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how to teach resilience

Time to Step up

Why Dads Need To Teach Practical Resilience

Kevin Godlington

Former SAS operative Kevin Godlington on the need for men to get their metaphorical hands dirty by getting their actual kids' hands dirty.

“Resilience” is a word the chattering elite seem to have cottoned onto, adopted and owned. I hear it on the BBC, on the radio, on TV detective shows and of course in my kid’s schools. Resilience is a good word though, dating back to 1620, ‘to rebound’, a solid word and it has two deliciously determined descriptions online.

  1. the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened:
  2. the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape after being bent, stretched, or pressed

Sadly, like most knee jerking and sound biting in today’s bizarre world, the do-good brigade seems to have hijacked the word and all of its meaning for themselves. The word now lingers in the air of school assemblies, on the tips of the tongue of overweight and overindulgent whiners in pubs, who want nothing more than to procrastinate about how their kids should be sitting and talking in class about their feelings and emotions, and that this unchecked and without approval group therapy for nine year olds will somehow assuage any lurking depression and anxiety in our beloved children.

Now before you all reach for the phone and call social services, the do-good police or the fucking Security Service over my rantings, hear me out. This is after all: men’s fault, and I’ll tell you why.

Too many dudes are passive parenting, leaving their other halves (usually women), and the almost entire female staff force of primary teachers to parent our kids, the male absence in teaching real world resilience is becoming as rare as rocking horse shit. 86%, yeah 86% of teachers are white women, and because men are working longer hours to make the crust, and because women are superbly, and rightly empowered and becoming much better at speaking truth to power, so therefore are our kids being overly mottle coddled with a barrage of classroom-based resilience diatribe. Most of it, is theoretical and discussion based, not practical, and herein lies my problem.

I’m not advocating that we don’t deeply connect on a speaking and immersive communicative process with our kids, of course that’s what YOU should be doing. Sitting nightly or at weekends, even it time is limited and debriefing your kids on their day and week, asking them for their assessment of what’s occurred how and when, how they felt and acted in all the various challenges they faced, positively reinforcing your interest in them, only them, and guiding them in their emotional and physical reactions to social interactions is a given. I presume you already do this. I make the bold assertion that Book of Man readers are adept at this kind of forward thinking and flexible parenting. Inasmuch as I presume you all co parent collaboratively with your partner and treat boy and girls with equality and deference.

However. This classroom-based resilience shit is not what you should be relying upon, teachers have no right to be doing your job for you. They should be teaching your kids maths, english and science and leaving the rest up to you.

The backdrop to the need for greater understanding for resilience development is the way the world is exponentially evolving and growing. The advent of robotics and AI will leave millions of jobs taken from the workplace, climate change, the rise of political discourse and popularism, the way social media and the 100 word wannabe has been allowed to corrupt and divide the propaganda machine, all leads to potential for social unrest; and the unknown is enough to react to. Prior planning and preparation prevent piss, poor, performance as my old army Sergeant Major used to say. Good sage advice. So, it is your job, as a dad, to presume the shit might hit the fan and teach your kids proper skills. Over the coming weeks I’m going to write about various training hacks you can employ, to better acquit and equip your young heirs to the noble art of being a thriver not just survivor.

To start with. Get your kids outside, in the fresh air, rain or shine, lead by example, the best teams suffer together. Make them jog with you and exercise, let them get dirty and poke around in the ditch, teach them to be bored and overcome the need for immediate gratification and micro-dopamine addiction from their phones! Let them get hurt in a structured manner, let them scratch and tear their skin on branches, it’ll heal, (we can discuss how not to break bones later) don’t wrap them in cotton wool.

Teaching your kids real world practical resilience, not the pretend shit they do in school assemblies whilst being handed 482 medals and a fucking “I turned up” award, or “curtesy badges” for holding doors open and winning tiddlywinks with their auntie Jessie. This real world resilience is crucial for their adulthood, for when you get cancer and die, and your kids fall apart! you know, real shit that happens in real life. Show them how to grow up without being a victim. Life is tough, don’t deprive them of strife, when you are gone, they’ll need to fall back on this development training. They’ll remember what you taught them.

Research has shown overwhelmingly that children who play outside, even for an hour at a park, or a weekend trip to the nature reserve or beach (or whatever you have locally with dirt, dog shit and trees) have 34% better mental health, a whopping 62% better cardio vascular health in adulthood and live 4 years longer because they are more likely to continue good nutrition and exercise into middle age, real resilience makes you motivate yourselves to keep fit and live! Lethargy leads to obesity, laziness, poor mental, health and a plethora of health issues.

Let your kids roll around, getting dirty, let them wrestle and tussle with their mates and siblings. Send them on a basic first aid courses, empower them to take action, to have the confidence and sense of community to interact with those in need and the diligent awareness to know when to run! And hide.

By going outdoors, by taking time to read a little on these subjects and rehearse them with your kids, you are giving them skills that will last a lifetime and moreover will build memories with their dad that last forever.

Or don’t breed. Simple.

These are your children and you leave them to a complex and complicated divided and fragmented world. You are duty bound to teach them to be resilient through physical hardship and robust outdoor play.

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