Building Resilience | The seventh (and final) C: Control |

Building Resilience | The seventh (and final) C: Control

Terri Andrews Rinne
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment a series of articles about Kenneth Ginsburg’s “Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Children Roots and Wings.” For previous installments, search Resilience at

In describing the final C in fostering resilience, Ginsburg is quick to point out that by control he does not mean that a parent should attempt rigid control of a child’s actions, emotions, thoughts or choices, but rather we should encourage our children to control their own actions and, consequently, outcomes as well.

Children who learn inner control by making decisions and facing the consequences gradually become more independent and ultimately more resilient.

Children who understand they have control over their lives take responsibility rather than blame others for problems and failures. They don’t blame the teacher for a poor grade, or the ref for a lost game.

Children who routinely blame someone or something else for adversity will see themselves as victims and will be passive in the face of difficulty because they will not believe that an action they may take will make a difference. A child who feels “everything always happens to me” tends to become passive, pessimistic, or even depressed.

Resilient kids understand things don’t just happen to them. They can be decision-makers and problem-solvers who help shape outcomes. They learn that delaying immediate gratification often leads to success at a long-term goal. By choice and action, a resilient child knows that he can make a difference, which further promotes his competence and confidence.

The development of resilience depends upon parents’ relinquishing tight control in favor of guidance, attention, and support so that children have opportunities to test their inner control. Ginsburg outlines the four basic parenting styles of authoritarian, permissive, disengaged, and authoritative.

Not surprisingly, the first three styles have major drawbacks associated with them, whereas the authoritative style, in which the parent establishes boundaries, warmth, and support, strikes a more healthy balance.

Some useful questions to ask yourself about control:

Do I help my child understand that life’s events are not purely random and most things happen as a direct result of someone’s actions and choices?

On the other hand, do I help my child understand that he is not responsible for many of the bad circumstances in his life (such as parents’ separation or divorce)?

Do I help her think about the future, but take it one step at a time?

Do I help him recognize even his small successes so he can experience the knowledge that he can succeed?

Do I help him understand that no one can control all circumstances, but everyone can shift the odds by choosing positive or protective behaviors?

Do I understand that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling? Do I use discipline as a means to help my child understand that his actions produce certain consequences?

Do I reward demonstrated responsibility with increased privileges?

Teri Andrews Rinne is the children’s services librarian at the Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave. Call 530-582-7846 or visit

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