Resilience – are we molly-coddling our young people too much?

At this time of year, when many teenagers are facing important mock exams, I seem to be mentioning the words ‘show some resilience and determination’ quite a bit during mentoring sessions. Bolstering their confidence with praise for achieving goals, for sticking to their study timetable, for meeting effort and attainment grade targets in school reports, is of course an important part of success. However, I’m increasingly finding that many have a tendency to simply give up when things get tough, for example writing nothing when faced with a tricky question, focussing revision on subjects they can do while avoiding those they find hard, or experiencing failure being seen as the end of the known world!

This all makes me wonder if we are offering our teenagers too much of the praise, nurturing and encouragement and not enough of the keep calm and carry on spirit?

Parents, by their very nature, want to see their child succeed and hence want to protect them from pain or failure. No one can argue with that. However, I wonder if sometimes allowing your child to get things wrong, fail or struggle, will perhaps build greater resilience to face future challenges, using the experiences they’ve learned from along the way.

Life will not always be easy and parents will not always be there with a safety net and a solution. Teaching our children, the life skills to enable them to cope with failure or persevere with life’s challenges alone can, in my opinion, only help them to succeed in the future. Perhaps encouraging them to find and implement their own solutions, instead of always picking up the pieces, is a good place to start. Allowing them to fail or struggle within the safe environment of their school career would seem a far better way to develop the coping skills and resilience to meet life’s challenges, rather than waiting until they enter the world of work, where the challenges are greater and the solutions harder to come by.

Many have asked me over the years how I have managed to be so successful in setting up two small businesses. Yes, knowing your stuff, being passionate about what you do, understanding customer needs, surrounding yourself with a good staff team, as well as delivering a quality service, are all crucial. However, I think the biggest factor of all has been a sheer pig-headed determination to push on through all challenges. To pick myself up and find a way to move forward when things get tough, has been the true key to success.

Many of the independent schools we work with would I think concur. Life skills, in a whole range of different formats, appear to feature in more and more extra-curricular school programmes, especially for teenagers, who are perhaps faced with the trickiest challenges in the current age of social media, exams, university entry and securing the right job.

Why not add to your list of questions when you visit a school, ‘how do you encourage the development of resilience in your pupils?’

There are too many fantastic schools to mention them all. However, there’s a few listed below to get you started in researching this area, as part of choosing the right school for your child:
Ampleforth Compass for life programme
Gresham’s School
Downe House