People often ask me what I believe to be the biggest mistake that parents are making today. Without hesitation, my answer is always the same: parents don’t let their kids struggle.
Instead, they intervene when the going gets tough, throw down a safety net and prevent their kids from learning how to cope with important emotions like pain, self-doubt, unworthiness, embarrassment and shame.
Subsequently, we’re left with a generation of youth who are unable to cope with the slightest of challenges and intolerant of unintentionally offensive transgressions.
Essentially we’re raising a generation of oversensitive sissies. And it’s time we give them the tools they need to be resilient.
Resilience is best understood as the ability to bounce back strong, healthy or successful after experiencing an adverse event. And it turns out that there is one major key to boosting resilience and we all do it every day: thinking.
Here’s what I mean: Thoughts cause emotions, and emotions matter in determining who remains resilient and who succumbs.
When we experience an adversity, there is a resulting emotional or behavioral consequence. For example: I failed my big exam so now I will drown my sorrows by devouring a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
But the reality is that the sequence above skips a CRUCIAL step in understanding how to become resilient. THIS is how we really experience adversity:
This is known as Albert Ellis’ ABC Model. Ellis, a world renowned psychologist, understood that we have the power to interpret adversity in a variety of ways—and depending on the interpretation we choose, we will wind up with completely different outcomes. Some interpretations lead to wallowing and self-indulgence, while others lead to resilience and stability.
Now let’s go back and apply the ABC model to the example of failing my exam. If I believe that I failed the exam because I am unintelligent and incapable, and will never be smart enough to pass an exam in the future, that’s precisely what prompts me to reach for the Ben and Jerry’s.
BUT- if I slow down and take a second to reality-check my thinking, I’m likely to experience a more resilient outcome. For example, if I reflect on my experience and come to realize that I failed because I didn’t study properly but can do better next time by making a few quick changes to my study habits, I am not overcome by despair. Instead, I feel hopeful and motivated to do better next time, and subsequently continue studying instead of reaching for the ice cream.
Now we can see that it’s not the adversity itself that leads to negative consequences, but the way in which we think about the adversity in the first place.
The ABC model is one of the easiest thinking tools to implement in order to build resiliency—in youth and adults! Next time you find yourself grappling with adversity, practice using the ABC model in order to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and bounce back strong!