Building resilience in kids

Friday, 29 Oct 2021

By Rebecca Sparrow 

At some point as a parent, we’re going to hear one of those statements from our kids:

  • I’m not in the team.
  • I wasn’t chosen for the squad.
  • They didn’t pick me for the play.
  • I missed out on a leadership position.
  • I didn’t get the award.

It’s agonising for them (and for us). Seeing our kids go through heartache and disappointment is one of the worst parts of parenting.

BUT those moments of missing out are also hugely important.

I remember several years ago the time my then nine-year-old daughter wanted to get into the school netball team. #Spoileralert – she didn’t get in.  

My little wing attack was trying out for a netball team to play in an inter-school competition. She really wanted a spot in the team. Like really. But truth be told her chances of getting in were slim at best. She was up against kids in the years above her. And kids who've been playing netball longer than she had been and, if we're being honest, much more skilled on the court.

We talked about all that - talked it through -- but she still wanted to throw her hat in the ring knowing disappointment was on the cards. And I was proud of her for that.

Now here's the weird bit.

As much as I really, really wanted her to score a place in the team, I also hoped she didn't.

Does that sound cruel? Possibly.

But here's the thing... I wanted my daughter to build up her resilience muscle. And the fact is, experiencing these inevitable, small disappointments and losses are good for her. It's helped her develop some grit. It's teaches her how to handle disappointments and life - as WE ALL KNOW, RIGHT? - is a rollercoaster of triumphs and tragedies, wins and losses.

My daughter was only nine at the time. She has years ahead of dealing with heartbreak. There'll be other sporting or debating or drama teams she misses out on. School competitions where she bombs out or fails to be awarded a place. There'll be teachers she doesn't gel with. Assignments or tests where she's disappointed with her mark. Parties she's not invited to. Badges or leadership positions she fails to secure.

Does it hurt? Absolutely. Is it sometimes unfair? Sure.

But that's school, right? Actually, that's life.

And life is joyous and wonderful and thrilling, and it will also stomp your heart into the ground when you least expect it.

In school, you'll miss out on a certain role or a position or a badge. In life, you miss out on jobs and promotions and second dates. (This is another reason why team sports are so good because no amount of bubble-wrap parenting can save your child from team losses or unfair calls and they have to learn to accept those moments with good grace.)

Sometimes you really aren't the best person for the job or role or place. Sometimes the school or coach or employer gets it wrong.

In a 2015 column called "Want To Raise A Successful Kid? Let Them Fail' clinical psychologist Dr Stephanie O'Leary outlines five benefits kids experience from failure. You can read the full article here.

At the end of the day, we want our kids to get comfortable with failure. We want them to learn how to feel the disappointment but then shrug it off knowing that tomorrow is a new day and that they have it within them to rise up and face challenges head on.

This article originally appeared at 

You might also be interested in Resilience is a teachable skill