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Strategies to Build Resilience and a Strong Work Ethic - Part 1

I am often asked about this topic from both veteran homeschoolers and new families that I am working with. Resilience and a strong work ethic are life skills that we hope our children embody before we launch them into the world. Corporations are hungry for employees that know how to learn from their mistakes, solve problems, and strive for excellence.

Before we talk about some strategies to build these vital life skills, it's important to note that there are 3 things that we want to avoid, and help our kids avoid. I call them…

“Mama D’s 3 Deadly C’s”:

Comparing, Condemning, and Criticizing.

When we exhibit these traits, or allow them in our kids, we are undermining the key components that we want to instill in them to build resilience and a strong work ethic. Just by eliminating these from our households as much as possible, we make great strides in building many of the traits I mention below.

There are 7 Key Components or Traits we need to encourage and intentionally foster in order to help our kids thrive in the world.

  • Character

  • Compassion

  • Competence

  • Confidence

  • Connection

  • Control

  • Coping Skills

I have 15 strategies that will help to build these traits. I broke them into 3 parts so that you can focus and implement those that you have not been zeroed in on in your home. I will provide 5 more in each of the next two Blog posts. I know it helps me to get things in smaller chunks or I will just forget and not do anything at all!

1. Make Family Time a Priority

This develops ALL of the key components and forms a strong foundation that your kids know they can always rely on. It warms this Mama’s heart that her young adult children know they can count on me to be there to listen and support them, no matter what. One of the primary reasons for that is the tremendous amount of family time that we consciously carved out over the years.

Whether it was traveling to see family or explore a new place; playing games or reading aloud; catching fireflies or acting out their latest play together, we built memories that will forever be a part of the fabric of our lives.

The results are times when your 21 year old son asks to hang out with you for the day because you haven’t had enough time to just talk and hang out. Or your young adult children choose to give you experiences with them as your birthday gift because they want to spend time with you, and they know how much that means to you.

I can’t emphasize enough how much MORE important family time is to your child’s “success” than the “academics” everyone is focused on.

2. Focus on Spirituality/Your Faith

Whatever your belief system is – it is important to focus on this moral grounding. There is a saying: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

This is so true, and when our kids are young, they are ‘mimicers’, they don’t ‘stand’ for anything. They mimic what they see happening around them; they repeat what others are saying, whether they understand it or not.

The goal is to help our children grow into confident, compassionate, and competent adults who know how to think for themselves and get back up when they get knocked down. By living out our Faith, living out our morals and values, we are providing a solid foundation for our children to fall back on when the world around them seems to be going crazy!

Instead of remaining ‘Mimicers’, they will be strong enough to think for themselves and become caring, content, and curious leaders.

3. Discuss Moral Issues and How to Handle Them

Kids crave guidance and they love a good story! One of my favorite resources that provides both is The Book of Virtues by William Bennett.

When Bill was the Secretary of Education under President Reagan, he realized that our country was in trouble. He could see that public education was creating automatons, not leaders. He was so concerned that even after he left that position he felt he had to do something.

Bill put together this anthology of stories to introduce kids to character traits like courage, responsibility, compassion, friendship, faith, and persistence. I read this with my kids almost every morning for years, talking about the consequences of our choices, what was right and wrong, and what we can do if we make the wrong choice.

The virtues laid out in these stories can be used no matter what your family’s faith or belief system is. We are Christians so it was important to me that I draw parallels with the Bible and I believe it made it teaching the important lessons about character that much easier. You can do the same and I highly encourage it.

4. Read Stories That Highlight Real Heroes Who Struggled and Succeeded

This provides the same discussion based character building opportunity as reading The Book of Virtues, but it takes the discussion out of the realm of ‘a good story’ and into real life.

Not only do the stories contain powerful lessons, but we also need heroes; heroes that are fallible, courageous, complex, compassionate, and relatable – someone we can see ourselves in. It helps us to believe that we can be a hero in our lives.

Kids deserve to be the hero of their own story.

These are a few resources that I have used over the years, but there are many more: Inventors Who Changed the World ; Landmark Book Series; Young Patriots Series; Mathematical Lives:; ; "Who Was" series.

5. Sincerely Praise Every Chance You Get

This can be difficult when we’ve had a rough day, when our kids are having a rough day, or when our personalities are such that pointing out how to correct something seems like the loving thing to do. As parents, we often see it as our “duty” to correct our kids. While this is true, if “correcting” is our focus, then our kids’ focus is always on what they are doing wrong.

My philosophy has been - Catch your kids being good! It is a shift in your thinking from ‘correcting’ to ‘empowering’. If your kids constantly hear and feel that they are ‘messing up’, then that becomes their predominant thinking. Instead, if you think, “I want to reinforce the GOOD and empower them to repeat that behavior”, you help your children to focus on the “Good” in themselves.

Always focus on the positive, even when we are “correcting” behaviors. Our brains cannot distinguish a ‘negative’. For example, we should say ‘Be careful’ instead of ‘Don’t fall’ because our brain ‘hears’ the words ‘careful’ or ‘fall’, it doesn’t register the ‘don’t’.

Above all, your praise should be honest and meaningful as you help your kids build a positive self image and confidence in their abilities, which are vital to resilience.

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