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A version of this chapter appears in the Handbook of Resilience in Children edited - page 4 / 18





4 / 18

R. Brooks:  The Power of Parenting                                                                              

Resilient children possess certain qualities and/or ways of viewing themselves and the world that are not apparent in youngsters who have not been successful in meeting challenges.  The assumptions that children have about themselves influence the behaviors and skills they develop.  In turn, these behaviors and skills influence this set of assumptions so that a dynamic process is constantly operating.  This set of assumptions may be classified as a mindset (Brooks & Goldstein, 2001).  

An understanding of the features of a resilient mindset can provide parents with guideposts for nurturing inner strength and optimism in their children.  Parents adhering to these guideposts can use each interaction with their children to reinforce a resilient mindset.  While the outcome of a specific situation may be important, even more essential are the lessons learned from the process of dealing with each issue or problem.  The knowledge gained supplies the nutrients from which the seeds of resiliency will flourish.  

The mindset of resilient children contains a number of noteworthy characteristics that are associated with specific skills.  These include:

They feel special and appreciated.  

They have learned to set realistic goals and expectations for themselves.  

They believe that they have the ability to solve problems and make sound decisions and thus are more likely to view mistakes, setbacks, and obstacles as challenges to confront rather than as stressors to avoid.  

They rely on effective coping strategies that promote growth and are not self-defeating.  

They are aware of and do not deny their weaknesses and vulnerabilities but view them as areas for improvement rather than as unchangeable flaws.  

They recognize and enjoy their strong points and talents.  

Their self-concept is filled with images of strength and competence.

They feel comfortable with others and have developed effective interpersonal skills with peers and adults alike.  This enables them to seek out assistance and nurturance in a comfortable, appropriate manner from adults who can provide the support they need.

They are able to define the aspects of their lives over which they have control and to focus their energy and attention on those rather than on factors over which they have little, or any, influence.

The process of nurturing this mindset and associated skills in children requires parents to examine their own mindset, beliefs, and actions.  We will now examine guideposts that can facilitate this process together with case examples.  

Parenting Practices that Nurture Resilience in Children

Following is a list of ten guideposts proposed by Brooks and Goldstein (2001, 2003) that form the scaffolding for reinforcing a resilient mindset and lifestyle in children.  These guideposts are relevant for all interactions parents and other caregivers have with children whether coaching them in a sport, helping them with homework, engaging them in an art project, asking them to assume certain responsibilities, assisting them when they make mistakes, teaching them to share, or disciplining them.  While the specific avenues through which these guideposts can be applied will differ from one child and one situation to the next, the guideposts themselves remain constant.   

1.  Being Empathic.  A basic foundation of any relationship is empathy.  Simply defined, in the parenting relationship empathy is the capacity of parents to place themselves inside the shoes of their children and to see the world through their

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