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Resiliency Lessons from the Minivan

Contributed by Casey O’Roarty

I started to write about helping our kids to develop resiliency last night, thinking that I would have the perfect words to describe to other parents how to go about doing this. Now I am starting over. Because something came 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 it’s just humbling to realize that the lessons we continue to learn 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 were getting into the van my husband called. I always want to get in a few minutes with him, because he has been working long shifts out of state and I’m not sure when he’ll be able to talk again. Unfortunately, I just picked the kids up from school and now I’m on the phone.

One minute into the phone call my daughter is wailing and crying because her brother wiped a booger on her seatbelt!!! Seriously. They are 10 and 7. A booger. On her seatbelt.

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

Ok. So I was feeling a bit bent. I let my husband know that I would call him back, and 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 said, “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, then I let my daughter start. “Tell me what’s going on,” I said.

She immediately started to tell me the tale of her brother’s booger. He tried to pop in, but I was firm about letting her get her story out.

Then it was his turn… “Well, I accidentally put the booger on her seatbelt.”

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

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

“And now what should you do?” I asked.

My son, using a napkin to take care of what was left in his nose, let it dangle, looked at his sister and said, “Sorry I put a booger on your seatbelt,” with so much sincerity, that it sent 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 – return to your original form after being stretched, recover from adversity, the more they see you do it, the quicker they will be to practice it.

About the Author: 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. 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. She lives in Monroe, Washington, with her husband and two children, a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.

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