The Secrets of Resilience

What does it take to conquer life’s adversities? Lessons from successful adults who overcame difficult childhoods

The Secrets of Resilience
ILLUSTRATION: BRIAN STAUFFER

Does early hardship in life keep children from becoming successful adults? It’s an urgent question for parents and educators, who worry that children growing up in difficult circumstances will fail to reach their full potential, or worse, sink into despair and dysfunction.

Social scientists have shown that these risks are real, but they also have found a surprising pattern among those whose early lives included tough times: Many draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success. A wide range of studies over the past few decades has shed light on how such people overcome life’s adversities—and how we might all cultivate resilience as well.

In 1962, the psychologist Victor Goertzel and his wife, Mildred, published a book called “Cradles of Eminence: A Provocative Study of the Childhoods of Over 400 Famous Twentieth-Century Men and Women.” They selected individuals who had had at least two biographies written about them and who had made a positive contribution to society. Their subjects ranged from Louis Armstrong, Frida Kahlo and Marie Curie to Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller.

Louis Armstrong grew up in poverty, and left school at fifth grade to support his family.
Louis Armstrong grew up in poverty, and left school at fifth grade to support his family. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Goertzels found that less than 15% of their famous men and women had been raised in supportive, untroubled homes, with another 10% in a mixed setting. Of the 400, a full 75%—some 300 individuals—had grown up in a family burdened by a severe problem: poverty, abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, serious illness or some other misfortune. “The ‘normal man,’ ” the Goertzels wrote, “is not a likely candidate for the Hall of Fame.”

If the Goertzels were to repeat their study today, they would find many more examples of women and men who rose to great heights after difficult childhoods—Oprah Winfrey, Howard Schultz, LeBron James and Sonia Sotomayor, to name just a few. Today, we often use the word “resilient” to describe such people.

But resilient people are everywhere, not just in the ranks of celebrities. They are ordinary women and men, in every walk of life, who meet the definition of resilience set forth by American Psychological Association: “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.”

Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother and her father, an alcoholic, died by the time she was 10.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother and her father, an alcoholic, died by the time she was 10. PHOTO:STOCK MONTAGE/GETTY IMAGES

Across nearly two decades as a clinical psychologist and an educator, I have worked with many accomplished people who grew up in difficult circumstances. One thing I have learned from them is that the way we tend to talk about resilience is too simplistic. In everyday conversation, we say that people who are resilient “bounce back” or “rebound.” The dictionary defines resilience as elasticity, that is, the ability to recover quickly and easily—to snap into shape again, like a rubber band stretched and released.

These images are fine for describing recovery from short-term problems, like the flu or a career disappointment, but they don’t capture how resilience truly works and feels. The most common childhood adversities aren’t one-time events but chronic sources of stress: bullying, neglect, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a parent or sibling, addiction or mental illness in the home, domestic violence.

Such problems are recurring threats to a child or teen’s safety and well-being. Resilient youth do not just rebound from them. What they do is much more complicated and courageous. For them, resilience is an ongoing battle, a way of approaching life, not a restorative bounce.

John D. Rockefeller’s father was a con man and often absent.
John D. Rockefeller’s father was a con man and often absent. PHOTO: CSU ARCHIVES/EVERETT COLLECTION

Physiology plays an important role. In the face of danger, our bodies respond with fight-or-flight. The brain triggers the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Our heart rate increases, we become more alert and focused, and blood flows to our muscles for extra energy. When we think of the fight in fight-or-flight, we may imagine physically harming someone. But in the modern world, fighting back can take many forms.

Consider the Kauai Longitudinal Study, an ongoing project begun in 1955 by psychologists Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith, and summarized most recently in their 2001 book “Journeys From Childhood to Midlife.” The Kauai Study’s subjects are the 698 babies born on the island that year, with assessments so far at ages 1, 2, 10, 18, 32 and 40.

Of the children in the study, Drs. Werner and Smith identified 129 as being at high risk for future problems, because they faced four or more adversities at birth, ranging from poverty and family discord to alcoholism or mental illness in the home.

Two-thirds of these high-risk children went on to have difficulties of their own, such as delinquency, unplanned pregnancies and underemployment. One-third, however, fared well. At school and at work, they did as well as, or better than, their low-risk peers from more affluent, stable homes. In adulthood, they found supportive partners and built loving families that, often, differed greatly from the ones they grew up with. They became, as Drs. Werner and Smith described, “competent, confident, caring adults.” How did they do it?

They were active problem solvers who, over a period of decades, fought for better lives for themselves. Though they weren’t necessarily gifted, they used whatever strengths they had to their advantage—a particular talent, an engaging personality, a ready intelligence. They sought out friends, teachers, neighbors or relatives who cared. They made plans to better themselves and set ambitious but realistic goals for the future. In early adulthood, they seized opportunities to move forward in life, by way of higher education, the military, a new job, a supportive partner or parenthood.

When the researchers asked these resilient adults how they understood their own success in retrospect, the majority reported that their most important asset was determination.

“I am a fighter—I am determined—I will survive,” said one woman who made her way out of an abusive childhood. “I give it 100% before I give up. I will never lose hope.”

Howard Schultz of Starbucks grew up in a housing project.
Howard Schultz of Starbucks grew up in a housing project. PHOTO: SAKCHAI LALIT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“When things have to be done, you just do it. I am not the type of person to run away—no matter how difficult the problem,” said another subject who became a bookkeeper.

And another who became aerospace engineer put it this way: “I don’t let problems take control. I just pick myself up and start all over—you can always try again.”

Other research has suggested the importance of the fighter within. In a 2010 paper in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Anke Ehlers of the University of Oxford reported on 81 adults who had formerly been held as political prisoners in East Germany. They had been subjected to mental and physical abuse, including beatings, threats and being kept in the dark. Decades after their release, about two-thirds of the former prisoners had, at some point, met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while about one-third of the prisoners had not.

