Competence… Confidence… Coping… Control… Character…

Building Resilience in Children, Teens, and Young Adults

Dangerous Children learn a lot more than how to be dangerous, and how to support themselves financially at least three different ways by age 18. By age 18, some of them have finished college, while others will find their ways around the world through skilled and creative work, without a college education.

All of them must learn to be resilient, which involves character and “grit,” among other things. More on one approach to teaching resilience to children and teens:

The seven “Cs” that are introduced below come from the book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens” by Kenneth Ginsburg. Notice that the super-concept of resilience incorporates basic concepts of “competence, confidence, character, coping, and control,” among others. Coincidentally, these are all crucial components of The Dangerous Child Method. More from blogger Adenia Linker:


Competence is cumulative, acquired through actual experience, and manifests in children as “I can do this!” As children struggle with skill building and say, “I can’t”, they often feel hopeless. They need to hear “yet” at the end of their declaration …


Our children’s confidence flows from their competences. When they feel competent after mastering a skill, they are charged to take on even more challenges…


…By building rituals that guarantee a calm opportunity for family time, we show them we are present without weighing in on their daily activities…


Today’s pop culture sadly dismisses the value of character by advocating celebrity heroes and elite America as role models. Our children need access to ordinary heroes – realistic role models to emulate, and opportunities to observe how true heroes are givers. Adolescents have a fundamental sense of right and wrong, and understand that character is doing what’s right when no one is looking….


Everyone needs a sense of purpose, especially our youth who are identifying his or her own strengths… Giving and contributing to another’s welfare develop new skills and talents…


Resilience is all about learning to cope with setbacks and disappointments, and it is entirely dependent on developing skills that employ positive strategies…


… responsibility for behavior ultimately lies with our child…

Cultivating the 7 C’s: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping, and Control build youth resilience. This is simply the most comprehensive approach to bolster our children against physical symptoms, fatigue, disinterest, dropping grades, sad mood, irritability, and substance abuse – all which can surface when resilience is limited. __ Adenia Linker

These “skills of resilience” are closely linked to the brain’s prefrontal cortex executive function skills, character, and grit.

Executive function skills take place in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and other areas of the brain working in concert with it. We use these skills to manage our attention, our emotions, our intellect, and our behavior to reach our goals. They include:

Focus — being able to pay attention;
Working memory — being able to keep information in mind in order to use it;
Cognitive flexibility — being able to adjust to shifting needs and demands; and
Inhibitory control — being able to resist the temptation to go on automatic and do what we need to do to achieve our goals.

As children grow older, these skills include reflecting, analyzing, planning and evaluating. Executive function skills are always goal-driven. __

Although the prefrontal cortex’ executive functions are thought to be highly heritable, there is some evidence that many of the skills can be built up through training.

It is clear that exec­u­tive atten­tion and effort­ful con­trol are crit­i­cal for suc­cess in school. Will they one day be trained in pre-schools? It sounds rea­son­able to believe so, to make sure all kids are ready to learn. Of course, addi­tional stud­ies are needed to deter­mine exactly how and when atten­tion train­ing can best be accom­plished and its last­ing importance.

In terms of health, many deficits and clin­i­cal prob­lems have a com­po­nent of seri­ous deficits in exec­u­tive atten­tion net­work. For exam­ple, when we talk about atten­tion deficits, we can expect that in the future there will be reme­di­a­tion meth­ods, such as work­ing mem­ory train­ing, to help alle­vi­ate those deficits.

Let me add that we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing, even with nor­mal peo­ple, the higher the results. __

Cognitive neuroscientist Michael Posner — interviewed at the link above — uses advanced brain imaging technologies to support his stance in favour of executive functions training.

Until recently, most economists and psychologists believed that the most important factor in a child’s success was his or her IQ…. But the scientists whose work I followed for How Children Succeed have identified a very different set of skills that they believe are crucial to success. They include qualities like persistence, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. Economists call these non-cognitive skills. Psychologists call them personality traits. Neuroscientists sometimes use the term executive functions. __

Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed,” is another proponent of “character education,” or the teaching of “grit” and executive function.

A recent critic of the teaching of grit, is Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, assistant professor at Carleton College, and the author of a recent book on black history.

Inspired by the field of positive psychology, character education at KIPP focuses on seven character strengths—grit, zest, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. These seven strengths are presented as positive predictors of success in “college and life.” Grit, for example—a term Angela Duckworth used to mean “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”—has been shown to correlate with grade point averages and graduation rates. Levin envisions that character education will be woven into “the DNA” of KIPP’s classrooms and schools, especially via “dual purpose” instruction that is intended to explicitly teach both academic and character aims. __ (via )

Snyder goes on to complain that KIPP training places undue emphasis on “talking about character training rather than doing it,” teaching grit without also teaching values, and focusing too much on college preparation rather than “life preparation.”

The truth is that any large program approved for teaching in government schools is likely to be sadly deficient in many ways. That is one reason that homeschooling is so crucial for parents who are most concerned about full spectrum education. Even if you must send a child to government school, he should still receive additional homeschooling on top of his regular schooling.

Children are confronted every day with efforts to break down their personal integrity, and to shape them to conform to mass norms at the lowest common denominator. The more resilient they are through development of competence, confidence, character, coping, self-control, connection to virtues and values, and ability to contribute positively to his surroundings — the better able the child and teen will be to grow into a responsible, productive, and positive adult.

The more individual skills and unique positive talents and characteristics the child has developed, the more difficult it will be for the skankstream to pull him deeply into the current where he will lose control.

Resilience and dangerousness. Not politically correct by any means. But necessary if humanity is to have a free, open, and abundant future.

Bonus: Portraits of Competence from original Al Fin blog

Articles on Competence from original Al Fin

Adapted and re-published from Al Fin Next Level