Building Resilience in Children

How can I Build Resilience in my Child?

Resilience in children is topical at the moment. There is concern that children are growing up without the important life skills to cope with challenges. Parents worry that their child can’t easily bounce back from adversity. Parents want to know how to help their children to become more resilient.

There is no simple recipe for this. The answer is complex and begins in infancy.  The key lies at home with loving parents that can give their child boundaries, structure, rules, challenges and strategies. However, outside the home there are activities that can aid in building resilience in children. Judo is one such activity.

How can learning judo help my child to become more resilient?

At its heart, judo is an individual sport. Whilst we practice in a club group and have a strong supportive club spirit, when it comes to competition one player stands alone and faces another player to test their skills. This may sound simple, but it is not. It takes great strength of spirit and confidence in oneself to do this. It goes without saying that one will not always win. But judo players test themselves again and again in this way to better themselves knowing that they may lose. Knowing that losing is okay. Knowing that losing helps them to learn and improve. When children can practice this way in a supportive environment it builds great resilience and strength of spirit.

Judo allows children to make mistakes and learn from mistakes. Judo is a thinking game. It requires both physical and mental strength. It requires players to problem solve. Every time a child practices they make choices and decisions:

“Which technique works best against this type of opponent?”

“What would happen if I tried this move?”

”Why did my opponent move that way?”

Thinking independently and making decisions is important. Assessing the outcome either positive or negative is also important.

“That technique didn’t work because I was moving in the wrong direction – next time I’ll try it this way.”

“My opponent moved faster than me and was able to avoid my attack. I need to work more on speed when I practice.”

Being able to make decisions and to accept and analyse the outcome builds resilience and confidence.

Judo is not a one season sport. It takes many years to master and to progress through the grading system. It involves delayed gratification. Many children become frustrated with a difficult activity. They lose interest and give-up quickly. The ability to master a skill and to work through challenges towards a goal helps to build emotional maturity in children. Judo helps children to learn to work through difficult tasks over time. Judo teaches patience. Judo teaches delayed gratification. Judo teaches that things can be better in time. This is key to resilience.

Learning to manage emotions is also a powerful part of judo. Children learn to recognise their emotions. They learn to harness them and to use them for positive outcomes. In a supportive class environment children learn through experience that acting when angry, frustrated or scared leads to negative outcomes. They are coached on how to recognise these emotions and how to manage their feelings and behaviors for better outcomes. As in everyday life, without these skills one cannot reach one’s full potential.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Without a doubt if, you spoke with any judo teacher they could detail many other ways in which judo can help develop resilience and strength of spirit. Judo cannot replace the role of parents, families and educators in building resilience in children. It can however, be a powerful tool in helping children to become more resilient.