Raising A Strong & Resilient Child

He will not stop crying. Every day, it is the same story: he comes home from school, throws his bag on the floor and bursts into tears. You have tried everything – bribing him with a year’s supply of ice-cream, threatening to cut off all TV privileges, cajoling him, “All the big boys love going to school! Don’t you want to be a big boy too?”

But nothing works. Your child still refuses to go to school.

“Sending him to school’s like sending him to the slaughterhouse,” you lament. “He says he has no friends, the teacher’s mean and some boys are picking on him. I don’t know! Maybe that school’s just not right for him if he’s having such a rough time…”

The first few weeks of formal education are usually that way: rough. After all, your child has just been rudely snatched from his warm cocoon and tossed into an alien environment full of rules and regulations, strange adults and even stranger little kids.

For the first time in his young life, your child is faced with a hostile situation – the first of many that will come his way. So, how will he cope? Will he be one who goes through extremely difficult times and emerge not only unscathed but well-adjusted and successful, or will he be one who breaks down even under the mildest pressure?

It boils down to how resilient your child is.



Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Getting back up on the horse after you hav fallen off, as the saying goes.

“When we say resilience, many of us think of people who’ve survived major crises like the flood o the tsunami,” says Dr Goh Chee Leong. “The truth is, any child in any setting will face challenges. Our role as parents is to prepare our children to cope with life, which has its fair share of challenges and difficulties even without the presence of large-scale disasters!”


So, what are the traits of a child who is able to bounce back from adversity?


Even from a young age, a resilient child is able to do things for himself rather than be overly dependent on others. For instance, a resilient five year old child who is learning to read and write may struggle and become very frustrated, but is still determined to do it himself despite offers of help from his parent or teacher.

Problem-solving skills

A resilient child is action-oriented.When faced with a problem, he is able to work out what the problem is, come up with different ways to solve the problem, make a decision and carry out the solution.

Social competence

Social skills are an extremely important trait of a resilient child. He knows how to draw on his resources in order to overcome problems, and one of the key resources is people. He is able to communicate well, forms friendships easily and generally gets along well with others.

Are Resilient Children Made Or Born

Dr Teoh answers, “Resilience is really a set of strategies, so no child is born ‘more resilient’ than the next. A child can only be born with certain personality traits that may make him more resilient.

For example, a child who’s born with an easygoing personality is naturally more flexible and generally easier to get along with. Because sociability is such a major aspect of resilience, this child will be more resilient as he grows up.”

You cannot control the traits nature decides to bestow upon your child, but you can nurture the skills of resilience in him. Resilience is a dynamic quality, not a permanent capacity, so take steps to ensure that your child continues to grow in resilience. The rest of this article shows you how.

Your Child’s Road To Resilience

There are steps you can take to help your child develop resilience. The key is to start him off young. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Be your child’s cheerleader
    Every child needs at least one adult (or better yet, a few) who believes wholeheartedly in him. Nobody – no matter how smart or talented – can achieve success in life without at least one person who believed in his worth. It can be the parent, grandparent, teacher or even a friend.

    Be this person for your child. Love and accept him for who he is, make time for him and let him know that you will be there for him no matter what happens.

  2. Instil independence
    Independence is an essential trait of resilience. One way to instil independence is to have your child carry out simple tasks on his own at an early age. For instance, by three or four years old, your child should be able to do things such as dress himself, pick up his own toys, wash his own cup or turn on the TV on his own. The older he grows, the more tasks he should be able to do for himself.

    Encouraging independence in your child is especially important if you have a maid at home. Your maid’s job is to assist you in managing the household, not to be at your child’s beck and call, doing things he should be able to do on his own. In such cases, do establish clear lines of responsibility with your maid.

  3. Opt For Options
    Your child will face many challenges as he grows up – whether it is trying to solve a math problem he does not understand or making friends in school. Resist the temptation to swoop in and “fix” your child’s problem. Instead, teach him problem-solving skills. One simple, effective method is generating options.

    Your child tells you he is hungry. Wait, do not fly into the kitchen just yet. Encourage him to think and generate some options, “Okay, you are hungry. Now, what do you think you can do?”. He may say he can get something from the fridge, make a cup of milk or buy something from the shop. Get him to then decide on one option and then, carry it out.

    The key is to teach your child to think of things he can do. By engaging him in thinking of possible solutions, you are reinforcing his sense of ownership and control over the situation.

  4. Positive discipline
    Positive discipline promotes self-discipline, self-worth and helps your child to develop positive attitudes rather than just limit his actions. Know your child’s limitations and do not push him to meet unrealistic expectations. Praise him when he does something right and never degrade him by hitting, shouting or yelling when he does something wrong. Instead, help him see where he has gone wrong and teach him how to do it correctly.

    The ultimate goal of positive discipline is to nurture self-discipline, which means that your child will act responsibly even when you are not around.

  5. Two-way talk
    Until your child is old enough to have his own friends, you are the only chance he has to practise his social skills, so do not deprive him of this opportunity. Make time to interact with him.

    Interaction is not just talking, talking, talking. Listen, understand and validate what your child is trying to say. Do not put him down, interrupt him or tell him what he should be feeling. Answer his questions even if he asks the same ones over and over. He asks questions in his attempt to understand the world and learn to solve problems (all of which are related to a resilient mindset). If you make him feel that his questions are silly and bothersome, one day, he will stop asking.

  6. Build his buddy list
    Teach your child social behaviours like smiling at his friends (nobody likes a grouch!), not interrupting when they are talking, sharing his toys and talking nicely to them – no shouting and absolutely no hitting. Encourage your child to invite his friends home to play. Get to know your child’s friends’ parents too. This is handy if the children have fights and you need to help smooth things over.

    But what if your child is having difficulty making friends in class? You can give him a little more push by enrolling him in a group activitiy (eg. play group, drama class, etc) that allows him to play and work together with others in a nonthreatening, supervised environment.

    If your child is uncomfortable in big groups, try inviting children of the same age over for a play date or even offer to baby-sit. Help your child cultivate friendships with these children by arranging meet-ups on a regular basis.

How Much Is Too Much?

Ever heard the expression: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Well, some parents have and they take it a little too literally. While some children are too pampered, others are thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to start swimming. Immediately.

Dr Goh advises parents to strike a balance. “You need to discern when to protect and when to expose your child to certain challenges,” he says. “Protect your child but not to the point where you deprive him of any challenges. At the same time, don’t be overly harsh! There are certain situations that your child is simply too young to handle on his own. For instance, if your seven year old child is being physically abused by his teacher or bullied by gangs of older students in his school, it is important that we step in to help him deal with the situation.”

Subscribe to our parenting newsletter.