Resiliency and Tenacity

May 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

by Hollee Freeman

Does resiliency and tenacity run in families? How does one cultivate this in children? What does a parent do when it is not readily apparent?

There’s a lot to be said for inner strength, a third eye, a gut feeling…but how do you strengthen your resiliency muscle? How do you make yourself keep going when it is so easy to give up. How do you avoid not becoming paralyzed in order get back up on your roller skates even though you’ve fallen countless times.

I began writing this blog post as a way to make sense of my 11 year old daughter’s (seeming) inability to be resilient in some situations. She is on the opposite end of ‘the eye of the tiger’ and would most times rather ‘give up and go along’ just to avoid having to really struggle with something.

As a teacher, I pushed students to ‘try again’ and encouraged them to love the process of learning and doing with phrases and pedagogical approaches that highlighted the fact that the process is as important as an answer.

When my daughter was seven, she began to complain that she didn’t enjoy reading and in her words: “wasn’t good at it”. This declaration hurt me to the core as a parent and as a teacher. I shook my head in disbelief thinking that she must mean that she doesn’t want to read. Was it because she was being asked to read more complicated texts? In all of this, I was worried that my child was not interested in being challenged particularly when she felt that the task was too difficult (in this instance, too many words on a page). I worried that she was not enough of a learner to enjoy the process of learning.

The teacher in me kicked in and I started a book club with three mother/daughter pairs. I used my daughter’s high social skills as an entrée into book discussions with her friends who were also social AND very engaged in the process of reading and discussing books. This idea paid off and five years later we are still reading amazing books and having amazingly complex conversations as a group even though we currently live in different states.

Although quite the reader  now, my daughter defaults, more often than not, to “I can’t” and “ I just don’t want to, Mom”. This disposition continues to be distressing to me as a teacher who prides herself with instilling in students a sense of being a learner (of loving the learning process). It’s distressing to me as a parent because I want her to be resilient and tenacious. I often wonder how much I can push her as a parent and how much I would push her if she was my student.

There have been successes – conquering choir rehearsal, trying out for the school soccer team, taking a series of assessments for a specialized project-based school. She seems to be trying and working through experiences which are difficult and to which she has a goal. This is a very different disposition that what I have experienced with her over the past several years.

Perhaps she needed time and something to really care about.

Perhaps she needed a mother who would not give up on her.

Perhaps she needed a teacher who would give her space to grow.

Perhaps she was a learner all along but had a different timeline than what I wanted as a parent.

Tenacity is imperative if she is to achieve anything worth having. However, being resilient and being able to get up after falling on roller skates is the biggest life lesson of all. I probably can use that lesson myself.

Dr. Hollee Freeman ’94  writes about parenting issues for the Bank Street Alumni Blog. She was featured  on the BSCAA Career Panel ” What  do I do with my Master’s in Education?” held on April 20, 2012. 

Entry filed under: inspiration, parenting. Tags: , .

You Can turn No Into Yes and Other Lessons Learned Experiential Learning: Play by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

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