What made some more likely to suffer from PTSD? Dr. Ehlers found that the extent to which prisoners had fought back in their own minds made a bigger difference than the severity of the abuse they had suffered. Those who felt mentally defeated—who felt like they were “nothing” or who quit caring what became of them—were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD later. By contrast, prisoners who had resisted from within—even if they appeared to have given up on the outside, by complying with guards or signing false confessions—fared better down the line.

This sort of inner defiance is, in part, how one man—an officer in the military who came to me for a consultation—told me he survived years of bullying as a child and teen: “I refused to accept what they said about me was true.”

Oprah Winfrey was sexually abused by relatives.
Oprah Winfrey was sexually abused by relatives. PHOTO: VERA ANDERSON/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES

Of course, there is enormous variability in terms of how individuals respond to adversity. Social scientists rightly argue that resilience isn’t a single quality that someone does or doesn’t have, or a single action that a person does or doesn’t take, but rather it is a phenomenon—something we can see but may never be able to neatly explain.

A minister once shared a parable with me that neatly captures this point: Two brothers are raised in a home in which the father is a violent alcoholic. One brother grows up to be a drinker and an abuser, while the other becomes an abstinent man and a model parent. When asked how they came to be who they were, both brothers gave the same answer: “Given who my father was, how could I not?”

My aim here is not to say that resilient people are winners—or that those who are suffering have allowed themselves to be defeated—but, rather, to say that overcoming childhood adversity is a phenomenal struggle indeed. It is a heroic, powerful, perilous, often decadeslong endeavor, yet one that, over time, can lead to both ordinary and extraordinary success.

Coping with stress is a lot like exercise: We become stronger with practice.

Back in 1962, the Goertzels’ finding that so many prominent people had grown up with hard times may have seemed counterintuitive but, given what we now know about stress and coping, it isn’t so surprising. Coping with stress is a lot like exercise: We become stronger with practice. University of Nebraska psychologist Richard Dienstbier explains how this works with his “toughness model,” first published in 1989 in the journal Psychological Review.

Dr. Dienstbier gathered evidence from a wide range of human and animal studies demonstrating that exposure to intermittent stressors, such as cold temperatures and aerobic exercise, made individuals physiologically “tougher.” They became less overwhelmed by subsequent difficulties, and by their own fight-or-flight arousal. This makes a difference because when a stressor seems manageable, we perceive it as a challenge, and adrenaline—which boosts energy, focus and coping—is released. When a stressor seems unmanageable, however, we perceive it as a threat and our cortisol levels rise too, suppressing our immune system and making us more vulnerable to disease.

What’s more, Dr. Dienstbier wrote, toughened individuals increasingly seek out experiences that stimulate them and provide opportunities for more mastery and success. It is a virtuous circle.

Although I would hardly consider childhood adversities to be desirable difficulties, many who grow up with hardship do say they benefit in precisely this way. The military officer who was bullied in his youth—and who, besides resisting on the inside, also toughened himself up as a teen through running and judo—described the impact that early adversity had on this life this way: “I see myself as stronger and more capable than most people around me because of the treatment I lived through. I see myself as an optimist, not because I think bad things don’t or won’t happen but because I believe I can overcome whatever comes my way. I feel independent and confident. I feel tested. I feel brave.”

Poet Dylan Thomas said, “There’s only one thing that’s worse than having an unhappy childhood, and that’s having a too-happy childhood.” I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that too many women and men feel lesser somehow because of the adversities they have grown up with, imagining they would be happier or more successful people if they had enjoyed stress-free upbringings. This isn’t necessarily the case.

In a multiyear study of more than 2,000 adults aged 18 to 101, published in 2010 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, University at Buffalo psychologist Mark Seery and colleagues found that those who had known some adversity were both higher-functioning and more satisfied with their lives than those who had experienced extremely high levels of hardship—and compared with those who had experienced no adversity at all. They also coped better with more recent problems they encountered, leading the study’s authors to conclude, in partial agreement with Nietzsche, that “in moderation, whatever does not kill us may indeed make us stronger.”

So where does that leave those of us who would like to be more resilient? It helps to take on long-form projects that feel like challenges rather than threats. Whether taking up crew or judo, studying for an advanced degree or mastering an instrument, hard things that aren’t emotional or unexpected help us practice for those that are.

And when life inevitably becomes difficult, own the fighter within. Resist defeat in your own mind by a schoolyard bully or an alcoholic parent. Fighting back on the inside is where battling back on the outside begins.

Reach out to family, friends or professionals who care. It is a myth that resilient people don’t need help. Seeking support is what resilient people do.

Engage in active coping. Most serious adversities are neither quickly nor easily solved, but taking control where we can is empowering. Make a realistic plan to improve your situation, and work toward it day by day. Progress shores us up and calms us down.

Finally, remember the ways you have been courageous and strong. Too often we remember what has gone wrong in life rather than what we did to survive and thrive. Think back on a time when you were challenged and give yourself credit for how you made it through. You may already be more resilient than you think.

Dr. Jay is a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of “Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience,” to be published on Nov. 14 by Twelve Books.

Appeared in the November 11, 2017, print edition.

A UPenn psychologist uses the ‘Hard Thing Rule’ to teach her kids to take control of their success

Business Insider

ballerina girls
The Hard Thing Rule helps kids learn to commit to challenges.Mario Tama/Getty

It’s always interesting to get a peek into how successful people raise their kids.

It’s doubly so if that successful person is a top psychologist who specifically studies how to help kids thrive.

That psychologist is Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose new book, “Grit,” offers research and anecdotal evidence on how passion and perseverance lead to success.

Towards the end of the book, Duckworth gives readers a glimpse into how she applies her findings on grit in her own life, specifically with her two daughters.

Duckworth writes that her whole family abides by what she and her husband call the “Hard Thing Rule.”

When she visited the Business Insider offices in April, Duckworth explained that she came up with the rule “when I was trying to navigate that very difficult balance between giving my kids choice and autonomy and, on the other hand, imposing a certain amount of parental discipline on their activities.”

