Is your child being bullied by other children? Your school has a fix for that. Is your child struggling to understand mathematics? Your school has an answer for that. Is your child having trouble getting along with the class teacher? Your school knows what’s wrong.
So what is this magical cure-all?
If your child is being bullied, they just need to be more resilient. If your child is having difficulties with mathematics, they just need to be more resilient. If your child is not coping with the class teacher, they just need to be more resilient.
Schools love to use resilience as an answer to anything. Yes, children need to learn to be resilient. Unfortunately, the true meaning of resilience has been lost in the easy fix-it of putting any problem back on the child.
These days, the use of resilience in schools has come to mean:
“I really don’t want to have to deal with those kids’ parents. Can’t your child just put up with it?”
“I really don’t have time to go over everything again. Can’t your child just work harder?”
“I really don’t want to adjust my teaching methods to suit your child. Can’t they just get along?”
When my eldest child was seven years old, I went to pick him up from school and a parent informed me there had been an incident during a Physical Education class and I should go and talk to the supervising teacher. Apparently my son had screamed and cried at a group of boys who had been teasing him about his skipping abilities.
The teacher’s advice? “He just needs to be more resilient.”
What this teacher didn’t know and obviously didn’t care about, was that my son had been subjected to teasing by these same boys every day for several months. We had not reported it to the school, preferring to work with him to help him navigate and deal with the situation. We knew he would encounter difficult people all his life and we were trying to teach him strategies. Clearly, on this day, he’d had enough. Who could blame him?
It always astounds me that the kind of treatment our schools expect small children to endure in the name of resilience, were that same treatment to be meted out to a teacher by colleagues, would result in disciplinary action against the perpetrators for harassment.
Too often schools seem to think that being resilient means a child should not feel anger, sadness or frustration. But that is not the meaning of resilience. Resilience does not mean that we do not suffer hurt, confusion or doubt as a result of a situation. What it does mean is that we go on and try again, even when we do.
“Why do we fall down, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Alfred, Batman Begins
A resilient child gets up and goes to school each day even while knowing they will be teased. A resilient child sits down to do their mathematics homework even while knowing that it will be difficult. A resilient child continues to try and communicate with the class teacher even while knowing they will not be understood.
I look at my eldest son now, ten years later, and I see a young man who loves school and has a large circle of friends. Has he got to this place by compromising who he is? By hiding his true self so as to fit in? By ignoring his feelings? No. He is still the same beautiful, quirky, sensitive soul he was when he was seven. He has just given the world time to recognise that and accept it.
That is resilience.