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Building resiliency in youth: Dare to let them fail

Last Modified: June 03, 2024

Family Medicine, Healthy Mind


This post was written by Lainie Moore, MCJ, programs supervisor, Home Base Division Case Management, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute.

What trials and tribulations would you like your child to go through? It seems like a strange question because parents should want their children to live happy lives, right? They want to protect them from anything that might make them feel depressed or anxious, from school-induced stress to a devastating heartbreak after a first love, to the hardships experienced all around the world. What kind of parent would want their child to struggle or fail at anything?

I would argue that a parent who is actively building resiliency in their child will. Bad things happen, and things get difficult sometimes. It’s an unavoidable fact of life. So how do we raise youth prepared to face these unavoidable struggles with resiliency?

The fall and the rise

Imagine you’re watching your child learn to ride a bike again. Remember that first hard fall? How did you respond? Did you run and scoop your child up in your arms and get rid of the bike while he slept? Did you put the training wheels back on? Or did you pick him up, help him get back on the bike and hold onto the handlebars to provide just the right amount of subtle support for him to keep going?

This is a simple but perfect example of a parent building or inhibiting resiliency in their child. Two important things must occur in this situation for it to successfully build resiliency. First, your kid must fall. They must fail. Second, they must see that the act of falling is not the end and that they can get back up and continue.

The parent who takes the bike away instills avoidance and maybe even shame in their child. The parent who puts the training wheels back on instills in their child that they will always need support and they can’t do it on their own. The parent who helps them back on the bike, but keeps a subtle grip instills in their child that he can do it and he won’t need the support forever.

Timing is everything

Through these situations, in which children are allowed and even expected to fail, they build resilience. As a parent, it’s important to remember to give them time, and to know when to listen and how to respond. Give your child the time to process their failure, feel it and accept it. Listen with open ears and non-judgment; don’t try to solve the problem. When responding, be sure to use language that shows you know your child is capable and will overcome this challenge. Avoid language that conveys doubt. Being mindful of what and how you say things during this time in your child’s life, can make all the difference in how they address difficult situations.

Resilience is learned and should be actively cultivated in children by their caregivers. Allow them to participate in activities and situations that may not work out. Allow them the chance to feel failure and pain now, so they are equipped to face challenges on their own when they reach adulthood.       

If you would like more information or guidance on encouraging resiliency in your children, call 260-471-9440 or visit to learn how Parkview Behavioral Health Institute can help.

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