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Teaching Our Kids To Be Resilient with Dr. Dona Matthews (Ep 110)

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Resilience is critical for success! Raising resilient kids is the goal, and yet, we seem to be seeing kids feel less resilient, less confident, and less capable. Today, we’re going to fix that! Last week, we had the incredible Dr. Dona Matthews, PhD, with us, discussing how to help our kids choose happiness and raise happier kids. This week, we’re shifting gears and diving into the topic of raising resilient kids.

Now, what I love about all of this is that, let’s face it, there are already a million things we’re trying to get right as parents. And the idea of adding a long list of more things to do sounds daunting. But here’s the surprisingly beautiful part: there’s a remarkable alignment between raising happy kids and resilient kids.

So, my suggestion? Go back to episode 109 , listen to my chat with Dr. Matthews about raising happy kids, and then let’s continue the conversation about raising resilient kids.

Meet Dr. Donna Matthews PhD

Dr. Donna Matthews has dedicated her career to understanding the optimal development of children. With a background in psychology and education, she has taught at universities in both Canada and the US, ran a private practice focused on gifted and special needs children, and served as the founding director of the Hunter College Center for Gifted Studies and Education in New York.

Dr. Matthews is the author of several books, including her most recent work, “Imperfect Parenting: How to Build a Relationship with Your Children to Weather Any Storm.

Building Resilience Brick by Brick

Resilience isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the secret sauce that helps our kiddos weather life’s storms with grace and grit. But here’s the kicker—it’s not just about bouncing back from setbacks; it’s about embracing challenges as opportunities for growth. Dr. Matthews unveils the power of resilience, showing us that it’s not about shielding our kids from adversity but equipping them with the tools they need to tackle life’s twists and turns head-on.

So, instead of swooping in to save the day at the first sign of trouble, empower your kiddos to embrace the journey, knowing that each hurdle they face is a stepping stone to resilience. Whether it’s navigating a tough math problem or navigating friendship drama, teach your kiddos that resilience isn’t just a skill; it’s a superpower that empowers them to thrive in the face of adversity.

The Power of the Growth Mindset

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade—or so the saying goes. But what if I told you there’s more to it than just making lemonade? Dr. Matthews shines a light on the power of the growth mindset, showing us that it’s not just about turning setbacks into success stories; it’s about embracing failure as a stepping stone to growth.

So, the next time your kiddo faces a challenge, encourage them to shift their perspective from “I can’t” to “I can’t yet.” Remind them that mistakes are simply opportunities for growth and that setbacks are just detours on the road to success. By fostering a growth mindset in our kiddos, we’re not just teaching them to tackle challenges head-on; we’re empowering them to thrive in the face of adversity.

Breaking Free from the Blame Game

Ah, the blame game—a classic in the world of parenting. We’re dishing out some serious truth bombs on how to tackle blame and entitlement head-on because blame is a word that carries weight, conjuring images of finger-pointing and deflection. Dr. Matthews delves into the toxic nature of blame, revealing how it poisons our relationships and stifles our growth. Instead of playing the blame game, she advocates for a shift in perspective—a shift towards personal responsibility and growth.

So, the next time your kiddo slips into the blame game, take a step back and challenge their mindset. Encourage them to see setbacks as learning opportunities rather than assigning fault. By fostering a culture of accountability and resilience, we’re not just raising happy kids; we’re sculpting resilient little humans who know how to navigate life’s challenges with grace and empathy.

Letting Our Kids Do Hard Things

Let’s delve into a crucial aspect of parenting: allowing our children to confront challenges without our immediate intervention. Imagine this scenario: your child is grappling with a particularly demanding homework assignment or facing a plate of vegetables they vehemently dislike. The knee-jerk reaction might be to swoop in and alleviate their distress.

However, here’s the reality check: by stepping back and letting our children navigate these tough situations independently, we’re providing them with an invaluable opportunity to cultivate resilience. It’s akin to handing them the reins to confront life’s obstacles with tenacity and fortitude. Instead of rushing to their aid, it’s essential to offer guidance from the sidelines while empowering them to take charge. Witnessing their ability to confront adversity head-on and emerge stronger reinforces their self-confidence and resilience for future challenges.

