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How To Build Resilience In Children

This week I had the chance to attend an evening that was packed full of information, humor and just good ole fun! We even learnt a clapping game 🙂 The…


This week I had the chance to attend an evening that was packed full of information, humor and just good ole fun! We even learnt a clapping game 🙂

The evening was in support of my remarkable neighbor, Sara. Sara has established a not for profit organization – Living Child. The aim of the charity is to reduce the maternal and infant death rate in remote villages of Papua New Guinea. Sara and her team provide training, visual teaching aids and birthing kits to Midwives and Village Birth Attendants. It’s been an enlightening experience hearing about the journey Sara has taken to set up Living Child.

So I was happy to support Sara by attending ‘An Evening with Maggie Dent – Real Kids in an Unreal World.’ If you’re an Australian teacher or parent, then you’re probably familiar with Maggie Dent. She is a parent (of 4 boys mind you!), educator, author, resilience specialist and she is also known as ‘the queen of commonsense.’ And if you’ve ever been to one of her presentations, then you’ll know that she is also one of the best presenters you’ll ever see!

Over the years I’ve attended a few of Maggie’s presentations, and I have also used her relaxation and calming techniques in the classroom. If you’d like to read more about how I implemented relaxation in my class then have a look at: A Kiss in Your Hand.

Why is resilience so important?

The evening was about why resilience is important in today’s modern world. Firstly, a definition for resilience:

“Resilience refers to the ability of a person to successfully manage their life, and to successfully adapt to change and stressful events in healthy and constructive ways. It is about survivability and ‘bounce-back-ability’ to life.” – Maggie Dent.

Ms Dent shared that the modern world is more challenging than ever, today we have concerns around the increasing number of young people who are depressed and suicidal and the increasing instances of anti-social behavior.

One of the questions Maggie put to us was, “How do kids learn resilience if everything is nice?’ To answer this question Maggie shared her 10 Resilience Building Blocks for children aged 0 – 12 years, illustrated in the poster below. If you click on the picture you’ll be taken to the Maggie Dent website where you can download your own copy of the poster.


The website also has a great article that explains more about resilience and the resilience model. Go to: The Little Things are the Big Things – Building Resilience.

Some of the key ideas that stood out for me were:

  • You can have 2 types of kids – roosters or lambs. Roosters are the kids that make you look like a terrible parent. They’re feisty, strong willed and can cause scenes at the shops. Lambs are sensitive and patient and they care about people. We want kids somewhere in the middle of these extremes.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule. So for 80% of the time set a routine and structure for kids and be consistent. 20% of the time relax a little and have some fun! That may mean staying up a little later or having pizza for dinner and watching DVD’s. I kind of knew this, but I get so focused in on getting stuff done and what I think is the ‘right’ way that sometimes it aint fun! It’s nice every now and then to throw the rules out the window and just have some silly, good ole fun. Definitely an idea that can be used for life in general, parenting and in the class.
  • This is especially important for me as a parent. If your child complains he/she is hungry (like my little one does), always offer water first. Quite often they could be thirsty, and will confuse this with hunger.
  • Try not to create tension around dinner. Build memories around food and shared meal times. Switch off electronic devices at dinner and involve kids in the conversation if you go out to a restaurant. Teach respect and listening to pop or grandma when they are talking. Also teach restraint…no mindless eating! Mmmm I’m guilty of this.
  • Discuss death and dying with children. Maggie stressed the importance of talking about where things go after death. She said if you don’t believe in heaven then use a metaphor. A place where loved ones gather for example. More about talking about death with kids can be found in the article: Death through the Eyes of a Child.
  • “Let’s teach kids how to think instead of what to think.” What life skills can I teach?
  • “Do less, connect more!”
  • “Hurried children are often stressed children.” Slow down….
  • The tickle spot high up on the shoulders. This can be used to settle, relax and calm a child. Much more effective than holding a child’s hand.
  • Calmness can be learned.
  • The 3 S’s:
    1. Slow down
    2. Soothe more
    3. Build love bridges
  • Build micro-moments with kids, a little tickle as passing them, captured kisses, I love you more than all of the stars in all of the world, I love you more than all the grains of sand on all of the beaches in all of the world.
  • Everyone needs to be able to do something well. Help children find their something.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Maggie Dent presentation then I would highly recommend you do. You will have lots of laughs and learn a thing or two as well.

Graphic credits: My Cute Graphics

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