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How Kids Learn Resilience?

I couldn’t help but share this amazing article that I just came across in The Atlantic. The article is titled “How Kids Learn Resilience” by Paul Tough in their June 2016 issue. The article  hits home for me having spent the past 4-5 years in the educational world working with students and families with mental health needs.

The article discusses how to teach and foster “noncognitive skills” or “character strengths; including resilience, conscientiousness, optimism, self control and grit” to students who have histories of adversity. The article discusses the importance of instilling intrinsic motivation in this population and helping them foster a sense of academic perseverance. So what do all these terms really mean!?


See below for a few highlights from the article;


“If we want students to act in ways that will maximize their future opportunities—to persevere through challenges, to delay gratification, to control their impulses—we need to consider what might motivate them. What Deci and Ryan’s research suggests is that students will be more likely to display these positive academic habits when they are in an environment where they feel a sense of belonging, independence, and growth—or, to use Deci and Ryan’s language, where they experience relatedness, autonomy, and competence.”

“What makes a student persevere in any given classroom on any given day? Farrington’s answer is that it depends on his academic mind-set: the attitudes and self-perceptions and mental representations that are bouncing around inside his head.”

“Farrington has distilled this voluminous mind-set research into four key beliefs that, when embraced by students, seem to contribute most significantly to their tendency to persevere in the classroom:


1. I belong in this academic community.

2. My ability and competence grow with my effort.

3. I can succeed at this.
4. This work has value for me.”


The challenges that come with this argument is that students who have histories of adversity have  often been exposed to environments convincing them that they don’t belong, that adults are out to get them, and that they are set up for failure. Teachers, staff, therapists, any of those who work with these students may be fighting an uphill battle when they initially encounter students with these mindsets. However, this research provides hope around how to design new environments for these students that allow for the creation of a more healthy mind-set, one that fosters a sense of perseverance, grit, resiliency, and self-control.

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