Adapting Parenting Styles

Last but certainly not least, Let’s delve into the ever-evolving landscape of parenting styles, a realm where adaptability reigns supreme. What may have worked like a charm during the toddler years may need some recalibration when faced with the complexities of teenage angst—and that’s not just acceptable; it’s downright essential.

As we navigate through the different stages of parenthood, we’re confronted with a myriad of challenges, each requiring its own unique approach. Whether we’re soothing the tempestuous tantrums of the terrible twos or guiding our adolescents through the tumultuous waters of adolescence, flexibility emerges as our most potent ally. It’s about embracing the unpredictable, messy moments of parenthood with open arms, recognizing that each phase brings its own set of trials and triumphs. By adapting our parenting styles to suit the ever-changing needs of our children, we empower them to flourish and thrive as the resilient individuals they’re destined to become.

In the whirlwind of parenting, it’s easy to get swept away by the daily challenges and triumphs. But amidst the chaos, one thing remains clear: the journey of raising resilient, happy children is as rewarding as it is unpredictable. Here’s to the messy, beautiful, and endlessly rewarding journey of parenthood—may we cherish every moment along the way.



Donna’s Website | Donna on Facebook

On Amazon: Imperfect Parenting: How to Build a Relationship With Your Child to Weather any Storm

I’d love to connect and know your thoughts on this episode. Find me on Instagram!


Ep 109 : Raising Happy Productive Kids with Dona Matthews PhD

Ep 107: Balancing Screen Time For Our Kids

Ep 21: Helping Our Kids Balance The Busy

Leah: [00:00:00] Welcome to Balancing Busy Podcast. I’m your host, Leah Remillet. If you missed last week’s episode, you might want to go back. Here’s why. We have Dr. Donna Matthews, PhD, back with us again. Last week, we talked all about. how to help our kids choose happiness, how to raise happier kids. This week we’re pivoting and we’re shifting and we’re talking about how to raise resilient kids.

Now, my favorite thing about all of this is that, I don’t know about you, but there’s already a million things I’m trying to do right. And being given a huge long list of more things to do, Sounds daunting, but this is actually surprisingly beautiful how much alignment there is between raising happy kids and resilient kids.

So I would say just go back one episode, listen to my episode from last week about raising happy kids. Helping them to [00:01:00] choose happiness. And now let’s continue the conversation and talk about raising resilient kids. Dr. Donna Matthews, PhD has worked with children, families, and schools since 1990. She taught psychology and education at universities in Canada and the U S.

She ran a private practice focused on gifted and other special needs for kids. She’s. Founding director of the Hunter College Center for Gifted Studies and Education at the City of University of New York, and has published dozens of articles, book chapters. She’s even authored seven books. Her most recent being Imperfect Parenting, How to Build a Relationship with Your Child to Weather Any Storm.

We don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be trying to make progress. And this episode is dedicated to that. It’s absolutely going to give you so many insights and just simple ways of thinking. I mean, I loved it. I could have gone on and on. So let me stop talking. Let’s jump into this episode [00:02:00] and let’s learn how we can better raise resilient kids.

 Welcome to the Balancing Busy podcast. We again get to have Dr. Donna Matthews with us. We already had one episode. It was so good. And I wanted to keep the conversation going. So this time we’re talking about resiliency and how we help our kids to be resilient, to bounce back when things are really hard.

Leah: And as [00:03:00] well as helping them to become those self reliant, happy. Well adjusted humans that one day we launch into society. So thank you so much for being with me again. It’s so good to have you. 

Dona: Pleasure. 

Leah: All right. All right. We want to jump right in because like, I just can’t wait to keep picking your brain.

So um, what, what is the best way to help our kids be resilient? Let’s just start there. Okay. And 

Dona: I’m going to answer identically to the way I answered when you asked about happiness. What’s the best way? Well, that makes 

Leah: life easier. We can cover happiness and resilience with the same strategies. I am here for 

Dona: that.

