5 Keys to Resilient Parenting

What emotional and psychological gifts do you wish for children? Perseverance, happiness, kindness, authenticity, compassion, joy? What about resilience? Resilience can be defined as the ability to endure or bounce back from difficulties. Sometimes people define resilience as “toughness,” but true resilience is not impenetrable. In fact, the kind of resilience I am talking about includes compassion and joy.

But just how do we cultivate resilience in children? The answer, of course, begins by cultivating resilience in ourselves. Below I’ve listed five keys to parenting with resilience as well as an example of how each of these keys helped me address an important parenting challenge – my child’s learning disability.


The 5 Keys:

1. Acceptance*  – Types of acceptance include self-acceptance, acceptance of your child and/or family, and acceptance of your life circumstances.

  • Accepting ourselves, our children and others lays a foundation for unconditional love. If you haven’t yet watched my kiwi bird video, it is a great metaphor for learning to accept ourselves and others as we are.
  • Accepting our lives as they are enables us to show up fully, with less resistance and stress.

I do not advocate for acceptance as a form of passive resignation when circumstances are non-optimal. Instead tender acceptance can provide a firm foundation for sustainable growth and change. When my older daughter was having learning difficulties at school, I had to acknowledge her challenge before I could figure out what to do about it. Acceptance allowed me to see that her divergent brain was not a match for mainstream school culture.

*Some people find the word acceptance unpalatable. If so, feel free to substitute the word “acknowledgment,” which is a precursor on the journey to acceptance.


2. Growth – We can complement (self-) acceptance with a desire to grow and change. Sustainable growth and change requires humility. Humility does not mean thinking we are less than others. Quite to the contrary, humility means recognizing that we are on the learning team, just like every other human. It gives us the courage to see that we and our kids have both strengths and weaknesses. Self-compassionate humility can buffer us from defensive and resilience-robbing responses to failure and shame.

Humility allowed me to view both the strengths and weaknesses that accompanied my daughter’s learning differences. The non-linear nature of her thinking was an asset to her creative process, but it was a liability when she was asked to read a block of text or present ideas in a linear sequence. Seeing her divergent brain through a lens of humility allowed me to hold the challenges and gifts side-by-side.

Seeing ourselves and our children as imperfect and beautiful human beings allows us to clearly see the ways that we need to grow and change. This desire to change is stimulated not from a sense of shame or inadequacy, but rather because we love ourselves enough to want what is best for us.


3. Curiosity – What do you do when you and/or your child has a problem that you don’t know how to solve? How do you respond when things are not okay, but you’re not sure where to turn? When panic, confusion, and overwhelm threaten to highjack your brain, curiosity is your ally. Consider the powerful shift curiosity can create: “I wonder how I should respond? I wonder how other parents have addressed problems like this? I wonder who might know more about this kind of thing?” Thinking that there is only one “right way” to solve a problem (and that we are a failure if we can’t find it) is resilience depleting. Wondering about causes, conditions, resources, and potential pathways opens the mind to new possibilities.

I remember well the angst of not knowing how to help my daughter learn to read and process decontextualized academic information. I read books on the topic, talked to professionals and friends, and became curious about how to create a bridge between her way of learning and the school environment. We ended up changing schools, enlisting school support, and hiring outside tutors. It was a long and messy process requiring many of the keys of resilient parenting, including the next one – compassion.


4. Compassion  Stuff happens! Life will go wrong. We and our kids will have problems. Compassion means holding ourselves and others with kindness when we are struggling, and seeking to alleviate suffering whenever possible. Some might think that compassion is the way of weakness; paradoxically it is the main taproot of resilience. If I had to choose only one of the five keys of resilience, it would be compassion. In its tender form, compassion can hold us in our struggles (acceptance), and its strong form it can help us to create positive growth and change. Visit jamielynntatera.com if you’d like to learn more about cultivating compassion and self-compassion in children and families.

