Updated: Nov 20, 2021
As many a teacher will testify, when it comes to conquering adversity and effectively addressing challenging situations, children today struggle. While most parents would agree that ultimately, they want to see their children grow into respectful, responsible adults, psychologist John Rosemond wisely includes resourceful in the list. Resourceful individuals are able to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties; to effectively surmount adverse situations. Who wouldn't want that for their children? But simply wanting children to be resourceful will not make it so. Imparting all three attributes requires modeling consistent, clear expectations for children and requiring active participation from children. Therein lies the challenge. A vast number of daily tasks require little more than the pushing of buttons and is understandably the impression formed by many children. ATM's, elevators, microwaves, cell phones, TV's, and blow dryers are but a few of the many push-button devices we take for granted.
When daily routines go undisturbed, there is relatively little need to apply conscious, deliberate, resourcefulness. That is until the unexpected happens. At those moments, our lack of personal resourcefulness may cause a sudden onslaught of negative emotions ranging from moderate panic to total despair. It is during these occasions that we are reminded just how beneficial resourcefulness can be. Nonetheless, once the immediate crisis is resolved, it often becomes nothing more than an interesting story to share with others but does not necessarily lead to consciously promoting resourcefulness in our children.
There are many parents today who believe that it is their job to protect their children from adversity. Going the extra mile to ensure that children are happy, comfortable, and entertained has become an accepted, if not expected, mode of operation. This mindset negates the most essential ingredient needed to build resourcefulness - opportunity. To learn to be resourceful, children must have regular opportunities to face and conquer adversity.
So, what can parents do to promote resourcefulness in their children? During their formative years, it is in witnessing their parents and other adults solve problems that the foundation is laid for developing resourcefulness. Before age 3, it is a matter of children watching their parents and caregivers being deliberately resourceful in everyday situations and talking through the problem-solving process with the children present. What may be seemingly inconsequential to an adult is anything but that to a growing child.
Examples of teachable moments that highlight resourcefulness to young children include:
1. Having children observe the relocating of a wilted potted plant to a more suitable location, making sure they also observe the process (over time) of the plant beginning to thrive again
2. Having children observe a parent using a plunger to unstop a toilet
3. Using baking soda as toothpaste when regular toothpaste is unavailable
By age 3, children should be the ones moving the potted plants, using a plunger (with adult assistance) and requesting baking soda when there is no toothpaste available. Such expectations not only teach resourcefulness, but also empower children to recognize their own ability to problem-solve.
One of the best and easiest ways to promote resourcefulness in children is to ask the following question after a mishap occurs: What do you think you need to do now? Simply ask the question and wait. The power lies in providing the child time to think about the question and articulate a response (“Get a paper towel and clean it up,” “I think I should move the plant,” etc.).
As children move toward the pre-teen/teen years, parental leadership needs to include more guidance and less authoritative leadership. The question, “What do you think you need to do now?” sends a message to an older child that their parent(s):
recognize that they are in the process maturing
are open to listening to their suggestions
have confidence in their ability to address/solve problems
are willing to assist/guide/compromise when warranted
Asking the question, “What do you think you need to do now?” also allows children to actively participate in resourceful problem-solving. When asked on a regular basis, children come to expect the question. Over time, as they become more reflective, they begin to independently initiate problem-solving suggestions without being asked; proof that resourcefulness can indeed be developed.
Finally, teaching children how to be resourceful can lead to an increase in self-confidence, a decrease in fearfulness, improvement in academic performance and an overall sense of well-being, all benefits that will serve them well throughout life.
What do you think you need to do now?
©Sharon Knapp Lamberth, October 3, 2021