Thursday, September 22, 2016

How do you teach resilience?

Hollie hates winter swim team and I refuse to let her quit.

There are a dozen reasons why but only two really matter.

First, she smiles when it’s over. Her energy is up, she’s bouncing and chatting, she’s awake. Engaged. Energized. Healthy.

Second, overcoming bad experiences builds resilience and resilience is the best predictor of long term success in life.

Being Energized

Hollie wants to stay home and watch TV. What kid doesn’t? While Hollie’s a good reader and she’s likely to pick up a book when she’s got nothing else to do, her go-to is TV. She would binge watch if I let her and sometimes I do. But not every day. Not instead of activity.

She used to love playing outside, riding her bike, and being with her friends. But lately she’s sunken into herself more and more. It’s like she and her friends aren’t on the same page and they’re rarely outside anyway.

So she needs activity, exercise. And swimming fits the bill.

Get Over It

We’ve been trying to raise a fighter. Someone who will say, “No,” and stick to it when she knows that’s the right position to take. Except Hollie hasn’t faced much adversity. She hasn’t had to. As an only child she doesn’t have to compete for toys, the TV, or attention.

Perhaps in overcoming adversity in the pool, she’ll learn that her own attitude and fortitude are the best weapons she has.

Experts say delayed gratification and resilience are the best predictors of future success. Kids who recognize that a little sacrifice now will earn them bigger rewards later and kids that can overcome setbacks are better equipped to navigate the challenges of high school, college, and life in general.

How do you teach patience and resilience? You have to put the kid through challenges over and over again.

So a little resistance is good for her. Learning she can’t get what she wants when she wants it at swim team is a good lesson. Especially because there’s no malice in it. Her coaches want her to succeed, they’re cheering her on. But achievement in swimming is all about how much effort she puts in. It’s her racing against her own best times and against the other swimmers who may be faster and may work harder.

In swim team she’ll learn how to avoid getting run into (stay on your side of the lane) and run over (swim faster). The first of these lessons has been about kicking. She’s not a strong kicker and the other kids all pass her.

When she finishes last and complains, I tell her, “You’ll never race in a kicking-only event. Just do the laps and stay out of the others’ way until it’s time to move on to the next thing.”

One kid took off in a terrible backstroke start and crashed into her. She got out of the pool, crying. Her coach ran for ice. I held her.

“You’ve got to watch what others are doing,” I said. “Pay attention. Besides, he didn’t do it on purpose.” After she calmed down, I said, “You have just 10 minutes left. Backstroke is your favorite. Get in there and finish up.” And she got back in the pool.

When the coach returned, she was astonished. “She’s back in?”

“Yes,” I said. “Practice isn’t over yet.”

Hollie will race. And she’ll lose. And then she’ll get over it.

Don’t worry. The next blog will be on the Requirements of Being the Meanest Mom in the World for making her stick with swim team.

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