What You Need to Know to Raise Resilient Kids

They say the millennial generation is lazy. Entitled. Fragile. They say we can’t handle stress. They say our “helicopter parents” hovered around us solving our problems and telling us we were God’s gift to the world – the most perfect little specimens. All of us.

I also say, that if parenting is a test, mom and dad (hi!)– you aced it. A+. I turned out great! Thanks 🙂

Except, I AM in fact, a lazy thinker. Losing an eraser does stress me out sometimes and now that I’m done my PhD, I do feel that I should be handed a tenure track position (jokes). Let’s talk about how to raise kids who might handle these situations a little differently – kids who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Kids who like a challenge and will be more willing to confront some of today’s problems.

First, two words about brain development in children:

  • The brain is far more plastic (read: impressionable, moldable) in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood than it is later in life.
  • Every experience a child has shapes the way his/her brain wires itself. Brain development is activity-dependent, meaning that those circuits that are turned on consistently will grow stronger, while those that see little activity may be “pruned” away and disappear altogether. This makes a busy little person’s brain much more efficient at processing their world and rising to meet its particular challenges

Despite their best efforts, scientists have yet to discover any kind of tricks or particular actions that expedite the wiring process in children’s brain development. Loving care and exposure to language (verbal interaction) are the only ways we know of to safeguard and encourage cognitive development in little ones.

There is, however, one simple, proven way to develop kids who are not averse to hard work, and consequently are more likely to have brains that are wired for eventual success. It involves developing what Scientific American calls in this article a “growth (or mastery-oriented) mindset”. This stands in stark contrast to what has been termed a “fixed (or helpless) mindset”.

What you need to know to raise resilient kids

Kids with a fixed (helpless) mindset believe that intelligence is doled out in fixed amounts, and whatever they have is all they are entitled to. These can be children who have sailed effortlessly through school as well because, as everyone told them, they were “smart”. This mindset becomes obvious in the face of mistakes which break their confidence and threaten their egos. They often shy away from challenges for fear of looking “dumb”.

By contrast, mastery-oriented children understand that intelligence is flexible and can grow through hard work and study. Their objective is primarily to learn. They are motivated by challenges, seeing them as opportunities.

What you need to know to raise resilient kids

So what are some strategies we can begin implementing how to develop resilience and a growth-mindset in our baby Einsteins?

  1. Tell stories about family members, colleagues, and heroes who saw success as a result of hard work and perseverance, stories about underdogs who didn’t give up. We are the stories we tell.
  2. Teach them that their brain is a muscle like any other and grows stronger with more concerted use and effort
  3. Rather than reinforcing that they are brilliant and talented, let’s start praising the effort they put into a project, how hard they worked, what a great challenge opportunities are….etc. Some examples of this could include:
    1. You are getting really good at studying! I saw you reading over your history book so many times, making great notes and asking others to test you. All that work really paid off!
    2. I like the way you kept trying variations on that pasta recipe until you created one that tasted this good!
    3. That really looked like a tough math problem, but you kept at it until you figured it out. You didn’t get distracted, and you worked really hard, way to go!
    4. Wow, that’s a tough problem – what a fun challenge!
    5. That question was too easy – let’s see if we can find something harder that we can learn something from.
    6. Mistakes are interesting – let’s see what we can learn from this one.


Raising kids is one of the greatest things those of us who have them will ever do. No matter where we stand on the spectrum of life philosophies, can we agree that there are things in this world that need to change? Kthanks.

How many people does it take to change each of those things?

 ONE (at least initially)

Therefore, I submit – raising kids is one the greatest things those of us who have them will ever do. Those little ankle-biters will go on to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

And they will stand on the shoulders of giants
…and they will stand on the shoulders of giants

I always thought I would be a seriously gung-ho mom. You know… the kind who has the laundry in, the beds made, and a nourishing gourmet breakfast on the table by 7 am, with a full day of fun, stimulating activities planned for my tiny one(s). Then, I had one.

Even in my first year of motherhood I began to find myself just trying to “pass the days” – waiting for my husband to come home so that I could engage in some kind of “interesting” conversation and activity. Longing for the weekends. #amitheonlyone?

Now that I’m about to start working and blogging, I feel like my time with my baby is so limited, and I wasted so much of it! So I whipped out the goal book and started making plans to take back our time together for Good.

We’re all busy, and while I believe in the inestimable power of parents – I don’t think that raising kids should consume a person’s entire life. Quality over quantity. Memories over number of moments. That is what my childhood was – a collection of precious memories that feel like big warms hugs when I think about them. It was during those very early years that I developed a love for reading, creating things, caring for people and loving God.

Whether you are the stay-at-home-mom with a lengthy to-do list but little big-picture progress, or the working mom who wants to make precious time at home count, this is a place to help you move forward.

Let's Get Going!

The purpose of this blog is to help you fit good things into your busy schedule to unite your family and help them develop into their best selves. The selves that the world needs so desperately. These good things generally fit into a few key areas of daily living that our kids will need to master on their road to success:

  • Whole, nourishing diets
  • Living intentionally (goals, milestones etc.)
  • Living simply (minimalist-style and well within our means)
  • Curiosity/delight/self-driven leaning
  • Enthusiasm for overcoming challenges and being uncommon

Check back here every week for new ideas and rundowns of our experience using them. I won’t pretend to be perfect and act like all of my ideas are flawless – partly because it’s way less entertaining, and partly because it wouldn’t be true. I’m a big believer in the importance of truth. In person and online, I’m just a real mom, doing real things, with her real kid(s) for and with other real people.

I would love to hear from you with success stories, questions and opportunities for collaboration!

E-mail me at:  vanessa@cuttingedgekid.com