The Hard Thing Rule has three parts:

1. Everyone in the family has to do something that’s hard

Specifically, Duckworth said, it has to be “something that requires practice, something where you’re going to get feedback telling you how you can get better, and you’re going to get right back in there and try again and again.”

Duckworth studies psychology and practices yoga; her husband works on becoming a better real estate developer and runner. Her older daughter plays the piano.

2. You have to finish what you start

Angela DuckworthAngela Duckworth.Zach Teris

“If you start track for the spring season,” Duckworth said, “in my family you’re going to finish that season.

“Or if I’ve paid the tuition for your set of piano lessons, you’re going to take all those lessons and you are, as you promised your teacher, going to practice for those lessons.”

3. No one gets to pick the hard rule for anyone else

“Even when my kids were five [and] six years old,” Duckworth said, “they were given some choice in what their hard thing was.”

“I think it’s very important to send the message that, while parents are needed to remind you to practice and occasionally force you to finish things … they also need to learn to respect you. You as an individual ultimately are the captain of where you’re going.”

In the book, Duckworth notes that her younger daughter went through about six hard things, until she finally settled on playing the viola. So far she’s kept at it for three years.

The point is for parents to help their kids find something they’re interested in and then help grow that interest, while at the same time modeling grit and showing how far it can take you.

Why Failure Hits Girls So Hard

Time

@racheljsimmons

girl-fell-mud
Getty Images

Failing well is a skill

When I ask why, she answers without hesitation. “I’m so used to doing well on things. If one thing goes wrong, I just want it to go away and feel like it never happened.”

That’s why Mary rarely speaks about her setbacks, including the study-abroad trip when she suffered from brutal homesickness, but didn’t tell a soul. She is terrified to be seen as anything less than extraordinary.

Jessica Lahey’s new book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, says young women like Mary are in trouble. They’ve been so protected from mistakes, usually by their parents, that they fear failure, avoid risk and value image over learning. By the time they go to college, they are more vulnerable to depression, anxiety and stress.

Lahey says parents defail their kids’ lives in order to minimize kids’ pain and extend their need for mom and dad’s support. When kids are dependent on parents, mom and dad can enjoy kids’ wins as evidence of superior parenting.

A raft of studies back up Lahey’s point. But evidence suggests that girls may be especially vulnerable when it comes to failing, and being spared from it. Here’s why trying to protect girls from challenge hits them especially hard:

Girls respond to failure differently than boys. When girls make mistakes, they’re more likely to interpret the setback as a sign they lack ability — a factor much harder for girls to change. Boys, on the other hand, tend to attribute failure to more controllable circumstances.

The phenomenon has been traced in part to how teachers talk to students. In observational studies, teachers corrected girls for mistakes related to ability, while boys tended to get more behavioral interventions (“Pipe down!”, “Stop throwing that paper airplane,” and so on).

Other studies have found that girls are more likely to give up in the face of a stressful academic situation. In one study, fifth-grade students were given a task that was intentionally confusing. It was the girls who were derailed by the confusion and unable to learn the material. Notably, the highest-IQ girls struggled the most. The phenomenon continues in college, where Harvard economist Claudia Goldin found it was women dropping out of Intro to Economics when they failed to get A’s.

In the early 2000s, a new gender difference in how kids experience failure was identified. “Stereotype threat” — the burden girls face when dealing with the stereotype that they are “bad” at math and science — has been linked to their underperformance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Less known is how stereotype threat makes failure more bruising for girls. It works like this: when girls buy into the stereotype that they’re bad at math, they don’t see a missed problem or poor grade as a correctible issue. Instead, it confirms what everyone else knows — that they simply have less ability. These experiences, researchers say, “add stress and self-doubt to [girls’] educational experiences and diminish their sense of belonging to the academic arena.”

Rescuing girls from failure makes them lose motivation — even more than boys. We learn best when we’re intrinsically motivated — that is, when we try something new for the sheer enjoyment of the experience. Intrinsic motivation is one of learning’s most precious resources. It bolsters us to stick out the tough moments of a challenge and pursue what we love to do.

Autonomy is one of three core ingredients of intrinsic motivation. In other words, we’re most inclined to want to learn when we can do it freely and of our own accord. When we believe others are interfering with our autonomy by trying to control our performance — say, by offering rewards, threatening punishment or offering certain kinds of praise — our motivation plummets.

Professors Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, pioneers in the study of motivation, say girls are more vulnerable to having their autonomy and motivation threatened. Because girls are raised to please others, they tend to care more about feedback from teachers and parents — and so are more sensitive to feeling controlled.

Females, Deci and Ryan have written, “pay particular attention to evidence of having pleased the evaluator when praised.” That’s why multiple studies find that girls show more negative outcomes when they are praised in ways that pressure them to keep performing at a high level.

In one study, praising elementary-school students for fixed traits and abilities, like being “smart” or “nice,” undermined intrinsic motivation for girls, but not boys. Another study found that in success situations, boys were more comfortable with praise that focused on their abilities, while girls were more comfortable with effort praise (“You worked hard”).

So what does work for girls? One study found that using informational praise to describe a good performance (“You did very well on that test”), instead of making an interpretation of it (“You’re so smart”), increased girls’ intrinsic motivation. Praising effort (“You worked really hard on that”) over ability has consistently been proven to motivate all kids, and especially girls.

Failing well is a skill. Letting girls do it gives them critical practice coping with a negative experience. It also gives them the opportunity to develop a kind of confidence and resilience that can only be forged in times of challenge. Besides this, girls need educators and parents to challenge stereotype threat, reminding them that ability can always be improved with effort, and that who they are will not determine where they end up.

Lahey says that saving kids from failure sends the message that we think they’re “incompetent, incapable and unworthy of our trust.” That’s why giving kids the space to screw up, as Lahey advises, is so important — and will be particularly so for girls.

It is harder to raise the comeback kid than the golden child. And better.

KJ Dell’Antonia

It's the slog through the mud that matters. Especially if it isn't mud.

It’s the slog through the mud that matters. Especially if it isn’t mud.

What does success look like for your kid?

