Being resilient is where you find it. I was working with my daughter on her math homework, in particular her times tables. There were some she didn’t know and was getting stuck on. For example, she didn’t know her 7 times table very well and couldn’t think what 7 times 9 was. This was getting her a little upset and you could see her retreating and in some way giving up.
So I asked her, “What do you remember? What part of the 7 times table do you know?”
And she replied that she didn’t know her 7 times table very well.
I asked if she knew her 10 times table. She nodded. I asked her what was 10 times 7 and she knew immediately. I said to her to take 7 away from that number, giving her 9 times 7. This she did effortlessly and happily, now able to navigate around the problem.
Start from where you know, to lead you to where you want to go.
And it occurred to me that there was something quite handy in this little exercise. There was something about it that seemed to resonate with resilience and overcoming adversity. I think I’m going to pinpoint my observation as well as I possibly can: sometimes our children won’t always know the answer but we can be there to help them and guide them to find it in their own way.
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There’s something useful in helping our children notice what they do know and then guide them to where they want to be; ideally letting them work out their own method of doing it.
I didn’t need my daughter to know exactly what 9 times 7 was. Yes, ok, it’s useful. Yes, it’s good to know. But I was happier that she used a method to help her get there. That was more empowering, more useful for her.
We can often berate children for not knowing something, for not knowing all the times tables by heart. Yet we need to be mindful there are things they do know and we just have to work with them so they have their own engagement and learn their own methods of getting there. My hope by doing this with my daughter is that I’ve embedded the idea of not giving up if she doesn’t know, but that she asks instead, “What do I know?”
When we think or say, “I don’t know” it often puts us at a disadvantage. We begin to believe that we don’t know anything and shut down, resulting in worry and anxiety. When it comes to problem solving, overcoming issues or dealing with challenges, it’s really important we check what we do know rather than say, “I don’t know” or “I can’t”.
It’s easy to get into the mindset that something is impossible if you don’t have enough information. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I don’t know”. But that statement filters through your mind, cutting off your brain’s ability to give you the answer you need.
There’s nothing wrong in noticing we are not where we want to be yet. We may not be getting there as quickly as we would like, but rather than obliterate our chances of finding a solution we can begin to ask: what do I know? What do I have? This then begins the process of the mind considering options, alternative routes and developing a resourceful state.
There are so many stories of people who have excelled in life who did not have all the resources in their lives and so needed to be as resourceful as possible.
I believe the Portuguese football player, Cristiano Ronaldo, is one example of this. Now a multimillion pound player, he grew up in a largely working class neighbourhood in a small tin-roofed home. His difficult beginnings didn’t allow his lack of resources stop him from being resourceful. He took every opportunity he could to practise football – he found a way.
It’s at the core of some of the best learnings we can give children. To acknowledge that we don’t have all the resources we like, yet that doesn’t mean we can’t be resourceful.
It is back to the multiplication. It’s not about saying, “What don’t I have?” but “What do I have?”. “What part of my 7 times table do I know? And then I work my way to where I want to be”.
The point I want to make is for you to pay attention to how we can help our children be more resourceful with whatever resources they have so they can achieve their goals. To empower their way of thinking that overcomes challenges and develops their inner resilience.
Ben Jackson is the owner of The Parent and Pupil Coach delivering behavioural change programmes for 10-16 year olds. He coaches for leadership and transition for career parents and is regularly contributing to webinars and articles.