Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Learning Perseverance is Painful

The week's gymnastics lesson over, her children climbed into the gray van and fastened their seat belts. While buckling her 3 year old into his car seat, she glanced toward the backseat and noticed the expression on his face.

The eldest child, an eight year old boy who embodied all the stereotypes of a firstborn, sat with his back ramrod straight, his jaw clenched, and eyes  filled with tears. "Uh-oh," she thought.

Looking into his face, she gently asked, "What's the matter, Sweetheart?"

The tears spilled down his cheeks. "I don't want to do gymnastics any more."

"Really?," she asked, silently praying for wise words to help her hurting firstborn. "Why not?"

"I'm not good at it. The coach said Brother's good at gymnastics. It's not fair," his words tumbled out in a mixture of disappointment and jealousy.

"Well," she responded, "Everyone has something their good at doing. Gymnastics is one of those things for Brother. That doesn't mean you can't be good at gymnastics, too. It just means you have to work harder at it than he does. When the exercises are hard and you want to quit, you have to push through it and keep going. O.K.?"

He nodded and wiped the tears from his eyes. With that her teachable moment ended and she climbed into the driver's seat.

As she drove towards home, she replayed the previous scene in her mind. Her heart ached for her perfectionist firstborn. She understood his desire to do everything well, along with his desire to quit when things got hard. It didn't help matters that Brother, younger by only 20 months, was a natural athlete. She marveled that two brothers could be so different.

Then she wondered, yet again, how would she ever teach her oldest perseverance?

How do you teach your children perseverance?

This post was inspired by Day 5:: First and Third.


Carrie said...

Oh, we've had those conversations! We just ask that each child give it their very best and follow through with various tasks that seem too hard for them. Right now that involves putting on shoes and socks and coats by and for themselves. There is one child who wants to believe he cannot do it.

And so we encourage him. ;)

Stephanie said...

Carrie, I also have one child who claims inability to put on socks and shoes. But at other times he refuses to allow me to do it and does fine by himself. I think it's that 3 yr old age. :)

It's difficult to know when to push a child and when to back off. We talk a lot about doing your best and staying focused.

My #2 boy is very introverted and shy so new situations and people scare him. I forced him to take gymnastics lessons because I knew he would love it and be good at it. It took about a month before he wasn't afraid of the people anymore. Now he loves it and is amazing (the coach has mentioned him joining the teach but we're holding off for now).

For my firstborn quitting is usually motivated by disappointment and frustration. For my second-born quitting is usually motivated by fear of the unknown. I try not to let either quit when those are their reasons.

Candice Moretti said...

Great post and good question. I wonder how I will handle these same conversations? Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Candice! I'm learning there is no one-size-fits-all kind of answer. Each conversation about perseverance is unique as is each child. I'm hoping my example will teach as much as my words.

Amy said...

Great post and great question. I agree--it's different with each child and they learn so much by our example. Perseverance is tough at any age!

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Amy! You are so right that perseverance at any age is difficult!

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