Our family needed fierce compassion to find the diagnoses and resources that my older daughter needed for academic success as well as tender (self-) compasion to hold us as she struggled with learning challenges.


5. Soaking in the Good – While struggle is a part of life, so too is beauty. Our negativity bias encourages us to orient toward difficulties, but sustaining resilience requires that we also take in the beautiful moments.

Sometimes we might be afraid to take in the good because good moments can be fleeting. While it’s true that many good things don’t last, it’s precisely because of this that we need to open to their goodness. We are invited to soak in the goodness of our children, ourselves, and our lives as fully as possible so that when the moment passes we retain traces of its goodness. Internalized goodness will make us more resilient when the inevitable challenges of life arise.

The early days of my older daughter’s learning challenges were emotionally draining for her and our family. We had to intentionally remember to focus on her gifts and the places outside of school where she experienced success and joy. After years of interventions, my older daughter now experiences moments of scuccess within the school environment. This past year we were all able to celebrate when she achieved her first report card with straight A’s. Her learning challenges are not over, but we are learning to navigate them with the keys of resilience, including soaking in the good.


When you see this list of five keys to resilience, you might think, “I haven’t mastered those things yet!” Not to worry, you are not alone. The keys are “north stars” on the journey rather than destinations that we can achieve.

If you are cultivating humility (our second key), you will remember that it is essential to be on the learning team. Curiosity (key number three) can help you to discover the next step on your journey. Acceptance and compassion (our first and fourth keys) will be your companions when you inevitably fall short. And when you have those moments that you actually hit the mark, be sure to take in the good (key #5)!

Feel free to reach out to me as you stumble along this brutiful journey of living and loving with resilience.


Your companion on the journey,
Jamie Lynn

Six Ways I Fall Short as a Parent (and how self-compassion helps)

Have you ever experienced “imposter syndrome”? Imposter syndrome is when you think that you are not “good enough” to share on a topic or do a particular task because you are imperfect, and your brain tells you the story that your imperfection and doubts make you inadequate, unworthy, a fraud, etc. Interestingly enough, when I consider sharing with parents strategies for helping kids become self-compassionate, I sometimes experience imposter syndrome. I think, “Who am I to share about parenting when I so often fall short?”

It’s true. I do fall short as a parent. And it’s also true that self-compassion helps. We will all fall short in any endeavor that is important to us. What is important to remember is that our imperfections do not negate our strengths, nor do they make us unable to do the important work that we have been called to do in the world.

Even a photo can trigger imposter syndrome in me. Somedays my daughters and I comb our hair and smile…other days, not so much 😉

As I gather courage to share tips for parents, I will challenge my imposter syndrome by sharing 6 ways that I fall short as a parent and six ways that self-compassion makes me strong.

Here’s a list of my parenting shortcomings (not exhaustive, and not even necessarily the most glaring offenders):
1) I sometimes struggle with housework. Ummm… really. We are talking about inside out underwear…which can actually be a great strategy when you are behind on laundry.
2) I am addicted to audio books. I have earbuds in my ears while listening to audiobooks a lot!
3) I can get impatient when my kids interrupt me. My brain tends to be mono-focused, and I don’t shift easily.
4) I have a really hard time listening when my kids talk about things that I consider to be trivial. Small talk in general is a growth edge for me.
5) I work too much (but I love my work, and it helps children!!)
6) I can get easily overwhelmed when life gets busy.

I’m giving myself compassion for numbers five and six, and even one through four. Self-compassion doesn’t mean that we pretend that our weaknesses are “fine” or that we don’t strive to grow and change. Self-compassion means that we meet ourselves with kindness and recognize that we, just like others, are imperfect human beings. Self-compassion both helps me try to grow and change, and also recognize that I’m still loveable when I fall short.

