Doing hard things and persevering through a difficult task do not come easy for children. Frankly, it’s not easy for adults either. Today, once again, one of the kids grumbled when I said, “Time to do math!” I was met with resistance and a grumpy face. I allowed him to work on other subjects first and then return to math at a later time. However, when it was time to do math, he once again resisted. I was dismayed, but I was not going to let this go. I decided it was life lesson time, a lesson about the importance of perseverance.
Rather than simply telling him that perseverance is important and that it’s a good character trait, I decided to ask him some questions in order to draw out his thinking on the subject.
I asked him, “Suppose Daddy was assigned a project at work, but because this project would take too long and too much effort, Daddy decided that he doesn’t want to work on it. He’ll just quit the project either right at the beginning or half way through. What do you think would happen to Daddy at work?” I followed up with a series of questions.:
- “Would his employer still keep him if he didn’t simply quit working hard?”
- “If Daddy doesn’t work hard and persevere, would other employers want to hire him?”
- “What would happen to us if Daddy gets let go?”
From this specific example and set of subsequent questions, my boy was able to answer and come to the conclusion that perseverance is important.
I also told my son that persevering in the midst of a problem is not easy but when you develop the habit of not persevering, you’ll suffer consequences later in life. Once a habit is developed, it’s harder to break. If he has a habit of quitting when something gets difficult, this is how he will approach life in every aspect. He will realize this mistake when he’s an adult but by then, it’d be lot harder to correct. He would wish that I had taught him to persevere when he was young. I wanted to give him a broader picture and how his lack of perseverance in doing math might possible affect his life. After this long talk, I believe he got it and we proceeded to solve math problems.
Even though the point of our conversation was persevering through doing hard things, I still wanted to present math more palatable to him. This is not an effort to try to cater to him, but to make it more digestible and appealing to him. One of his complaints is that math takes too long and even after working through all 30 problems, he still needs to go back and correct the ones he missed. I can understand that. I decided that I would split up the problems where he would do some of them orally, some on the white board, and some on the paper instead of all of them on the paper. We were able to do many of them orally so he only needed to do 14 problems on the paper. He was so thrilled! He was so excited that he told his brother about it!
Sometimes we just have to be careful how we implement the process by which our children learn perseverance. We should be understanding and sympathetic of their struggles. Instead of just playing hardball with them and demand that they just work on it no matter what, we should figure out how much they can handle and how much we should push so that they learn about perseverance.