I think, to many of us, success—happiness, satisfaction, goals met—is supposed to look easy. Some of that is our culture. Our icons of cool tend to take it easy; they sail in and save the day with a few clever turns of phrase and without a hair out of place.

But much of it is just how we want life to be, minute by minute, for our children. We so want them to get the A, to make the team, to score the lead, to be surrounded by friends and applause. Who hasn’t envied the friend with the golden child, the one with all the gifts, who seems to sail through life so effortlessly, always in the front of the pack? Life seems like it must be so easy with the child who has it made; you’re not dealing with disappointment and frustration and envy and self-doubt, there’s no watching the child get up and face the morning when every single other child who auditioned made the school dance troop except for her and one other girl, and the whole team is right out front welcoming the new members.

But if you can just take the long view, you really want your kid to have to face that morning.

We know we should let our kids fail. The trouble is, what most of us are really hoping for is “failure light.” We want to steel ourselves, refuse to bring in a few forgotten lunches and let them take in a pitiful, last-minute second grade State Fair project—and then they learn! And it’s all smooth sailing!! In our hearts, we’d still rather see our children ace the test the first time, make the team as a freshman and get in early decision to their college of choice. Those second and third chance comeback stories are great for other people, but not for our children.

We are so wrong when we think like that.

Of course we want every happiness and joy possible for our children. Those short horizon triumphs, though, don’t necessarily help our kids make their own way into their futures. Don’t hope your kids sail straight into the Ivies. Hope your kids know what they want and what it takes to get it. Teach your kids to believe, with every fiber of their beings, that they can pick themselves up and turn themselves around and make something happen in the face of any setback.

We have a tendency to think that a second chance is second best. The child who got into the university right off is the one who really belongs there, not the one who managed to transfer after a year of excelling at a community college. All the celebrity goes to the 18-year-old who heads straight to the majors, not to the 28-year-old who gets there after slogging  for a decade. Why do we want to be “born with it,” to “wake up this way,” to be a “natural,” when it’s work that breeds success? Even when we ourselves are the ones who had to work to get where we are, we question our own achievements, struggle with imposter syndrome and talk ourselves out of pursuing opportunities (especially if we’re women).

Forget the golden child. Forget the minute by minute. As I wrote in my last email, there are very few “universal truths” of parenthood, but here’s another one: What you want for your child now may not lead to what you want for your child in the future.  It’s hard to help a child through a failure, but it’s among the most important things we do. We’re there. We listen. We nod. We hug. We let them rant their way through the “I will never” and the “I can’t” and the “that wasn’t fair” into the “if only I’d” and “why didn’t I” and then through the crying and the self-incrimination and the fear until they get to “next time…”

It may take hours and it may take days, and that’s fine. When failure turns into “not yet” or “what’s next,” you can help your child to start making her own magic. Will she get up the morning after her name isn’t on the roster for the basketball team, congratulate her friends, then go out and shoots hoops, and beg for the ride to the Y, and takes every opportunity to show the coaches that next year, she’ll be ready? Or will he persuade the drama teacher to teach him how to run the light board in the school auditorium because he’s realized it’s the illusion, even more than the performances, that captivates him? Can she own her disappointment and make a plan, or turn her anger into determination? Can he try again, or set his sights—with excitement—on something else?

The kid who can start again is the kid who is ready for the long game.

Lots of us tend to think of “grit” as something that’s reserved for the children who have obvious challenges. It’s what gets them to the Ivy League from the projects, or earns them a top SAT score in spite of dyslexia. But grit is really just what gets you up when you’re down, what walks you into the classroom to say, I screwed this up, how can I make it better, or what lets you pursue the weird side interest, like studying the dirt that’s left in the hole when everyone else is digging for gold. It’s drive and it’s will and it’s flexibility. Raise a child who wants something (pretty much anything) and knows how to make a plan for getting there, and you’ve raised someone who will get somewhere, no matter how long it takes.

‘Impossible’ Homework Assignment? Let Your Child Do It

The New York Times

Photo

CreditGetty Images

I really didn’t think my two fourth graders could complete their homework assignment on their own: Prepare a five-minute-long speech from a biography, to be delivered, not read, from notes on index cards, in costume and in character and with at least one prop. An impossible task for a 10-year-old, I thought, as I braced for the battle that would surely be involved in dragging them both through the project.

But life intervened. I had to travel for work and take care of issues involving their older brother and sister. My husband was tied up as well. We offered a little redirection to one child early on, a little last-minute glue-gun assistance to the other, and a whole lot of soothing and apologies throughout to two children who didn’t think they could do it on their own, either.

But we were all wrong. They did fine.

“I hear this time and time again from parents,” said Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and the author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” “It’s daring to step back and actually understand what your kids can do without your being present,” she said, especially when the children are clamoring for you to step in instead.

My soothing messages were fine, she said, but my apologies for being unavailable were unnecessary. “Take an interest,” she said, when they ask for help. “You can help them interpret instructions, you can help them procure materials, but when they’re turning to you and saying, ‘I can’t, I don’t know,’ you have to say, ‘Yes you can. This is the homework assigned, your teacher thinks you can do it, and I do too.’”

“You’re looking for evidence that while it’s out of their comfort zone, it’s not completely out of their capacity zone,” said Madeline Levine, a clinical psychologist and the author, most recently, of “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success.” If you, as a parent, catch yourself classifying an assignment as impossible rather than challenging, and getting ready to don your superhero cape and leap in, “break it down into chunks,” Dr. Levine said.

Has the child done anything like this before? A child who can read and write reasonably successfully, she said, is probably ready for the next step of a book report; a child who has written book reports, as mine have, is probably ready to add the speaking component.

“It does mean tolerating not only your own anxiety, but your kid’s anxiety,” she said. Putting all of those skills together was just enough outside of what she called my children’s “safe zone” to make us all nervous, but it was exactly that challenge that their fourth-grade teacher felt they were ready to meet.

It would have been so easy, so justifiable, to involve myself more, and under different circumstances, I would have. After my unintentional hands-off approach, I am questioning my own judgment on when my help is really necessary, and when it’s only in the service of smoothing a path that should stay a little rough.

