Trainer and owner of Joyful Courage, a company dedicated to training adults to create space for children to be their best selves. She is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington. Casey has been sharing Positive Discipline with parents of the Skykomish Valley since 2007.

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