MEMBER WELLBEING: Tough vs Resilient

Tough (adj) able to endure hard­ship or pain, strong and prone to vio­lence.

Resilient (adj) able to with­stand or recov­er quick­ly from dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.

When rais­ing our young peo­ple, it is some­times easy to get con­fused between the mean­ing of the above two words.  Yet, the mean­ings are very clear.

One (tough) means that we are rais­ing our young to endure things which if inflict­ed by a stranger, we would be out­raged and seek­ing ret­ri­bu­tion.  The oth­er (resilient) means that we are rais­ing a young per­son who has enough resources in their tool box to bounce back from what life may throw at them.

Par­ents who aim to raise ‘tough’ chil­dren, often use the lan­guage fail­ure, dis­ap­point­ment, hard­en up or it’s all in your head, tough­en up. Par­ents who raise resilient chil­dren are more like­ly to use lan­guage which acknowl­edges hard­ship and dif­fi­cul­ties and encour­ages reflec­tion upon dis­ap­point­ments or fail­ures as oppor­tu­ni­ties from which to learn and grow.

Young peo­ple who are raised to be tough, are often taught that their emo­tions and fears are irrel­e­vant.  That what is sup­posed to be their safe place to run to in times of dif­fi­cul­ties or dis­tress (their par­ents and men­tors) are not safe.  These young peo­ple are more like­ly to inter­nalise their emo­tion­al states and are more like­ly to have low self-esteem and expe­ri­ence poor men­tal health in adult­hood, lack con­fi­dence or turn to risky behav­iours such as alco­hol or drugs and self-harm to man­age what they have been told is irrel­e­vant, their feel­ings and fears.

Young peo­ple who are resilient still make mis­takes and still fail.  How­ev­er, they are more like­ly to own their mis­takes, devel­op healthy prob­lem-solv­ing skills, have con­fi­dence in them­selves and those around them and know that when life does send them a curve ball, then can pick them­selves up and dust them­selves off and they can turn to adults who are safe and pre­dictable in their behav­iours for com­fort and sup­port.

Com­pet­i­tive sports can be fun and a great place to learn and devel­op life skills, life­long friend­ships and resilience.  It is not a place to teach our young peo­ple to be tough, life will even­tu­al­ly do that for them as they enter into adult­hood.

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

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