I still have no idea what facts my youngest son chose to convey about the life of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, although I do know that I could not personally read his illegible notecards. My daughter presented her final speech on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school, to me when I came home late the night before it was due. Had I helped, the report would have been more about Dr. Blackwell and less about Ginger and Blackie, the horses she had during her childhood. (I wisely refrained from suggesting changes at that point.)

It didn’t seem to matter. Their teacher didn’t want the best oral book reports. She wanted their best oral book reports. Neither child got a perfect score, but both came home feeling mostly successful — and knowing that they had no one to thank for that success but themselves.

The challenge, said Ms. Lythcott-Haims, is to trust that our children are both capable and motivated. “We can be so beautifully surprised at how our kids step in, step forward, and really claim that agency and responsibility in their own lives,” she said.

And if they don’t? “We act as if it’s all make or break for their future, and we need to be involved, to make sure,” she said. “What’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t intervene?”

Let the teacher be the teacher, she said. Let the student be the student. And let the learning happen. You’ve already been through fourth grade.

Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared?

The New York Times

By CAROLINE PAUL FEB. 20, 2016

21paul-master675

Credit Lauren Tamaki

I WAS one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department. For more than a dozen years, I worked on a busy rig in a tough neighborhood where rundown houses caught fire easily and gangs fought with machetes and .22s. I’ve pulled a bloated body from the bay, performed CPR on a baby and crawled down countless smoky hallways.

I expected people to question whether I had the physical ability to do the job (even though I was a 5-foot-10, 150-pound ex-college athlete). What I didn’t expect was the question I heard more than any other: “Aren’t you scared?”

It was strange — and insulting — to have my courage doubted. I never heard my male colleagues asked this. Apparently, fear is expected of women.

This fear conditioning begins early. Many studies have shown that physical activity — sports, hiking, playing outdoors — is tied to girls’ self-esteem. And yet girls are often warned away from doing anything that involves a hint of risk.

One study focused on, coincidentally, a playground fire pole, is particularly revealing. It was published in The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and showed that parents cautioned their daughters about the dangers of the fire pole significantly more than they did their sons and were much more likely to assist them. But both moms and dads directed their sons to face their fears, with instruction on how to complete the task on their own.

I spoke recently to a friend who admitted that she cautioned her daughter much more than her son. “But she’s very klutzy,” the mom explained. I wondered, wasn’t there a way even a klutzy child could take risks? My friend agreed there might be, but only halfheartedly, and I could see on her face that maternal instinct was sparring with feminism, and feminism was losing.

I had been a klutzy child, too. I was also shy, and scared of many things: big kids, whatever might be under my bed at night, school. But I pored over National Geographic and “Harriet the Spy.” I knew all about Sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table, who wandered the countryside swearing oaths of bravery and honor. None of these characters talked about fear. They talked about courage, exploration and exciting deeds.

So I biked down a steep country road (and hit a car). I sledded down an icy hill (and hit a tree). I don’t remember my parents freaking out; they seemed to understand that mishaps were part of childhood. I got a few stitches, and kept biking and sledding. Misadventures meant that I should try again. With each triumph over fear and physical adversity, I gained confidence.

I recently asked my mother why she never tried to stop me. She said that her own mother had been very fearful, gasping at anything remotely rough-and-tumble. “I had been so discouraged from having adventures, and I wanted you to have a more exciting childhood,” she told me.

My mom is an outlier. According to a study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology last year, parents are “four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful” after mishaps that are not life-threatening but do entail a trip to the emergency room. It seems like a reasonable warning. But there is a drawback, and the researchers remarked on it: “Girls may be less likely than boys to try challenging physical activities, which are important for developing new skills.” This study points to an uncomfortable truth: We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.
Nobody is saying that injuries are good, or that girls should be reckless. But risk taking is important. Gever Tulley, the author of “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do),” encourages girls and boys to own pocketknives, light fires and throw spears, arguing that dangerous activities under supervision can teach kids responsibility, problem-solving and confidence. It follows that by cautioning girls away from these experiences, we are not protecting them. We are failing to prepare them for life.

When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole, she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone. Soon many situations are considered too scary, when in fact they are simply exhilarating and unknown. Fear becomes a go-to feminine trait, something girls are expected to feel and express at will. By the time a girl reaches her tweens no one bats an eye when she screams at the sight of an insect.

When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making. We try to counter this conditioning by urging ourselves to “lean in.” Books on female empowerment proliferate on our shelves. I admire what these writers are trying to do — but they come far too late.

We must chuck the insidious language of fear (Be careful! That’s too scary!) and instead use the same terms we offer boys, of bravery and resilience. We need to embolden girls to master skills that at first appear difficult, even dangerous. And it’s not cute when a 10-year-old girl screeches, “I’m too scared.”

When I worked as a firefighter, I was often scared. Of course I was. So were the men. But fear wasn’t a reason to quit. I put my fear where it belonged, behind my feelings of focus, confidence and courage. Then I headed, with my crew, into the burning building.

Caroline Paul is the author of the forthcoming book “The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure.”

11 Signs You Have the Grit You Need to Succeed

Huffington Post, 01/30/2016
Dr. Travis Bradberry Author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and president of TalentSmart, world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence.

There are a ton of qualities that can help you succeed, and the more carefully a quality has been studied, the more you know it’s worth your time and energy.

Angela Lee Duckworth was teaching seventh grade when she noticed that the material wasn’t too advanced for any of her students. They all had the ability to grasp the material if they put in the time and effort. Her highest performing students weren’t those who had the most natural talent; they were the students who had that extra something that motivated them to work harder than everyone else.

Angela grew fascinated by this “extra something” in her students and, since she had a fair amount of it herself, she quit her teaching job so that she could study the concept while obtaining a graduate degree in psychology at UPenn.

Her study, which is ongoing, has already yielded some interesting findings. She’s analyzed a bevy of people to whom success is important: students, military personnel, salespeople, and spelling bee contestants, to name a few. Over time, she has come to the conclusion that the majority of successful people all share one critical thing–grit.

