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Review of "Raising Resilient Children"

By Sam Goldstein & Robert Brooks
McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 2002
Review by Shelly Marshall, B.S., CSAC on Jun 10th 2004
Raising Resilient Children

There are no surprises in Raising Resilient Children. This is due in part to the fact that the authors take credit for teaching parents how to "create" resilience in children so they can "cope effectively with stress, pressure, and everyday challenges" and present their work as if other professionals and parents somehow missed this as the goal in healthy families. The authors state that "parent availability, love, consistency, and discipline" are the ingredients parents need so their kids develop resilience.  

  Goldstein and Brooks admit in Chapter One that "hundreds of books and dozens of magazines offer parents guidance and advice" but that incorporating "resilience" based on scientific study is new. This might be true depending on what you define "resilience" as. The authors state that "parent availability, love, consistency and discipline" are the ingredients parents need so their children are resilient, yet originally resilience in children meant those kids who were raised in horrendous circumstances emerging relatively whole while being raised without "parent availability, love, consistency and discipline." A cursory search of "children and resilience" in PubMed did reveal that indeed the term "resilience" has been so overused that now any maladjusted child from an imperfect background (whose is perfect dare I ask?) is considered at-risk and any child who does well from the same imperfect background is considered resilient. It's a pity because I had high expectations for this book and its message.

  Without wanting to be harsh, I'm going to be harsh. The authors state that their program "offers a different approach" by claming to articulate resilient qualities, then quoting the research behind their ideas and providing the parent with a concrete strategy. It seems that Goldstein and Brooks have been deprived of the exposure to voluminous arrays of seminars, video, documentaries, workshops, and more on good sound parenting. I, as a parent, have not--and have endured the burden of guilt embedded in my mother courtesy of Dr. Spock extending to my exposure to Skinnerian and other psychosocial models taught in college about child-rearing, to my daughter's threat of being thrown in jail for the slightest slap directed at her rug-rats. There is no shortage of good advice based on research as the authors entail.   

Our society has been trying for 35 years to find just the right combination of parental guidelines and firmness tempered with love that will produce the perfect, happy-healthy, (or in all honestly-compliant) offspring. Yet we remain awash in Columbines, drive-bys, drug overdoses, delinquency, drop-outs, and juvenile crime. Can it honestly be that everyone has gotten it wrong for so long until now? Chapter one implies all this.

  Resilience is the "presence of adaptive qualities," they point out, "not the absence of certain risk factors." Mainly through the work of Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith, we (parents and professionals) have learned a lot about what resiliency is and what kind of child exhibits it. "The results of the study speak to an innate "self-righting" tendency in human beings," writes Deirdre Ah Shene, AADAC Writer-Editer in Mar 1999 in her essay, Resiliency: A Vision of Hope. "Some protective factors are inherent in the nature of resilient people. Werner and Smith noted that even in infancy there was something different about the high-risk children who never developed serious problems. They were active, affectionate, good-natured infants, alert and autonomous toddlers." Still we (parents and professionals) hope that we can instill this "resiliency" given the right set of guidelines and Goldstein and Brooks attempt it in this book/training course. My contention with the authors is simply that they act as if their work is concrete (albeit more scientific than others) yet they are not presenting anything that hasn't been beating on the parental drums for a very long and unsuccessful time.

  Chapter Two describes the Seven Guideposts so that the parent can "Appreciate each child's unique road" and raise them in a consistent manner. But who among us hasn't heard: be empathetic, give positive messages, positive discipline (and if I hear one more expert tell us that discipline come from 'disciple' meaning to teach, I will throw up), implanting problem solving skills, loving your child in that all-exclusive  special way, learning from their mistakes and reinforcing their islands of competence? Anything new here? The "islands of competence" thing sounded fresh until it was loosely defined as 'don't down grade the child for their weaknesses; compliment them for their successes.'

  I think parents already get these things. Yes, there are the drunkards, the totally incompetent and selfish who holler at the kids, beat and abuse them, but they won't be reading this, or any other "improve your parenting skills" type work. Chapter Three is simply an overview of how to present this material.

  Section Two begins the curriculum for the professional to train to parent. It is detailed and clean. I like this; it is user friendly. However, the curriculum again is so overdone, you could call it Spock Shock. Only new people to the planet could not have heard these suggestions. Even the parenting quiz is so simple only a pre-parental high school student might be fooled into choosing a wrong answer. Example: What is the best way to deal with mistakes? Should you "serve as a model for dealing with mistakes and setbacks" or should you "ignore mistakes?" It doesn't' get more complicated than that.

  In Week Two of training, we learn how to show empathy. Basically this means, don't be a drill sergeant and let our kids know you know how they feel. In Week Three, we are promised a look at how to change the words of parenting to stop the negative scripts. Looks promising again. I know how important labels and the words we use shape the way we think. Disappointment again. No words are given as examples to use and you are told to NOT use words like stubborn or lazy! We are told to evaluate and fix our own scripts. Why am I reading this again? "If at first you don't succeed, try again." ~ A quote from Week Three's lesson.

  Fast forward through the check list for problem solving (Week Five); help parents understand the role that love plays (Week Six); learn from your mistakes (Week Seven); Week Nine of the curriculum is a review of all the points presented in the preceding work..

  Good points: it's clean, it's popular, it's brief, it's sound advice, it's a good course for parenting 101 to be offered in the junior/senior year of high school. And as the authors stress, we want to learn from our mistakes. Nice try guys. Now move beyond the basics and tell us something we honestly don/t know.


© 2004 Shelly Marshall


Shelly Marshall, B.S., CSAC is an Adolescent Chemical Dependency Specialist and Researcher. You can visit her site at 

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