In addition to my weaknesses, I have strengths as a parent. Here are a few of my parenting strengths:
1) I usually show up well for my kids when they are upset.
2) I have awesome strategies for helping kids integrate difficult emotions.
3) I know how to say, “this is too much. I need help.” I can find affordable and/or creative solutions for parenting or household tasks that I find overwhelming (including my housework!!).
4) I let my kids know that I, too, am on the learning team.
5) I am very creative, and I have awesome, creative strategies for helping parents and kids grow mindfulness and self-compassion.
6) And I’m pretty good at loving myself and the other imperfect beings who live in my house.

Please know that when I share tips about how we can help our kids (and ourselves!) when we are struggling, I’m sharing them as a fellow struggling human – with strengths and weaknesses…just like you.

Thanks for accompanying me as we collectively learn to grow, stumble, and love together.

With love,
Jamie Lynn

Four Steps to Help Kids Grow Self-Compassion

Father son pairHow many of us know someone – an adult, teen or child – who could benefit from the resource of self-compassion? We might think, Wow! That person really needs to be kinder to themselves and stop beating themselves up! 

But what is the best way to help another person to develop the resource of self-compassion? When I contemplate this question, I am reminded of the following quote by Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

While helping another individual develop self-compassion involves more than just our example, the power of example cannot be overstated. This is expecially true when it comes to children. The process of helping children grow self-compassion involves four steps, which are built upon the foundation of caregivers’ self-compassion.

Four Steps to Help Children Grow Self-Compassion

  1. Caregivers learn the skill of self-compassion either on their own or alongside their child.
  2. Model self-compassion in the presence of children.
  3. Be the external voice that you want children to internalize.
  4. Children learn and practice offering themselves self-compassion.

STEP 1: Caregivers learn self-compassion.

We can’t help children to acquire a skill that we do not possess. That’s why our first step as caregivers is to grow the personal resource of self-compassion. If, when you were a child, your parents modeled self-compassion and also consistently soothed you when you were struggling, lovingly encouraged you to own your mistakes, appreciated your strengths and supported you in becoming your most authentic self, then it’s likely that you already possess the resource of self-compassion. If you are like the rest of us who received parenting that was somewhat less ideal than the above description, you likely need to do some learning and practicing to acquire the skill of self-compassion. You can strengthen your self-compassionate voice by using adult resources such as Mindful Self-Compassion training and books such as the Mindful Self-Compassion workbook, and/or you can take a parent-child self-compassion class and learn alongside your child. 

STEP 2: Model self-compassion in the presence of children.

Modeling self-compassion as caregivers means that we appropriately name our struggles in the presence of children and model giving ourselves encouraging and/or tender support for our difficulties. This might look like giving ourselves a hug or audibly offering ourselves reassurance or support when we feel distressed. We might let kids know that we are going for a walk, calling a friend, or making ourselves a cup of tea as a kind response to our struggles. When we name and model compassionately responding to our struggles we create a bridge between children and ourselves. Our example lets kids know that it’s okay to struggle and that they can seek out support (including their own kindness) during difficult moments. Our self-compassionate example can then be internalized as a model for children to emulate when they struggle. As caregivers, we need to have our own self-compassion practice (step 1) in order to model self-compassion for children.

STEP 3: Be the external voice that you want children to internalize.

When you speak to children, ask yourself the question: Is this the voice that I want my child to internalize? Is this how I want children to talk to themselves in their own minds? Because children internalize the voice of their caregivers (including tone), as much as possible, we want our words to convey compassion – sometimes tenderly soothing and sometimes encouraging and motivating. When we are successful at speaking to a child in this way, our words contribute to the development of a child’s compassionate voice. When we fall short of this aspiration, as we all do, it becomes an opportunity to acknowledge our human imperfection and offer ourselves compassion. We can show children that just like them, we are on the learning team when it comes to treating ourselves and others with kindness.

STEP 4: Children learn and practice offering themselves self-compassion.