Grit is that “extra something” that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.

Developing grit is all about habitually doing the things that no one else is willing to do. There are quite a few signs that you have grit, and if you aren’t doing the following on a regular basis, you should be.

You have to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again, without even flinching. In a recent study at the College of William and Mary, they interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs and found that the most successful among them tend to have two critical things in common: They’re terrible at imagining failure and they tend not to care what other people think of them. In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs put no time or energy into stressing about their failures as they see failure as a small and necessary step in the process of reaching their goals.

You have to fight when you already feel defeated. A reporter once asked Muhammad Ali how many sit-ups he does every day. He responded, “I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting, when I feel pain, cause that’s when it really matters.” The same applies to success in the workplace. You always have two choices when things begin to get tough: you can either overcome an obstacle and grow in the process or let it beat you. Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if you force yourself to push through it, the grit begins to grow in you.

You have to make the calls you’re afraid to make. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do because we know they’re for the best in the long-run: fire someone, cold call a stranger, pull an all-nighter to get the company server back up, or scrap a project and start over. It’s easy to let the looming challenge paralyze you, but the most successful people know that in these moments, the best thing they can do is to get started right away. Every moment spent dreading the task subtracts time and energy from actually getting it done. People that learn to habitually make the tough calls stand out like flamingos in a flock of seagulls.

You have to keep your emotions in check. Negative emotions will challenge your grit every step of the way. While it’s impossible not to feel your emotions, it’s completely under your power to manage them effectively and to keep yourself in a position of control. When you let your emotions overtake your ability to think clearly, it’s easy to lose your resolve. A bad mood can make you lash out or stray from your chosen direction just as easily as a good mood can make you overconfident and impulsive.

You have to trust your gut. There’s a fine line between trusting your gut and being impulsive. Trusting your gut is a matter of looking at decisions from every possible angle, and when the facts don’t present a clear alternative, you believe in your ability to choose; you go with what looks and feels right.

You have to give more than you get in return. There’s a famous Stanford experiment where an administrator leaves a child in a room with a marshmallow for 15 minutes, telling the child that she’s welcome to eat the marshmallow, but if she can wait until the experimenter gets back without eating it, she will get a second marshmallow. The children that were able to wait until the experimenter returned experienced better outcomes in life, including higher SAT scores, greater career success, and even lower body mass indexes. The point being that delay of gratification and patience are essential to success. People with grit know that real results only materialize when you put in the time and forego instant gratification.

You have to lead when no one else follows. It’s easy to set a direction and believe in yourself when you have support, but the true test of grit is how well you maintain your resolve when nobody else believes in what you’re doing. People with grit believe in themselves no matter what and they stay the course until they win people over to their way of thinking.

You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that exceed expectations. Successful people find a way to say yes and still honor their existing commitments. They know the best way to stand out from everyone else is to outwork them. For this reason, they have a tendency to over deliver, even when they over promise.

You have to focus on the details even when it makes your mind numb.Nothing tests your grit like mind-numbing details, especially when you’re tired. The more people with grit are challenged, the more they dig in and welcome that challenge, and numbers and details are no exception to this.

You have to be kind to people who have been rude to you. When people treat you poorly, it’s tempting to stoop to their level and return the favor. People with grit don’t allow others to walk all over them, but that doesn’t mean they’re rude to them, either. Instead, they treat rude and cruel people with the same kindness they extend to anyone else, because they won’t allow another person’s negativity to bring them down.

You have to be accountable for your actions, no matter what.
People are far more likely to remember how you dealt with a problem than they are how you created it in the first place. By holding yourself accountable, even when making excuses is an option, you show that you care about results more than your image or ego.

Bringing It All Together

Grit is as rare as it is important. The good news is any of us can get grittier with a little extra focus and effort.

How to Raise a Resilient Kid

Lorraine Allen 

Writer, mom and blogger at FeedingLina.com

Huffington Post,12/03/2015

Wouldn’t it be great if kids could pick themselves up after a fall and be back swinging on the monkey bars, undeterred? They can, and they will, if we give them the basic tools they need to develop resilience. Happily, this emotional muscle can be strengthened at any age, in many simple ways.

As parents, we instinctively want to protect our kids from harm and pitfalls; but they’re natural parts of life. The American Psychological Association notes that while we “tend to idealize childhood as a carefree time,” in fact, children are tasked with adapting to different social and family environments, from moves, to new schools, and their skills and performance are regularly tested, academically, socially and physically. And these days, we have a lot more to worry about than just monkey bars. Kids are exposed to violence, danger, and even terror through the media and in real life, despite our best efforts to shield them. But instead of worrying about what might happen to our kids, as they grow, and wondering how we can protect them from everything we cannot, we’re far better off focusing on helping them develop resilience, so that they can overcome any challenges, stresses and hurdles they’ll face throughout life. “The ability to thrive despite these challenges arises from the skills of resilience,” the APA explains.

After decades of research, Martin E.P. Seligman at Harvard has identified three ways people react to trauma and adversity depending on our levels of resiliency:

• Those who crumble, feel hopeless and remain stuck in a rut.

• Those who stumble, feel despair, but bounce back.

• Those who not only overcome, but who thrive despite hardship, emerging stronger than before. (“These,” Seligman explains, “are the people of whom Friedrich Nietzsche said: that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”)

If we give our kids the tools they need to bounce back from adversity in childhood, it will continue to serve them well their whole lives, and they will be far more likely to fall into Seligman’s third, most successful group. Here’s a road map that’s clear and simple to follow:

1. Offer Support

Being present, showing unwavering love and support, and providing basic care and a safe home are the cornerstones of the supportive environment kids need to help build resilience. It’s important to note that when kids are misbehaving or struggling, as they often do, they are testing the strength of this foundation they so rely on. When things get tough, stay calm, and listen. If kids feel their struggles are taken seriously, they will be better able to overcome them.

