Raising Resilience - Making Good Decisions
Module two : Lesson three
Raising resilient kids is all about helping your children make amazing decisions, even during challenging situations. That comes from that willingness to feel uncomfortable sometimes, knowing that that is a normal part of life, and then also that realization of I can get better at something if I keep at it. That is what resilience is all about. Those are the core beliefs that we are trying to instill in children. Now, it's important to understand that there are many reasons that children make the decisions that they make, and what we're really talking about here is self-control and how they regulate their decision making. But here's the thing. There is a lot of things that could motivate an individual's self-control. This is not only true for kids. This is true for anyone. There's really three big things when it comes to self-control, three big motivators for self-control.
One of them might be avoidance. I want to avoid getting into trouble, so I'm going to make the right decision. Another one might be self-shaming. If I don't behave this way, no one will love me, because I'm unworthy, so I better behave this way. That's very common. I know a lot of adults ... I myself struggle with that. But the third one is intrinsic motivation. Again, this goes back to those core beliefs that we really want to be instilling from an early age, that it's okay to feel uncomfortable, and I can learn to get better at something if I stick with it. That's intrinsic self-control. I want to explore just briefly what can lead to these different forms of self-control and why they're so important in your child's overall, resilient critical thinking.
The first one that we talked about is children who become dependent on consequences. You might find that this is true, especially if you have become dependent on consequences. Do you find yourself following your child around, and correcting them, threatening them, bribing them? Are you dependent on rewards? Are you dependent on punishments? Then chances are good that your child is learning to be the same way, and they are becoming dependent on you being there and telling them exactly what to do, and how to do it, and how quickly to do it. Unfortunately, they're missing out on that opportunity to make their own decisions based on intrinsic motivation.
We see this in adults all the time. You can think about someone who is racing past you on the highway, going well above the speed limit. They're being reckless. They're not considering anyone else's safety. But as soon as that speed camera is in view, or as soon as a police officer is just around the corner, they'll hit the brakes. They'll regulate their behavior. They'll slow down, and they will resume the speed limit. But as soon as they are out of view of that police officer, what are they going to do? Chances are good that they're going to start speeding again and being reckless again.
That means that they're making very risky decisions, because they're not able to be fully present in the moment and to consider the people around them. That is what comes from intrinsic motivation. However, that risky behavior, it's very egocentric. It's putting my needs before everybody else's. A lot of the times that comes from that dependence on consequences. So, just being mindful of how often we are using threats, bribes, rewards, punishments in order to shape behavior, and if you're finding that there is a dependency there for you, or your child, or your classroom, then chances are good that it's time to start reframing the way that you are handling difficult behaviors.
The next one we talked about is self-shaming. I really like this one, because I feel like this is something that a lot of us, as adults, can relate to. Maybe you've gone on a diet and you're like, "Man, I really just want to have some cake right now, or I really just want to have some soda right now," but there's this voice in your head that's like, "No one is going to love you if you do not lose this weight." Right? And just self shame. We just start putting ourselves down. That's like, "Okay. You're right. I don't want to have that Coke." Unfortunately, it does trigger motivation in us, but as you can see, this is not a way that we want our children to be talking to themselves.
Where does self-shaming come from? A lot of it comes from childhood, the way that we were raised. It comes from that voice that we heard that was often interrupting our behaviors with shame. "I told you not to do that. Look, now you've made a mess. Why can't you be as calm as your brother? Why are you such a bully?" And we start using this language. Most of the time we're unaware or unconscious of the language that we are using with children, but it can lead to that inner voice that says, "I'm not worthy. Something's wrong with me." Unfortunately, that can lead to individuals who rely on self-shame in order to regulate their behavior. But what we are trying to create is the third one.
What we really want to be focusing on is intrinsic motivation. The way that we do this is by showing kids that there is a benefit to cooperating. There is a benefit to hard work. It's not about the end game. It's about the journey. That's what we want to be emphasizing as much as we can. Now, later on in this series, we're going to be going through exactly what that looks like and exactly how to do that with your children, but for now, I hope that you found this introduction to resilient thinking with your kids helpful.