Well, and of course they’re so connected, right? A person in order to be happy, you have to be resilient. You have to, to manage the challenges that come along in a way. [00:04:00] Resiliency is bouncing back from problems. There’s no resiliency independently of problems, right? Like if everything’s going along easily, you know, right?

There’s no need to be resilient. So, um, so in order to support your children’s resilience over time, becoming resilient adults eventually, um, thing number one, As far as I’m concerned, is a loving, reliable family. So the family support. So the child knows they’re safe in the world and they’re valued. So that’s thing number one, connection.

Family connection. Thing number two is their physical well being. They’re getting enough sleep. They’re getting good nutrition. They’re getting lots of exercise. They’re spending lots of time outside. They’re, they’re, they’re getting better. [00:05:00] basic physical health needs are being taken care of, right? So if you’ve got that, that, and then of course, the next thing in terms of becoming resilient would, is learning how to manage failure and Because we all have, and you know, I can call it failure, problems, disappointments, bad things that happen in a life or things that feel bad.

Um, learning that you’re going to be fine, that you could do this. It’s not the end of the world. Exactly. And so for me, one of the best. Specific tools a parent can give their child is a growth mindset, which you mentioned earlier when we were talking about happiness, the, the, Understanding that mistakes are our best friends.

The best thing, [00:06:00] you know, people who view failures as learning opportunities, they are happier, they are more resilient, they thrive because when they experience a problem they don’t fall apart, they say, okay. What, what can I learn from this? They don’t look for somebody to blame. I’ve recently written about blame.

Leah: I read a lot of what you wrote about blame. And that was another direction that I was like, would love to go. Because I, I think that the blame game clearly is very toxic and completely. And I love that you wrote this and I agree with you wholeheartedly. It takes, it, it destroys the opportunity to learn a lesson.

We’re too focused on pointing a finger at someone. Then how do we learn and realize, okay, actually, I totally want to pause for a second and I want to go on a squirrel tangent because I do want to ask you about this because one of the things that I think we can all agree and recognize, okay, blame is not healthy and it’s not [00:07:00] helpful when we’re focused on blaming others, then we can’t see and recognize the changes that need to be made in ourselves, which it’s not just for that moment, it’s for the future, right?

If I figure out like, Oh, the reason this is happening is because I’m doing this. I can fix that and then feel better moving forward and not put myself in a loop. However, I think there are a lot of parents there, out there, and I have experienced this as well, where you have a kiddo who keeps making everything someone else’s fault, right?

The, you know, oh, the teacher didn’t grade the thing, that’s why my grade’s low. Oh, the kid didn’t let me do this, that’s why that happened. Oh, the coach didn’t give me the chance to do, right? Like, Everything is someone else’s fault. How do we help that kiddo who has gotten into a habit of blame, learn and recognize how to take that responsibility?

Dona: Well, you know, just as, uh, when we were talking about, [00:08:00] um, entitlement and gratitude, the, the, I, I view it as a learning opportunity if a kid I’m spending time with blames somebody. So I, I stop the conversation and I say, Oh, That’s interesting. Does that sound like blame? And you know, this is basically my grandkids that I’m having these conversations with these days.

And so they know what’s coming. You know, always, they call me Nonna, one of Nonna’s things. So, blame. As far as I’m concerned, it is toxic. It’s never okay. It’s never useful. Something bad happens. Okay, what can I learn from this? Yeah, maybe there’s a reason it happened outside of myself. I spilled my milk because somebody knocked into me.

Okay, well maybe next time I’m [00:09:00] going to put my milk up higher on the table so it’s not in the way. Like it’s, there’s always something to learn. Yeah, there’s other agents out there that might be contributing to the problem. You know, there always is something or someone you could blame if you wanted to go there, but it’s way more productive and, and way more conducive to a happy environment if instead of, uh, looking for who or what to blame, the child learns to say, Okay, this is about learning.

What can I learn? And it’s honestly, it’s just a habit of mind. So blame is a habit of mind. And you’re right. I mean, some kids for whatever reason of temperament or something, um, are way likelier to blame, and it’s sort of like an embedded habit for them. They can’t seem to own it. [00:10:00] And, and so as a parent or a grandparent, you can work with that child.