We can also create supportive environments by including family and community, such as school friends, neighbors or church groups, regularly in our lives and in the lives of our children. Help them feel that they are surrounded by a strong support system, and this will in turn give them the strength they need to learn to feel secure in themselves, and in the world.

2. Promote Optimism

Seligman and his colleagues found that in the most resilient individuals “optimism is the key.” Fostering optimism and a positive outlook in kids helps them to develop a sense of constant potential for positive future outcomes, despite adversity. Try asking kids about something positive they experienced each day. If they’re feeling down and can’t think of anything, encourage them by saying, “Let’s think back on the last time you felt really great. What were you doing?” Or, if a child is struggling with something, like a recent move or a difficult class, ask them how they wish things would turn out. Envisioning their own version of a positive outcome is a good exercise to help kids feel from feeling despair, and instead keep their chin up and be able to move forward, even when faced with difficult situations.

Sharing stories with kids about characters who have overcome difficulties with positive attitudes is another great tool to promote optimism. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Mulan, and Rosie Revere Engineer are just a few popular examples.

3. Foster Self-control

Starting even before that coveted moment a toddler graduates to big-boy underpants, there are countless opportunities in a child’s life, both big and small, for parents to help kids develop the skills they need to become more resilient by empowering and encouraging them to take control of their own world. We can notice and praise their potty training efforts and shoe-lace-tying, even when they fail, to show that struggling and imperfection are a normal parts of learning–not something to get too beat down by. We can applaud and encourage the control they are trying to take of their own lives, and help them build the skills they need to succeed, one step at a time. When kids gain self-control, they gain confidence, and are less likely to despair when life throws them a punch.

Involving kids, in age-appropriate ways, help your family overcome hurdles together, even ones as small as fixing a flat tire or broken door knob, are great ways to build problem-solving skills, confidence, a sense of control and therefore resilience, too.

4. Build Purpose

Giving kids the opportunity to contribute to society helps them understand that they are an important, valued part of it. Try these: volunteering at park clean-ups; checking on an elderly neighbor; pet-sitting; donating books to the library; delivering food to a shelter.

Kids strive to feel important and useful. Offering opportunities to help others builds resilience by providing this deep sense of purpose and accomplishment they yearn for; one that’s not graded with a pass of fail, but is unquestionably good. Helping others promotes kids’ personal connections to their community, and their sense of self-worth and hope, too, that they can make the world–their own world–a better place.

Brutally Honest: Is it OK to let your child fail?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
January 20, 2015

In ‘Brutally Honest’ series, Kelly Wallace tackles provocative parenting questions
An article on why parents should let their children fail went viral in January 2013
Studies: Helicopter parenting can lead to more depressed and less confident adults

Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN)Recently, my younger daughter left her class project, a time capsule, at the door so I would see it the minute I got home.

Her project wasn’t due for a month, and she took it upon herself to start it and finish it. I beamed at her great work ethic.

If the story ended here, I would proudly say I am one of those parents who is totally comfortable with the whole “letting my kids fail” concept, but alas, there is more.

You see, even though my daughter worked hard to create a unique time capsule — complete with a slipper, miniature soccer and basketball, chess set, Pokemon cards and cordless phone — I worried that the other kids, probably with help from their parents, would have much more elaborate and highly constructed time capsules. Plus, I thought my daughter didn’t quite complete the assignment.

She wanted to bring the project in the following morning. “I put my heart into it,” she told me.

No-brainer, right? But no, I was torn between not wanting to crush her spirit and making sure her project was viewed positively by her teacher and peers.
I think you can probably guess which feeling won out. She brought the project in after the weekend — and only after I had her re-read the assignment and add decorations and information.

There is no doubt in my mind she was prouder of her work before I meddled. Why on earth did I do such a thing?

Many of us good, well-meaning parents are scared of our children “not being right all the time” and are motivated by a desire to buck up our kids’ self-esteem when we’re actually doing more harm than good, according to Jessica Lahey, author of the upcoming book “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” which will be released in August.

Lahey, who has spent more than a decade teaching middle and high school students, has become somewhat of an expert in this area, after her article “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail” in The Atlantic back in January 2013 went viral.

The article included an unforgettable anecdote: Lahey called a parent to inform her that her child would be punished for plagiarism only to learn from the mother that she, not her daughter, wrote the entire paper.

Sure, an extreme case, but an example of what many parents do, thinking they are actually helping their children.

“Every single time we turn around and say, ‘I’ll just do that for you’ or ‘Here let me help you with that,’ we are saying to them, ‘I don’t think you can do that for yourself,’ ” said Lahey, who is also a columnist for The New York Times and a contributor to The Atlantic and Vermont Public Radio.
“And that is really damaging over time. We create a really helpless culture of kids so that now when I talk to college professors, they say these kids show up to college unable to handle anything on their own.”

The research backs up just how dangerous our inability to let our children stumble and figure things out on their own can be for them as young adults.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that helicopter parenting can lead to anxiety and depression in college students, and decreased feelings of autonomy and competence.

Another investigation, this one led by the University of Arizona, found that adults who were overparented have an exaggerated sense of entitlement, and more doubt about their ability to overcome challenges.

The study also found that helicopter parents have dependent and neurotic kids.

Why do we do it?

Part of the reason we step in, says Lahey, is because we want our kids to love us.

“We want to feel needed and so when we take that homework assignment to school for them and rescue them, we feel we get to check that box off today. ‘I was a good parent,'” said Lahey.
She writes in the book about her own struggles, how one morning, her younger child, who is now 11, worked really hard on his homework assignment and then left it on the coffee table.

“And I took to Facebook (and wrote) ‘Just for those of you who think this is easy for me, that homework assignment is sitting there on the table.'”

She did not take the homework to school, as at least one member of her Facebook community suggested she do, and was on “tenterhooks” all day, she said.

“But he came home at the end of the day and he’s like, ‘It’s fine. I talked to my teacher,'” said Lahey. “Giving kids the opportunity to problem solve when something goes wrong, there’s nothing better than that and when we take that away from them, it’s a real tragedy.”
In conversations with parents across the country, there was definite disagreement over just what letting a child fail means and just how far a parent can take it.

