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Raising Resilient Children: Build Me Up

I committed the Cardinal sin of Raising Resilient Children, chipping away at instead of building up my child.

I’d looked forward to playing with my daughter all week, as there’d been some kind of a commitment every afternoon that kept her from coming directly home from school. So I passed on a playdate and resisted the temptation to plan our time, in an effort to be fun and spontaneous. Something my husband is a whole lot better at than me.

Lily asked to take a turn with Annabelle’s art projector and Annabelle immediately went to the craft closet, hoping to embark on something new. But since our shelves are overflowing with incomplete art projects I asked her to pick one to finish. With only a small eye roll, Annabelle agreed, deciding to tackle a needlepoint she started a year and a half ago.

While Lily worked at the table, Annabelle and I sat at the couch, talking about her week, uninterrupted for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. As luck would have it, Annabelle tired of her needlepoint at the exact same time as Lily was ready to abandon her drawing.

Instead of quitting while I was ahead, I pushed my luck. gt; I told Lily she could pick a quick game for us all to play before I had to start making dinner. But Annabelle didn’t want to play Richard Scarry’s Busytown game and asked if she could work on something on her own. I encouraged her to join us. She persisted, “How about the American Girl t-shirts? Can I make one?”

While the old fashioned parent sat on one of my shoulders telling me just to say no, I listened to that modern mom sitting on the other side, who always feels like she has to justify her decisions. I explained that she’d need help and that it was not fair to Lily if I interrupted her special time. Annabelle insisted she wouldn’t need help, but instead of letting her come to that realization on her own, like Brooks and Goldstein suggest, I blurted out, “Yes, you will.” She stomped off, and as I watched Annabelle stare longingly at the craft cabinet out of the corner of my eye, I felt tremendous guilt for undermining her confidence. I’d read the parenting book; I knew better. Why is it always so much easier said than done?

Luckily, the Odyssey of the Mind coach called and presented me with a chance to redeem myself. She told Annabelle she’d made the team and gave her three topics to brainstorm for their first meeting. When Annabelle hung up and started spouting off ideas, I held my tongue and praised her good suggestions, resisting the temptation to correct. I gave her a huge hug and told her how proud I was.

When she skipped away, I told myself putting the Raising Resilient Children guideposts into practice meant I’d take one step back for every three steps forward. And that’s ok. Because I’m beginning to realize creating resilient parents also involves building up, not chipping away, and so long as I’m moving in the right direction maybe both our self-esteems will survive.

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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