Some kids actively resist it. And in those cases, like sort of a hard case of blaming, and I’ve seen those kids, I’ve worked with those kids. Um, Therapy may be required and useful, you know, that you may need professional help. I, I think it’s important enough to look for that because blame and entitlement are, are like integrated parts of a whole, part of the same thing.

And so, um, and they, they, you know, again, speaking about the research on child development, They don’t lead to good, healthy, happy, eventual outcomes. They are legitimate problems. They may seem like small, [00:11:00] irritating problems to you as a parent, but, but they’re actually worth attending to and getting professional help if you need to.

Leah: That’s really good to know that that these are signs that over time Become something that that really can cause pain for them throughout their whole life. Absolutely. Yeah, I I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve had lots of conversations with my kids In fact, we were all having a conversation about this Over the weekend about, uh, something had happened and someone instantly went to, well, who are we blaming?

And, and I was talking to them about, I was saying, I was like, I get. I get why people try to blame because typically something has gone wrong and we’re feeling out of control. And we all hate feeling out of control. That’s a horrible feeling. And we can feel like we’re getting a sense of control when we can point the finger and say, well, it’s because of this person.

[00:12:00] Now we can, we can create sense in our minds. And yet it’s, it’s a false sense of control. It’s not actually helpful. And sometimes not even real, right? And so this false sense of control that like, okay, now I can pinpoint. I know, I know who to blame. I know why it happened. And so now there’s the, the world is right again, because I’ve made sense of it.

And yet nothing gets better because we’re not seeing and taking ownership of what our part is in it. Now, what about for the kid? Who’s like, well, no, this really wasn’t my fault. I can’t even think of a situation right now. But. But, you know, maybe, maybe the kid was mean or the coach really is out to get them or I, you know, I don’t know what the situation could be.

But what about seeing through that, that for them? 

Dona: Yeah. I love what you just said about control. Because I think very often that’s exactly right. That is [00:13:00] what’s going on. It’s by blaming someone or something, where we feel, and as you say, like a false sense of control over the situation. I, your analysis was brilliant.

I loved it. It was brilliant. Spot on. Um, so that’s, that’s sort of why people blame. Often, that’s why people blame. I mean, sometimes it’s because their self esteem is so weak that they can’t afford to feel like they’re the one who did something wrong. You know, and then you’ve got, you’ve got real issues too, you know, that’s important to pay attention to.

I’m so 

Leah: glad you’re saying that because as a parent, every situation is so different, right? So we might walk into one and it’s a very clear, like, It’s not a big one, right? Like you didn’t do your [00:14:00] chores. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Like you should have done this. You didn’t prioritize your time. Let’s talk this through.

Let’s, you know, make better decisions next time. But I think that there are also other times where perhaps the situation there, there is a deepness to it that can’t be seen. And it really could be something like. Their self esteem truly cannot handle taking the responsibility of this is one more thing.

That’s right. My fault. And, you know, we had talked about in the happiness episode about like, we need to be the safe Harbor, right? Like we need to be their biggest fan. They need to know that there is one place that is absolutely safe. And so it can be really hard as a parent. Trying to navigate and, and use our discernment to decide, like, is this the moment where I call you out and we like have this conversation and we recognize it, or is this the moment where you maybe need a little more grace [00:15:00] because you’re fragile?

And so I just love that you’re bringing that up because, oh, that is such a hard part of parenting. But it is, each situation is so different. 

Dona: Well, it, it is. And I think I think my personal position on it is playing is never okay. And I do my best in my own life too. And I do, I catch myself thinking, well, if he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t, you know, it’s quite normal, but I’ve, I’ve gotten, cause I’ve been practicing it for years.

I’ve gotten pretty good at seeing when I’m thinking blameful thoughts in my head, at challenging them in my head, and Recognizing and it’s, it’s like 100 percent true that no matter what problem I get myself into, even if the whole world would say [00:16:00] he caused it or it caused it or whatever, right? There’s always something for me.

It’s never healthy for me to blame that person or that situation. So, so with kids, I mean, I was talking to, to one of my granddaughters the other day and talking about, because I just wrote a blog piece on blame and I was sharing it with my daughter, her mom, and And Zoe, who’s nine, said, like, she totally disagreed with me about blame is never good.

