When support is the enemy of resilience




As educators and parents sometimes our intent to be kind, helpful and expedient has the potential to rob our girls of opportunity for autonomy, independence and the chance to build self-efficacy. It seems tautological that in the very act of being of assistance to our children we simultaneously stymie the very thing we want for them; independence and resilience. Yet how often for the sake of preventing a challenge arising do we intervene and rob children of the opportunity to problem solve and overcome a difficulty? It is through experiencing success in managing progressively more challenging situations that we build self-efficacy, pride in our achievements and the certain knowledge that we can manage and succeed even when things go wrong.

The act of carrying a girl's backpack is a selfless, generous one. Yet in doing so, she is robbed of the opportunity to build skeletal strength and bone density. These healthy outcomes are only had through weight-bearing exercises. We also run the risk of sending the message that we don't believe she can cope. Certainly helping her with a checklist at home to ensure all equipment is packed is invaluable when such habits are not yet embedded. 

In allowing your daughter to sit with the discomfort of managing without a forgotten item, she experiences at first hand the consequences of being disorganised. The necessity to build organisation skills is made evident and the will to change behaviour to ingrain new helpful habits is given purpose. We certainly do need to assist in scaffolding in how to be organised, such as recommending that items have a set 'home' and are always returned to this location for ease of retrieval. 

Meeting your daughter at the classroom or in car line is a lovely gesture. Yet when would it be better for social skill development, physical exercise opportunities and independence raising that she walk to the village or take the bus or train as a means of meeting up with you? When equipment needs are minimal and your daughter is keen to shoulder responsibility such autonomy and independence is encouraged. 

Doing up zips, buttons and laces certainly makes getting out of the house in the morning with little ones easier and faster. Yet the sense of independence and confidence had when a child is able to fully dress herself is palpable and a joy to witness. Giving time for these routines to develop with guided support and repetition of instruction are so important in this progressive growing of independence. 

Getting homework completed can be a nightly chore and the temptation can be great to jump in, provide answers and expedite the process. Yet three negative outcomes result. Firstly, your daughter is robbed of the opportunity to build fluency and competence by completing the tasks independently. Secondly, she learns quickly that you don't have faith in her ability. Finally, we at school assume that tasks completed to a 100% accuracy are too easy for her and thus increasingly more difficult activities are provided, setting her up for failure. We do see as invaluable the parents' role in setting up a distraction-free space for homework and in finding the teachable moments when cooking and tinkering at home or when out and about at the beach, zoo, market garden trail or any other experiential learning context. 

It is in these very experiences that we build the robust self-esteem and resilience we know and believe is so important to our children's wellbeing. To read more on how to go about creating an environment where your daughter's social, emotional and physical wellbeing can thrive, I warmly commend to you the Head of Educational Services – Liz Cannon’s recent article here. 



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