The Dawn Wall also available on is a documentary about the legendary free climber Tommy Caldwell, who aspires to be the first person to climb The Dawn Wall a 900m high very smooth rock face in Yosemite. In this remarkable story of single minded focus and determination, one thing that stood out is the fact that the Tommy’s father was taking Tommy climbing from the age of 6. His dad says “the best gift you can give to your kid is the ability to deal with adversity”

Image from The Dawn Wall Image from The Dawn Wall reproduced under fair use

In today’s parlance, one would say Tommy was raised to have resilience.

What is resilience?

Harvard University has a good article on resilience in children that begins with:

“Reducing the effects of significant adversity on children’s healthy development is essential to the progress and prosperity of any society. Science tells us that some children develop resilience, or the ability to overcome serious hardship, while others do not. Understanding why some children do well despite adverse early experiences is crucial, because it can inform more effective policies and programs that help more children reach their full potential.”

This is important because in order to extend one’s self to achieve goals, one needs to be able to face challenges head on, often again and again before one can break through and meet the next challenge. This can enable kids the freedom to do more with their lives.

Instilling resiliency

The Harvard University link above has some good ideas on how to raise resilience kids but I think psychological studies should only be taken as one small piece of jigsaw and parental intuition should be taken into account as well.

The way I do it is to borrow techniques from Growth mindset which means that I watch closely for signs that my kids are facing some adversity such as fear or tiredness, facing a flight of stairs, a high slide, strangers or even unfamiliar food, I encourage them to acknowledge their feeling as their brain’s attempt to tell them something, and then say “thank you but I have other plans and if I can do this my brain will thank me for making it stronger” then go ahead and take action. I will reinforce this with a reward such as grant them stars or take them out for cakes and ice cream if they do something really special.

I hope that by practicing this way then when they will slowly practice overcoming adversity and be able to take on bigger challenges. Perhaps one day they will be able to attempt to climb their own Dawn Wall?

Do you raise resilient kids? Drop me an email or write a comment, I’d love to hear from you.