How Does Your Child Handle Adversity?

By: Heather O’Neill

There’s an old tale about a carrot, an egg and a coffee bean. If you haven’t heard it, it’s basically this:

carrot, egg, coffee bean.jpg

There are 3 pots on a stove filled with boiling water. Each pot contains a different item.

  1. The first pot contains carrots.
  2. The second pot contains eggs.
  3. The third pot contains ground coffee beans.

After 20 minutes in the boiling water, there will be a change in each pot. 

  1. The carrots, once hard and strong, will become soft and mushy.
  2. The eggs, once fragile and delicate, will become firm and sturdy. 
  3. The coffee beans will actually transform into something new.

Each item faces the same adversity – boiling water. 

Each item experiences it for the same time – 20 minutes. 

Each item experiences its own reaction.

  1. The carrot seems tough, strong and unrelenting yet when faced with pain and difficulty, it becomes weakened and unsteady. 
  2. The egg seems breakable, weak and fluid, yet when faced with discomfort and agony it becomes hardened and resistant.
  3. The coffee beans did not succumb to the boiling water and change, but they changed the water. What was once clear and without fragrance has become aromatic, flavorful and rich. 

What does this mean for our children?

Each child faces their own version of the boiling water each day. Some versions are more extreme than others. As they face each adversity such as a poor grade, a missed assignment, figuring out how to maneuver tricky social situations, will they be like the carrot, egg or coffee bean?  As they encounter each obstacle we need to encourage them to look at each situation as an opportunity to be strong and not weakened by the challenge. To not lose their fluidity and creativity when faced with a stumbling block. 

As parents/guardians here are a few tips in assisting our children with shifting their perspective on each adversity:

  1. Encourage your child to self-advocate. Help them find their voice and communicate with others in their lives on their own. 
  2. Embrace mistakes. Each opportunity that does not go their way is a new opportunity for growth. Don’t allow the mistake to derail them. Each setback is an opportunity to learn and grow. 
  3. Promote self-reflection. When things don’t go their way, reflect on why and figure out how they can improve next time. 
  4. Have the difficult conversations. Address what the challenges are and provide honest feedback. Don’t give phony praise or sugar coat comments.
  5. Support your child in being accountable for their actions. Both successes and mishaps.

If our children become like the coffee bean, when a situation is at its worst, they will elevate to another level and change the environment around them. 

If we’re lucky, that change will also come with a comforting cup of coffee.


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