"Sometimes you just have to let them fall." Turia Pitt on building resilience in her two boys.

Turia Pitt knows a thing or two about resilience.

While running an ultramarathon in 2011 in the WA outback, she got caught in a grass fire and suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body. Her lengthy and painful recovery included learning to walk again and adapting to a whole new reality. 

Turia, now a mum of two little boys Hukavai and Rahiti, not only hosts her own podcast and writes books, but continues to run ultra-marathons. 

Watch: Turia Pitt on 60 Minutes. Post continues below. 

Video via 60 Minutes.

She spoke to Leigh Campbell on this week's episode of Mamamia's How to Raise a Human podcast about how she's teaching her toddlers to be resilient while also being a resilient mum.

"We are all going to go through some hard times," Turia tells Leigh.

"We need to be okay with it and know that when you're going through the sh*tty time, you don't like it or wouldn't wish it on anyone, but you also know you have the inner resources to cope with it."

Recalling what kept her going through some of her most difficult moments, Turia says that it starts with acceptance.

"It is about acknowledging that what I was going through was a really sh*tty time and there's this culture of toxic positivity where people say, 'Oh at least this didn't happen' or 'Look for the silver linings' and that's bullsh*t. If something is not good, it's okay to just call it how it is and say that this is a really hard experience, and I am going through this. Acknowledging adversity is a really a powerful first step, we do ourselves a disservice by not listening to how we're really feeling.


"Secondly, lower your expectations on what you can do when you're going through something difficult. I think just focus on showing up and even if it's a struggle to get through the day, focus on the next hour. None of this is exciting, but it does work!" 

Listen: Turia Pitt on the How to Build a Human podcast. Post continues below. 

Turia says she hopes to build resilience in her two boys through a hands-off but supportive approach.

"[As a mum] your instinct is to want to protect your kids and not want them to get hurt. At school there was another kid bullying Hukavai, and I got really annoyed. I said to [husband] Michael, 'We've got to get him out, we have to talk to the school.' That was my instinct. But I also think you have to let kids work things out for themselves sometimes. They have to fail at things and not be good at everything.

"I always think that if they're failing small, like climbing a tree and falling out and get a broken arm, they've hopefully learn't a lesson. And maybe when they're 21, they won't be riding a motorbike at 100 kilometres per hour without a helmet!" 

She admits that letting her two boys learn through play and occasionally getting hurt, can still be hard.

"I lot of times I'll be looking at what their doing and I'll be like, 'Ah, one of them will get really hurt!' But I also try to think that if they get hurt, they'll learn something. And sometimes you can say to your kids, 'Don't do that' on repeat and they don't listen, anyway. Sometimes they have to figure it out for themselves - even if it isn't perfect! There's no hard or fast rules [as a parent] for what you are and are not comfortable with." 


The traditional notion that boys have to be tough and not show emotion is something that Turia, as a mum of two boys, is keen to dismantle.

Turia and Hukavai. Image: Instagram @turiapitt.

"When Hukavai says he's frustrated or that he 'hates his brother' I try not to say, 'You can't feel that'. I just acknowledge how he's feeling. 


"As an adult, what's really annoying is when you tell someone you are upset and they say, 'You're not upset' or 'Don't be sad!" because they're uncomfortable with how you're feeling. I really hate that.

"Hukavai is five and his world isn't very big. And so I guess in his world, if he can't find his dino [toy] then that is a massive deal for him."

Turia says she had to be extremely resilient when her partner Michael went away for work for six months as a helicopter pilot in Queensland at the start of the pandemic. She stayed at home with Hukavai and Rahiti who were age three and one.

"I was trying to get through the day and do dinner, bath time, and bedtime, and work as well. I was happy for Michael but I also resented him at the time! But part of being resilient is acknowledging when something is hard, so that's what I did. It wasn't easy. [Luckily] my kids went to pre-school and if I called mum up and said, 'I'm really struggling', she would come over. So I had support, but despite that it was still very hard and testing - especially at night!"

On the days when she woke up tired, cranky, and annoyed, Turia says she decided to just let her expectations go.


"I'd be over it, but I wouldn't have this high expectation on myself to get through everything and be a super mum. Instead, the focus would be to just get through morning: take the kids outside, get them to burn off some energy, then get a coffee in the sunshine at the park.

"In the afternoon it might be a movie and pizza for dinner. It was about lowering my standards and breaking it all down.

"With parenting there's always 20 minutes of chaos followed by 20 minutes of joy when you might sit and read with them. It can be frustrating, but when those difficult times came up, I would remind myself that they won’t be permanent." 

Ultimately, Turia hopes her boys will grow up to be confident, happy and resilient.

"I want my boys to just be nice, strong, compassionate men. Kind and empathic - my partner is like this! If they were adventurous and funny, then that's awesome too, but really I just want them to be kind men who treat women well, and are good to spend time with."

Feature Image: Instagram @turiapitt.

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