“I think when you use the word ‘fail’ you alienate a lot of people,” said the children’s television host Miss Lori, a mom of three. “I believe in allowing my children to stumble.”

Teaching them how to get up again is enormously important, said the social media strategist and Babble.com contributor. “But fail, not so much, especially in school. Our education system is already failing them in most cities. Their school resume is too important and they have too few years to amass it.”

Allowing kids to “fail” has different meanings to parents, says Vicki Hoefle, author of “Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids.”

“And this is where some of the confusion comes in. Allowing your first-grader to fail a spelling test because they did study is much easier for a parent to deal with than allowing your eight-grader to fail science because he chose not to study and will have to repeat the class over the summer,” said Hoefle, whose newest book, “The Straight Talk on Parenting,” will be released in April.
Balance is key, says Avital Norman Nathman, a mom of an 8-year-old in Northhampton, Massachusetts, who blogs at The Mamafesto. We shouldn’t always let our kids “hang out to dry,” but we also need to realize part of our desire to see our kids succeed is our own ego.

“We see our successes in our own children so when we allow them to fail, that also kind of reflects on us … and so it’s uncomfortable but we need to get there because otherwise we’re going to have these helpless kids who either feel incredibly entitled and who would want that, or helpless, they don’t know how to do things for themselves,” said Norman Nathman, editor of the motherhood anthology “The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality.”

If we’re hurting our kids, how do we stop doing it?

In many ways, it’s so much easier not to let our kids fail, parents say.

Cecily Kellogg of Philadelphia remembers when her 8-year-old joined their local Junior Roller Derby team. In the middle of the first practice, she skated over to her mom shaking and crying because she felt she was slower than everyone and didn’t know the moves. She wanted to leave immediately, but her mom refused to take her home.

Her daughter was clinging to her, but Kellogg pried herself away and left her to her coaches.

The next practice her daughter still felt embarrassed and ashamed she wasn’t an expert but agreed to go inside the rink only after her mother left.

“Boy oh boy, did I want her to quit. Both times I walked away from her, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Kellogg. “Now? She’s absolutely crazy about roller derby and loves it. Can’t wait to go each week.”

Kellogg says the experience was not just about allowing her daughter to “fail” and learning the “hard way she wasn’t going to be the very best at what she did without practice.” It was also about “pushing her to keep going without letting her quit.”

Lahey says her biggest piece of advice for parents is to move away from any focus on the end results, namely grades and test scores.

Let your kids make up their short-term goals, she suggests, which could include everything from making more friends at school to cleaning their room seven days in a row to making the roller derby team.

“If … they don’t achieve them, that’s OK, yes, they failed at something. They failed to achieve their goals, but what are the consequences? It’s nothing.”

WHY SOME CHILDREN CAN THRIVE DESPITE ADVERSITY

Harvard University Graduate School of Education

The Science of Resilience

BY BARI WALSH, ON MARCH 23, 2015
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When confronted with the fallout of childhood trauma, why do some children adapt and overcome, while others bear lifelong scars that flatten their potential? A growing body of evidence points to one common answer: Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed rela­tionship with a supportive adult.

The power of that one strong adult relationship is a key ingredient in resilience — a positive, adaptive response in the face of significant adversity — according to a new report from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a multidisciplinary collaboration chaired by Harvard’s Jack Shonkoff. Understanding the centrality of that relationship, as well as other emerging findings about the science of resilience, gives policymakers a key lever to assess whether current programs designed to help disadvantaged kids are working.

“Resilience depends on supportive, responsive relationships and mastering a set of capabilities that can help us respond and adapt to adversity in healthy ways,” says Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard. “It’s those capacities and relationships that can turn toxic stress into tolerable stress.”

As a growing body of research is showing, the developing brain relies upon the consistent “serve and return” interactions that happen between a young child and a primary caregiver, the report says. When these interactions occur regularly, they provide the scaffolding that helps build “key capacities — such as the ability to plan, monitor, and regulate be­havior, and adapt to changing circumstances — that enable children to respond to adversity and to thrive,” the report continues. The developing brain is buffered by this feedback loop between biology and environment.

But in the absence of these responsive relationships, the brain’s architecture doesn’t develop optimally. The body perceives the absence as a threat and activates a stress response that — when prolonged — leads to physiological changes that affect the brain and overall systems of physical and mental health. The stress becomes toxic, making it more difficult for children to adapt or rebound.

The experiences of the subset of children who overcome adversity and end up with unexpectedly positive life outcomes are helping to fuel a new understanding of the nature of resilience — and what can be done to build it.

Here’s what the science of resilience is telling us, according to the council’s report:

  • Resilience is born from the interplay between internal disposition and external experience. It derives from supportive relationships, adaptive capacities, and positive experiences.
  • We can see and measure resilience in terms of how kids’ brains, immune systems, and genes all respond to stressful experiences.
  • There is a common set of characteristics that predispose children to positive outcomes in the face of ad­versity:
    • The availability of at least one stable, caring, and supportive relationship between a child and an adult caregiver.
    • A sense of mastery over life circumstances.
    • Strong executive func­tion and self-regulation skills.
    • The supportive context of affirming faith or cultural traditions.
  • Learning to cope with manageable threats to our physical and social well-being is critical for the development of resilience.
  • Some children demonstrate greater sensitivity to both negative andpositive experiences.
  • Resilience can be situation-specific.
  • Positive and negative experiences over time continue to influence a child’s mental and physical development. Resilience can be built; it’s not an innate trait or a resource that can be used up.
  • People’s response to stressful experi­ences varies dramatically, but extreme adversity nearly always generates serious problems that require treatment.

Additional Resources:

  • Read Part II of our exploration of resilience, about the public policy implications of our new understanding of the science of resilience.
FACULTY IN THIS ARTICLE
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

As director of the Center on the Developing Child, Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is using the science of early childhood development to drive innovation in policy and practice, with the goal of transforming life outcomes for disadvantaged children and reducing the consequences of early adversity.