This blog began with the fiftieth anniversary of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the express purpose of telling the stories of ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things without regard for recognition or reward. It has evolved into lessons about governance and citizenship as well as stories about courage, compassion, and sacrifice. In May 2014, this blog begins to feature those who have little but persevere.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Teach Your Children Well; Teach Them to Persevere
Atticus created several challenging lessons for his children. He wanted
them to restrain their rash, emotional impulses in favor of civility and
reason. Above all, he wanted them to learn empathy and the courage of their
convictions. Every child needs to master these lessons in order to grow and
become a worthy citizen, but I offer a few more to prepare your child for what
lies ahead, and I think Atticus would approve.
The merits of public education and the costs of a college education are
often in the news lately, weighing heavily on the minds of parents. Some doubt
the wisdom of sending their child to public school. Others wonder if the
current trend toward virtual schools and home schooling may be right for them.
Above all, they worry about helping
their child pay the high cost of an education after high school. With this
post, I offer some tips for preparing your child to take the path that is right
for him or her, whatever that path may be.
most important is to consider what employers and college admissions officers
have in common when considering candidates, and that is the ability
to persevere. Can your child power
through mild setbacks such as a head cold or forgetting about a deadline or
even an unkind gesture from a peer? Will your child reassess and plan, or will
your child fall apart? You can train a child to become a malingerer, using
minor aches and pains to avoid responsibilities and consequences as easily as
you can train a child to be resilient and resourceful.
learn to persevere by teaching them to think creatively. For example, if they become frustrated while painting or building
with blocks because they cannot accomplish what they had in mind, encourage
them to re-imagine the design instead of crumpling the paper or knocking down
the blocks. Doing so will help them transfer that skill to other complex
processes, including a puzzling algebra concept that seems to make no sense
whatsoever. Coach your child to re-imagine, rethink his options. He can search for
algebra help online, call a classmate, or ask the teacher for help before school the
New material can be tough to master, mistakes happen, and visions
sometimes do not translate into the real world well. Successful
people do not walk away. They reflect and ask, “What if?” Teach your children to succeed by giving them staying power.
Later in high school, when your children fall behind and a deadline
looms as large as a storm cloud overhead, don’t rescue them and solve the
problem for them. In life, there is no way out but through, and children
must learn to push through even if it means they will lose a night’s sleep
or must negotiate an extension all by themselves or accept the consequences of
their procrastination by accepting a very low score. They will learn valuable
lessons about meeting expectations and enjoying their benefits.
children think through consequences, however. They do not
have your experience, and they need your input as they develop into
independent, responsible adults. How many young girls have forsaken their
passion for analysis and research because being a girl sometimes seems the
wrong gender for science, math, and engineering? How many have forsaken the
field of play because, as my daughter’s off-and-on best friend once said,
athletic girls are not feminine and they intimidate boys? Let your daughters
know that they cannot go wrong if they pursue what challenges and interests them. They need to learn to be comfortable in their roles as a female, but more
important, they need to learn to enjoy all aspects of their promise as a human
being. So do boys.
When your sons grow weary of the coach who turns a blind eye to their heart in
the game and instead turns a seeing
eye to their imperfections, help your sons overcome. Never let them quit
mid-season or mid-year. If they signed on to play for the team or school, they
must see it through and delay their decision until their obligation is at an
end. Then they must determine if they love the game enough to play again or
find another game to enjoy. Beware, however, not to nurture a serial quitter,
the one who tries something one year and something else the year after and the
year after that. Employers and college admissions officers look for candidates
who know how to see something through to the end.
Parents must also guide their children into the most challenging
opportunities available through their schools. If Advanced Placement (AP) or
the International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula are available, your children
should enroll in as many as possible. These courses are rigorous, and rigor
teaches perseverance. It also teaches your children to compete at
the highest levels. They will be better prepared for college, and decades of
data exist to prove this claim.
Lest you think AP or IB does not apply to your child because he does not
plan to enroll in college immediately after high school, think again. Children
who plan to join their parents in a family business and bypass college will
have acquired higher order skills in reading, writing, computing, thinking, and
civics. Those who intend to serve their country in a branch of the military
will have the same higher order skills plus solid experience in persevering.
And those who enter college may do so with several earned college credits. Data
also show they will be more likely to complete the most competitive degrees,
including medicine and engineering.
military recruiters, and college admissions officers look for those who have
high aspirations and are unafraid of a challenge. Help your children develop
both by teaching them to persevere, think creatively, accept responsibility, and welcome
challenge. If they learn these lessons from you, they can acquire a fine
education wherever they happen to be.