Explicitly teaching children self-compassion and scaffolding their practice can sometimes be tricky, especially when teaching our own children, but it is a vital step. Many caregivers find it helpful to use resources, such as self-compassion books or a parent-child self-compassion class to help children consciously learn and practice the skill of self-compassion. After children have learned self-compassion practices, caregivers can begin to gently and selectively encourage self-compassion practice. When a child is having a difficult moment, it usually works best if caregivers first provide the child with compassionate support, and then, if the child seems receptive, invite the child to offer compassion to themselves. It’s important not to push a child to practice self-compassion as this can have an adverse effect. If a child resists practicing self-compassion, it can be helpful to focus primarily on the first three steps described in this article (increase caregivers’ self-compassion, model self-compassion, and use a compassionate voice with children).

It’s important that we, as caregivers, have a long-term view of children’s self-compassion development. We can normalize and offer ourselves compassion when children develop the resource of self-compassion more slowly than we would wish. It’s important that children know that we are learning and practicing self-compassion along with them, and that it’s self-compassionate to allow ourselves to grow slowly over time.

What if I Were Grandma

Click here to listen to an audio of this blog.

grandmother with grandchildren

My children are growing up. As they enter the second half of their childhoods, I am increasingly aware that my time with them is finite. Like many parents, I often function in a sort of survival or efficiency mode. What do my children and I need to get done today? What goals do we want to achieve? What tasks can be eliminated? While this type of thinking is efficacious, I know that I am missing moments with my children that I would like to savor, moments that I will miss when they are gone.

Recently, I’ve developed an internal archetype of a grandmother.  This grandmother archetype is a future version of myself. My grandmother self is less concerned about her to do list, about efficiency and order. My grandmother self delights in the laughter of children, enjoys sensory experiences and idiosyncrasies, and lingers in the moment.

In my daily life, I’ve begun to ask myself the question: What if I were grandma?

Ghost imageI was up in the attic the other day, and I found a ridiculously loud ghost stuffed animal. When you press a button on the ghost it vibrates with hysterical laughter and shouts, “Happy Halloween!” Should I donate the stuffed animal to Good Will before my kids see it again? It’s so obnoxious! I thought to myself. And then came a voice with the question, What if I were grandma?

If I were grandma, I would definitely bring that ghost stuffed animal down from the attic. I would delight in my children’s smiles and laughter at the loud, vibrating ghost. And so I did.

This morning I went for a walk to the lake. A part of me wanted to take off my shoes to feel the cool sand beneath my feet and the gentle waves lapping around my ankles. Another part of me didn’t want to have to deal with the grittiness of the sand and wanted to avoid the inefficiency of cleaning the sand off my feet before putting my shoes back on to walk home.

Shoes on rock by beach What if I were grandma? I wondered to myself. If I were grandma, I would definitely take off my shoes and enjoy the texture of the sand beneath my feet. And so I did.

The scenarios are endless: grades, whipped cream, playdates, choices about my work schedule. Each situation provides an opportunity to invoke the wisdom of my inner grandmother. Grandmothers oftentimes give themselves permission to be present with their grandchildren and enjoy the moment in a way that wasn’t accessible in earlier years.

I want to embody my grandmother archetype. I want to enjoy the moment now.

She’s Going to be Okay

A few weeks ago, my ten year-old came home from her first field hockey practice with some news that touched my heart. She said that the first half of practice she had been practicing self-criticism and comparing herself to others, but then the second half of practice, she remembered self-compassion, and she began to repeat the kind wishes in her head that we’ve been practicing together for the last few years (May I be joyful…May I be the person I wish to be…May my heart be full of love and connection…). 

My heart leapt with joy at her compassionate inner voice, and I thought to myself, “She’s going to be okay!” This is the same thought that I had when my now fourteen year-old began to report that she had an inner voice that soothed and encouraged her when she felt “less than” in middle school. When a child develops an inner self-compassionate voice, I know they are going to be “okay.” They have an inner ally that will soothe them during difficult times and help them to grow and change in positive ways.