She said, and she, there was, she had a recent episode where her brother, in her, her telling of the story, is her brother had poked her, and nobody had seen that. And. She had hit him back and her mom or her dad had seen that. And so she was chastised and I think she [00:17:00] lost a show where, you know, there was some penalty, a consequence that took place and 

Leah: the injustice that has occurred.

Dona: And for her, it was about injustice, and she said, so I said, you know, you can say Theo hit you first, and that can be true, but does that mean you absolutely have to hit him back? Is that like, did he actually make you do that? And of course, no, he didn’t. And. So, so I, I thought it was useful. I mean, she objected and she, she didn’t go home saying, Oh yeah, you’re right.

I get it. But, um, but the, the point I was trying to make and, and I know she’s going to be thinking about it and she will have learned something and you know, it’s going to come up again and again. It’s not ever done, you know, until. It’s done some point in the future, but, um, but the point that I [00:18:00] was emphasizing with her and I was able to stay calm, you know, I get it.

It is for you about justice. And yeah, it might be unjust. But for your sake, for the sake of your health, happiness, and going forward in your life, and for the sake of the community, blame is toxic. It poisons you, it poisons the victim, you know, nobody feels good being blamed, and it poisons the environment.

Like, why, why is that good? And so, While she didn’t say, okay, I get it. She did, you know, I’ll stay with that. And you know, I feel quite comfortable. They do hear you in the eight. 

Leah: And I think maybe we have to be content with that too, right? Like we need to realize like it got in there. And it might need to be said several more times and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Like, it’s okay that in this moment, they’re like, [00:19:00] you know what? You are completely right. I am changing my mindset forevermore and recognizing that blame is toxic. Right? Like that is not what’s going to happen. And yet, you know, we keep having these conversations. And, and we see it come through in time.

And I know with all of your experience, you’ve, you’ve experienced that of course, but even me, you know, my oldest is 19 and it has been really, I’m going to admit, fun and gratifying when she’s off at college and going, You know what I realized you were right. And I’m seeing the consequences of, right. It is the most, most glorious moment as a mother ever.

So, okay. So I wanted to point out two things you said that I thought like, Oh, that’s so, that’s powerful. So actually, so the thing that you said was the made me do it. That’s something I’ve worked really hard on. in myself to remove is anything, right? I don’t care what it is. Nothing made me do [00:20:00] anything.

And if I catch my kids, I’m like, don’t let anything steal your power. Right? Like whenever we say some, something, someone made me do it. We just gave them our power. We just, like, so yeah, so I’ve, I’ve really. And it’s the same thing with, for me personally, the way I was able to shift from blame and I had a more, you know, my teenage years, especially, um, I had a tendency to blame.

I think kids who have been through a lot of trauma tend to probably have that, that mindset of blame and, and you know, and a lot of people have been saying to them, Throughout, you know, your life of like, it wasn’t your fault, which is true. Like, uh, you know, trauma and abuse to children is never a child’s fault.

And yet, and, and, and I’m gonna, I feel like I’m saying all the things that could get me get people’s DMing me with their things, but, and yet, [00:21:00] and, and I feel I have the right to say this because of what I have experienced and . So the thing that I have learned and I. I want to, to specify or clarify that I believe I have the right to say this because of what I have endured and experienced.

I am saying this as someone who has overcome the deep, deep, um, hurt, rejection, neglect, the things. Okay. If I, you know, people want to tell you it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. And yes, when a child is being hurt, it is not their fault. There is absolute truth in that. However, If I, if I let everything be someone else’s fault.

I am, not only are they stealing whatever they’ve stolen from me already, they’re now stealing my growth. They are now stealing my opportunity to become better and bigger and powerful, right? And [00:22:00] so just thinking about, like, these things that, that are very commonplace to say, like, made me do it. Like, well, he poked me, so he made me, you know, hit him or whatever.

Like, So she made me right. Like we’re, we’re allowing them to take our power when, when everything is someone else’s fault, even the things that are genuinely someone else’s fault. When we spend all of our time only pointing, then not only did they get to do that thing to us, but now they’re still doing something to us because they’re stealing our growth from us.

