by Dr Ray Swann

Building Resilience

A big parenting challenge is for us to know when our kids need to experience disappointment and failure, and when we need to intervene. Being a thinking partner rather than a problem solver is a good start.

So often I have found myself stepping in to ‘soften the blow’ or to jump into problem solving mode on their behalf. 

If we really look at it, when we prevent our kids from experiencing failure we can prevent them from building resilience. It is in our failures that we look at how we can re-resource ourselves.

In our failure we are invited to consider the kind of goal we set – was it realistic? Failure teaches us about perspective and what matters and in this, we learn how to re-frame things.

So as a parent, when we consider the challenges our boys face, we can ask ourselves: is this a good opportunity for learning about resilience (bearing in mind fairness, safety and health)?

If so, here are some of the things we can do:

Take a coaching approach
Ask questions that help your boy assess the size of the challenge, the impact and what next steps might involve. Be a thinking partner rather than a problem solver.

Help him to separate the ‘person and the behaviour’
Sometimes when we face disappointment, it is hard not to see it as a personal thing. But helping your son understand that outcomes and processes are not the same thing. A really helpful word to add to the end of a restrictive sentence is ‘yet’. I can’t do this – yet!

Help him to stay connected to you, the family and his friends
Sometimes boys see goal acquisition as a requirement of belonging or a way to prove their masculinity. They will try to do achieve things and if they don’t, they will be rejected or be on the outer. Validate his feelings by listening and giving time to enable him to express them.

Align the challenge to his own values and beliefs.
Did he act according to how he wishes to express himself? Was he proud he had a go and tried? In this, you are helping him to understand the value of being the ‘man in the arena’ as President Roosevelt suggested over 100 years ago.


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Dr Ray Swann is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Positive Masculinity. Father of two and host of the Understanding Boys podcast, his professional background includes consulting, research, lecturing and coaching. This article is about


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