In a recent post I identified four specific ways a job at Chick-fil-A builds character and instills positive values in the lives of teenagers and young adults:
- It helps them develop a healthy work ethic.
- It teaches them to cultivate resilience; this doesn’t come automatically in today’s culture.
- It shows them the importance of developing a seasonal growth mindset and becoming a life-long learner.
- It requires them to go “the extra mile” and deliver world-class customer service.
In today’s post, we will discuss the importance of cultivating resilience. This is a trait we saw a lot more of in previous generations. Think about it—if you grew up during the Great Depression or World War II, you had to be resilient in order to survive. It wasn’t something most people had to intentionally cultivate because it was woven in to the fabric of society. But in today’s modern world, where everything is extremely convenient and less is expected of young people, resilience is a trait that often falls by the wayside. In its place, we are raising a generation that is alarmingly dependent on anti-anxiety medication, “safe spaces,” emotional support animals, and more. Many believe it is actually an inherent “right” to never have their feelings hurt.
Now, please understand, I am not mocking anyone who has a legitimate medical condition and may need these things. However, I believe the world we live in is actually the cause of the rise in these and other medical conditions that were outliers a generation ago. In other words, much of the disorders our kids are being diagnosed with is a result of the world we have created, and, rather than encouraging our kids to rise above difficulties that are a natural part of life, we’ve sought to lower the bar and make life easier for them. This may have seemed like the most loving thing to do at the time, but it has produced a generation of kids who don’t know how to do basic things and aren’t interested in learning. Their feelings get hurt far too easily and they give up too quickly rather than attempting to find solutions for their own problems.
Eventually, these kids leave mom and dad’s house and go off to college, but they struggle to function on their own. Minor things throw them. They need to call Mom or Dad multiple times a day to reassure them that they are going to be okay. As one research professor put it: Declining student resilience is a serious problem for colleges, as personnel everywhere struggle with students’ increased neediness (see footnote for source). Their lack of resilience has made them overly dependent on their parents—not just in college, but well into adulthood. Can you imagine what our world will look like when this generation has to raise children of their own?
Okay, now that we have painted a bleak but necessary picture of what our world will look like if we don’t help our children cultivate resilience, let’s focus on the positive by asking ourselves how we can do this. Here are a few ways I believe we can help this generation—and the generations that follow—cultivate resilience so they don’t become another statistic:
- Let them solve their own problems (to an age-appropriate extent). Rather than rushing in to save the day when your child encounters the slightest difficulty, let them sit with their frustration. This will force them to be creative (which they are!) and come up with their own solution. A good response when they vent their frustrations is, “I’m sorry you’re experiencing that. It must be really frustrating. What are you going to do about it?”
- Don’t (always) bail them out of difficult situations. There may be times when your kids get themselves in over their head and they just need a break. However, this should be the exception rather than the rule. Too many young people get bailed out by Mom and Dad over and over—for the same thing! If you continue doing this, all you are teaching them is that you will bail them out. You aren’t teaching them to make wise choices so they avoid the mess in the first place!
- Teach them to “agree to disagree.” Society has taught us in recent years that if another person doesn’t believe exactly what we believe, they can’t be trusted. This produces much stress and anxiety, as we try to make sure those closest to us believe the same things we do. We have created a culture where we are intolerant of disagreements and no longer know how to have healthy debates. I used to call having healthy debates “adult conversations” but have abandoned this phrase as I see way too many adults acting like children these days. We either shut down the relationship or end up in a full-blown screaming match (often using our keyboards instead of our voices). It isn’t healthy to write someone off just because we disagree with them on something. Refusing to do so will build resilience in relationships.
- Cultivate delayed gratification. I truly believe this is the single greatest predictor of success. If a person has the ability to delay gratification they will have the resilience to endure things that are a process and take time. Life is full of things that require process, but we often attempt to circumnavigate the process and get to the end result faster. However, it is the process itself that leads to healthy growth, emotional intelligence, and resilience. When our kids want something, we almost always make them save up their own money to buy it by doing chores around the farm. Not only does this keep them from becoming entitled, they will appreciate what they have and care for it better because they bought it with their own money, and the process of saving itself is teaching them lessons in delayed gratification and resilience behind the scenes.
Zach Thomas is an entrepreneur, Chick-fil-A franchisee, business/life coach, public speaker, blogger, and author of Leader Farming: Growing Leaders to Grow Your Business. His next book, Pioneer Parenting: A Guide for Raising Kids in Uncharted Territory, is expected to release in 2020. Download a free preview chapter at www.pioneerparenting.org/about.