Right. And so, yes. I think that this is just such a powerful conversation, both for ourselves, um, and, and, you know, keeping our peace, not giving our peace away to others, but also for our children. So we were, we were going to talk about resilience and I love that. No, but we are, this is, this is all connected, right?

Like this, this is resilience. I mean, when we [00:23:00] learn. How to take ownership, take responsibility. Then we are becoming more resilient. And then the only other component that I would add that I think is important to resiliency, and I’d love your feedback is letting our kids do hard things. Like if we take.

all of the heart away from them. Yes. And, and I know that as parents, it’s so, it’s, it’s hard for us to watch our kids going through hard things and this desire to want to swoop in and help and save and, you know, we’re older, we have more experience, we know what to do. We know how to help them. But if we, if we keep stepping in, we take hard from them and then how do they learn how to be resilient?

You’re 100 

Dona: percent right. You’re 100 percent right. The, uh, one of the things I’ve observed in, in my work with kids and families is sometimes the best parent of a small child is the worst parent of a teenager because sort of the small [00:24:00] parent The small child good parent is very on top of what’s going on.

Attentive, responsive, creative, supportive, all those nice things. But. What, if they retain those habits and behaviors into a child’s teen years, they’re going to save the kid from the suffering the kid needs to do, and the sooner the better. So, so kids need to do hard things in order to feel good about themselves.

If somebody is always saving them, they, they feel good. They don’t have any power and I, I really like your focus on power. Uh, I think that’s a really good one. So, um, so yeah, we have to let them do hard things and not try to save them from the consequences. The sooner they learn hard things and the consequences of bad [00:25:00] decisions, sooner, the earlier they learn, the smaller those lessons will be.


Leah: The stakes are so much smaller, like let them learn them. When they’re younger, you know, those early preteens and the, and the teen, right? Like we don’t want them to learn these, these very, could be dire understanding of what consequences really are when they’re out and at an age where they’re fully considered responsible for themselves.

Right. We want them to learn them in our homes. When they’re younger, when the stakes are smaller. And I, I love it. I love what you said about like, my mind is just like, like the, the wheels are spinning as you’re like that, that parent that could be the best parent of a young child can be the worst of a, of a teen.

And I’m like, Oh my gosh, just the fact that we have to realize that there really does have to be an entire shift in parenting style from. Young children [00:26:00] to adolescents and teenagers. Like I recognize that, but I’ve never heard that actually put into words that way. And I’m like, Oh yes, it’s so true. So that is powerful to think about.

Dona: Oh, that’s lovely. That’s very much the focus of this, this book. You know, plug it, plug it. This is, you know, it’s How to Build a Relationship with Your Child to Weather Any Storm, is the subtitle. And, and, and it’s I, I talk about kids as they go from, from birth right through to the age of about 25. So, and, and one of the things that I focus on, because I don’t think that’s done a lot in the parenting literature is the The need to change, and you’ve talked about this, how the parent needs to acquire new skills and new attitudes and [00:27:00] new behaviors.

As the child develops, if parenting doesn’t develop, there are serious problems that the kid and the parent 

Leah: has. So good. I am going to have the link to your book. She actually has several books, you guys, lots of them. So I will have the link to that, to that book right in whatever platform you’re listening in, you can literally go down, it’s going to be right there.

So you can click it, jump into Amazon, grab it. And then I’ll have all of her links in our show notes as well. This has been such an amazing conversation. Thank you. So, so much. And, and what I, I will say one of my favorite things is that, you know, we’re, we’re, this podcast is called balancing busy, right? We are busy moms and I’m not saying busy in a negative way.

Our lives are full with good things, right? But they’re full and we’re trying to figure out how to balance it all. And so the fact that like. The foundational things, both for helping our kids be happy, helping them be [00:28:00] resilient, helping them to not be blamers or entitled, like all come down to the same things.

I’m like, now that is something I can get behind. Yes. Don’t give me 500 things I have to do. Give me the, like, you know, the half dozen and be like, do these well. And this is going to help. So, oh, so powerful. Thank you. 



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