It is my deepest wish that all of us – adults and children – can develop an inner self-compassionate voice that helps us to know that we are “okay” and loved. As grown-ups, we can grow our self-compassionate voice by taking self-compassion training or learning about self-compassion, and then intentionally practicing our inner soothing and encouraging voice. We can also encourage the youth in our lives to take a self-compassion class or read self-compassion books to support them in learning and growing the compassionate voice that they have hopefully been hearing from the grown-ups around them.

My favoritie self-compassion program for families is the parent-child self-compassion class. I love it because it enables children and their grown-ups to learn self-compassion side-by-side. It is beautiful indeed when both caregivers and children encourage each other to remember to be self-compassionate during their difficult moments (see the below one-minute video).

Wishing you and the youth in your life the resource of self-compassion.

With love,
Jamie Lynn 

How Self-Compassion Saved My Daughter…and Me

My older daughter Maya was born sensitive, curious, and creative.   As Maya grew, I learned that all of her five senses were extra sensitive.  For her sounds were louder, smells and tastes more acute, she had a strong draw to everything tactile, and she saw  “light shows” that made artificial lighting both intriguing and exhausting.  Maya’s overstimulated nervous system made it difficult for her to regulate her emotions, and full out meltdowns were a common occurrence.  When Maya was given free time, her curiosity and creativity allowed her to engage herself in a task for hours.  At the same time, transitions and rote tasks were incredibly challenging for her because they pulled her away from the mesmerizing present moment. 

When Maya became preschool age, I felt challenged as to how to both support her curiosity and creativity as well as facilitate her acquisition of simple life skills and lead her to accept redirection.  Maya’s intense wonder and curiosity made walking from her preschool to the car parked in front of the building a half-hour endeavor (with periodic meltdowns), and brushing her teeth a task that required many, many redirections.  

I practiced mindfulness to stay calm.  I tried making tasks and transitions playful.  And I tried “love and logic” to see if consequences would help her to acquire a bit of self-discipline.  As much as I tried to be neutral or compassionate when Maya failed to complete a “simple” task, Maya picked up on my subtle signs of frustration.  Over time she began to develop the low self-esteem that comes from knowing that you are not living up to the standards of the adult who you so desperately want to please.  She began to push herself to try to complete a task (like hanging up her jacket) with intense effort and self-criticism.  She began to be ashamed of her curious, creative, sensitive, beautiful self.

To have my daughter begin to lose her sense of self-worth was my worst nightmare, and  I began to see a helping professional in the hopes that I could learn to be more patient and less reactive to Maya’s distractibility and frequent tantrums.  The professional who I worked with suggested that I needed more self-compassion.  She suggested that I was “too hard on myself.”  Hmmmm……

I read a little bit about self-compassion, and then I signed up for a Mindful Self-Compassion training course.  I learned how to truly “be there” for myself in my difficult moments.  I learned how to let go of shame about my imperfections because I began to  understand deeply that we all have imperfections.  I began to ask myself how I could be more kind to myself.  I had always been good at “self-care,” but I began to practice self-kindness.  And a remarkable thing began to happen, as I began to apply self-compassion to myself, I naturally began to help Maya to acquire  self-compassion as well.

As I learned how to walk myself through the voice of shame into the sunlight of compassion, I was increasingly able to walk Maya through the voice of shame into the sunlight of compassion.  As I learned how to embrace my own imperfections, I became able to help Maya to embrace her imperfections.  As I grew in self-love and self-appreciation, I helped Maya to grow self-love and self-appreciation.  And my daughter and I both began to thrive.

Self-compassion proved to be the missing ingredient to helping Maya learn to apply self-discipline with kindness.  She can now acknowledge that because of her intense curiosity and creativity, performing a rote task can be incredibly challenging for her.  And she has been increasingly able to use her strengths to make a game out of routine tasks.  Self-compassion is not so much a technique as it is a way of being.  A way of being with ourselves that naturally transfers to those we love.  Learning to practice self-compassion on myself was the best gift I could ever have given my daughter.  It saved her from a voice of shame and self-criticism, and it gifted her with an appreciation for her unique and beautiful self.