Raising Resilient Children: Asking Tough Questions

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“I can do it!” I have heard these words more times from my three year old since I began reading Raising Resilient Children than in her entire life. My husband thinks it is coincidence – that she’s finally growing up – but I can’t help to think something I picked up from the book is working.

Don’t get me wrong. I still feel like the same can’t-wait-for-Happy-Hour parent, but I’m telling myself that’s attributed more to the excessive snow days this month than the girls’ behavior. My youngest daughter has gone from us having to accompany her everywhere because she was too scared to go to her own room alone to her insisting, complete with hands on hips and foot stomps, that we let her go upstairs by herself.

So I headed off to hear Dr. Robert Brooks speak at the Children’s Museum of Richmond last night in the hopes of internalizing more of his empathetic philosophy. Having just finished his book, I was familiar with a lot of the anecdotes Dr. Brooks used to convey his point still I was highly entertained because not only was he funny but his persuasive presentation forced me acknowledge one of the recommendations I’d glossed over.

What words would your child use to describe you as a mother?

I had avoided asking my daughters this question, quite frankly, because I was afraid of what they’d say. I knew I couldn’t have this conversation with my girls and not write about it. But it’s one thing to make fun of myself each week with a silly anecdote that pertains to a parenting book and it’s another to admit my parenting flaws to the whole world. (And, yes, the whole world is reading this blog.)

Unable to sleep, I got out of bed before 6am and overrode the timer on the coffee maker. (Those of you who read my blog on rewriting negative scripts realize the seriousness of this action, as I’m not a morning person.) I waited to hear the pitter-patter of little feet on the steps so I could find out if the mother I imagine myself to be is actually the mother I am.

My kids’ response did surprise me but not in the way I had feared. They actually had a lot of nice things to say, and much to my relief, they even used the word fair. According to my three year old, I am “the best Mommy in the whole family”. (The fact that I’m the only Mommy in the family was lost on her.)

I wondered how revealing this exercise might prove to be if I applied it to other areas of my life. Did I want to hear the words my husband would use to describe me as a wife? Lord knows I don’t put a fraction of the effort into my marriage as I do into parenting (but that’s a book – To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First by David Code – and a blog for another day.)

In his closing argument, Dr. Brooks said that the biggest factor in determining which children grew up to succeed was not performance in school or what college they attended, as some might think, but the presence of at least one person who believed in them in their life. While I sat there during the presentation, wanting to believe that there would be three people who would list me as a person they gathered strength from, I realized Raising Resilient Children has made me want to be not only a better parent but also a better person. How can my children not benefit from that?