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Part of the Human Condition

Michael J. Montegut, PhD & Julia Lee Bottom of the Box, LLC

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Helen Keller

“Our kids aren’t resilient.” “They give up so easily.” “Our youth lack hope.” “Where’s the passion?”

We hear these statements from parents and educators all the time. Comments like these are usually followed by head-shaking and not much else. Strangely, almost nobody suggests much as a solution. If they do, we typically hear something like, “Those kids need to toughen up,” or “It’s just the way it is today,” or “It’s because of these damn devices.” We feel bad for teens who have to put up with such hopeless thinking, lacking in the very resilience that they stand accused of wanting.

Resilience is a combination of character traits and mindset that allows people to bounce back from setbacks and failures. When most people think of resilient people, they tend to think of folks who have survived the most difficult of circumstances, and this seems unnecessarily restrictive to us. There is also a tendency to think of resilience as something one either has or doesn’t, just like views on various types of intelligence and other character traits. We now know this is flawed thinking. People who believe that their abilities are malleable and can improve are said to have a growth mindset. These people do improve these traits over time (Schroder, H. S, et al., 2017), and they demonstrate greater resilience (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).

Psychologists and other professionals in the mental health and research fields have established that resilience is something that we all have [Seligman, 2013]. And this makes sense because, without fundamental resilience, the human race would likely not be where it is today. Only the dead have no resilience. Furthermore, studies show that resilience can be exercised and developed with targeted programs [Seligman, 2013; Montminy, 2016]. Some researchers study incredibly resilient people (those who survive and thrive after terrible setbacks, like terminal disease, devastating loss, and other crushing traumas) and highlight commonalities like hopefulness, realistic optimism, gratitude, social networks and willingness to lean on others, and other character traits [Feldman & Kravetz, 2015].

Experts rightly point out that over-parenting in the modern age with the helicoptering, concierge, and tiger parenting likely leads to a lack of resilience [Lythcott-Haims, 2015]. And given that we are highly social beings, it makes sense that our relationships can contribute or not to our resilience. Our parent/child relationships are arguably among the most important in our lives. It is in the crucible of this relationship that we learn what is possible in life and where we find our most important role models. Teachers/student relationships are another set of meaningful connections with the power to provide behavior and attitude modeling. These two groups, parents and teachers, need to be actively involved in bolstering and exercising our children’s resilience.

Resilience is an aspect of the human condition, and just like with a range of talents, one can exercise the character components of resilience and increase resilience and overall well being in the individual. Resilience falls under the umbrella of those personality traits positively affected by a growth mindset [Schroder et al., 2017]. This positive psychology concept says that, rather than being locked into a fixed set of abilities, many aspects of ourselves can be developed and grown with persistence and appropriate exercises. And that is what Bottom of the Box, LLC is all about. We are here to help you, your children, and their teachers all to exercise character traits that result in a greater overall sense of hope and resilience.

Feldman D. B. & Kravetz L. D., (2015). Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link between Suffering and Success.

Random House India. Lythcott-Haims J., (2015). How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for

Success. Pan Macmillan UK. Montminy, Z., (2016). 21 Days to Resilience: How to Transcend the Daily Grind, Deal with the Tough Stuff, and

Discover Your Strongest Self. HarperCollins, New York. Schroder, H. S., Yalch, M. M., Dawood, S., Callahan, C. P., Donnellan, M. B., & Moser, J. S., (2017). Growth

mindset of anxiety buffers the link between stressful life events and psychological distress and coping strategies. Personality and Individual Differences, 110, 23-16. Schroder, H. S., Fisher, M. E., Lin, Y., Lo, S. L., Danovitch, J. H., & Mosera J. S., (2017). Neural evidence for

enhanced attention to mistakes among school-aged children with a growth mindset. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 42-50.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2013). Flourish: a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. First Atria, New

York. Yeager D. S. & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets That Promote Resilience: When Students Believe That Personal

Characteristics Can Be Developed. Educational Psychologist, 47:4, 302-314.

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