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The day after that, Christmas Eve, he went and bought four bicycles, one for each of his three kids, ages 16, 14 and 12, along with one for himself. He put them under the tree, a father's promise that the future would be better. "The kids are why I'm alive," he says. "God knows what lessons I'm teaching them. I don't know, but I know I'm giving them hard shells."

(Beyond the Breach 08/24/15 • ESPN the Magazine)

What does "hard shells" mean here?

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    I know what it should mean but the context you included doesn't really fit with that. Can you possibly include more of the story or some explanation of what's going on? – Catija Aug 27 '15 at 5:57
  • He has been through a lot of personal difficulties last 10 years and hasn't been quite a model father, but he is trying to turn his life around now. – whitecap Aug 27 '15 at 6:26
  • Similar in meaning to "thick skin", I think. An animal with a hard shell can take a lot more abuse than one without - so giving kids "hard shells" is teaching them how to survive and continue in spite of difficulties. – Jeffrey Kemp Aug 27 '15 at 7:56
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From the context given my best guess would be that it probably means (for the parent) to bring them up (parenting) in such a manner that makes them very independent, can live life by themselves and have a high self esteem/not be affected by the opinions of others.

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