While kickboxing classes and strength training montages work great in the movies, that may not be the answer here. Many kids today are struggling against obstacles that have previously never been that difficult to overcome. Dr. Rosemary Stein has seen this shift, and agrees that times are changing.

“A lot of it revolves around the way the communities are set up. We used to be able to walk to school and walk ourselves back home. Many of us were “latch key” kids where we carried a key to the house so we could get in when we got home.”

“Our kids today don’t have those kinds of experiences, so they never know what it’s like to lose your key and have to wait on the porch for mom to get home from work. You would have to say ‘I’m sorry’ and cry because you had been irresponsible with something mom had given you. But that event really formed you. You learned to keep track of the key so you didn’t get locked out again.”

“It was the mistakes that you made as a kid that made you understand how to handle yourself. But we’re not letting our children make mistakes because we are, in a sense, over protecting them. But we don’t do this just as parents, we are doing it as a society.”

Letting your daughter go out with friends or letting your son join football, these things worry us as parents because they come with risk. It’s understandable that we should want to say no just to ensure their safety. But if we deny them their ability to navigate the world themselves, what will they learn?

“Take a step back and look at where you’re able to take some risk. I’m not saying to go out and make it so that you’re putting your child in peril, but you need to find those small risks that your child should be taking.”

“You prepare your child beforehand and say, ‘Hey these are the things that might happen and you know, if some of them happen, it’s OK.’ Talk about it and go over how they can protect themselves in the future. Now with risk there is the possibility that something not so great going to happen, but because of that the child will grow and to be able to ascertain what kind of risk they are and aren’t able to assume.”

Nowadays we’re capable of tracking our child’s every move through their phones, and planning their days through school and sports. So turning away from our kids when we know they’re walking toward failure feels like neglectful parenting.

But in the right, controlled circumstances, it’s these failures that are the greatest teaching experiences for growing children. It’s these experiences that will give them the know how, and confidence to thrive in their adult life.


Rosemary Stein, MD is a pediatrician with the Christian Medical and Dental association. She and her husband began their own pediatric medical practice, The International Family Clinic, with the mission to give the best medical care and guidance to the underserved in Alamance County.

Dr. Rosemary Stein - How to build up our children's resilience

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