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17 Seconds

Posted on February 5th, 2016

Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to change. Or, as Webster’s dictionary states, it is the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens.  Let’s take a minute and think about how we can begin to instill resilience in our children. We may sometimes think that our little ones are too young for such life lessons, but this is the perfect time to begin. 

When a child is facing a difficult task such as dressing, completing an activity or learning a new sport, we can be tempted to jump immediately in and do it for them. Next time, before you jump in to help, try waiting 17 seconds. Research has shown that the average person can’t go more than 17 seconds without interrupting a conversation. Therefore, it has been suggested that just a mere 17 seconds is the perfect amount of time for young ones to work through their frustration and complete the task at hand. Along the way, be sure to praise and hug them for their efforts. Adopting this approach can begin to build resilience in your child and shows them you are rooting for them. In addition, it can help them internalize a sense of their own potential that will serve them well when they encounter their next challenge.

Sam Goldstein Ph.D. a child psychologist and co-author of Raising Resilient Children, states, “ You have to experience the ups and the downs to develop a sense of self, to have islands of confidence, to have things you believe you’re good at and use to carry you along. You can’t only have success.”  Goldstein’s words reinforce the 17-second technique to building resilient children. To learn more on resilience from Dr. Goldstein, click here

Here are a few simple interactions that will help build resilience in your child:

  • Do not give your child every physical thing they desire (toys, food, clothes, etc.), even if everyone else has it. This robs your child of learning important life skills.
  • Allow for mistakes and see the value in trying.
  • Encourage a positive attitude, especially when they are doing chores.
  • Share new experiences that will get your child out of their comfort zone, such as trying a new food or playing with different playmates.
  • Help manage emotions by letting them know that all emotions are acceptable. Let them talk about their feelings and think about what to do next.
  • Determine your child’s strengths and help develop them.
  • Never judge or criticize your child; accepting your child for who they are is a good way to build resilience

If we want our children to be ready for the future, we must continue helping them to be confident and resilient. Resilient children will become resilient adults, able to thrive and be strong through life’s ups and downs.

Remember don’t prepare the path for the child; prepare the child for the path.


Cynthia Burnett
Head of Preschool 


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