Excerpt from Do the KIND Thing
As a kid, my favorite story was “The Three Little Pigs.” The lesson about investing time in quality work stuck with me, and in everything I do I always try to build a solid structure. Now my wife and I read this folktale to our children. We also read them the story about “The Little Engine That Could” (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”).
Can you teach resilience? How do you forge a young (or less than young) personality to know to get up and not stay down? How do you inculcate the sense in your kids that they should not take no for an answer when they truly believe in something?
As parents, we sometimes face the perverse incentive for our kids not to question us and to accept whatever we tell them. But teaching your kids that it is okay to question authority, that it is okay to press you, is sometimes useful. You don’t want to raise someone who can’t get along with his peers because he is too pushy or stubborn. But you also don’t want a pushover who accepts whatever life throws at him or her and will blindly obey when someone imposes an arbitrary rule or condition. The lesson has to be taught and then restated for them: If something goes wrong, don’t be afraid to try again. What matters is effort. What matters is that you don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid to not try. Children (young and old) want to avoid disappointing their parents. It is important for us to learn to compete with ourselves and be proud of our effort and not to try to succeed to impress others.
A great book that shares insights on this front is NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Much of our success— or lack thereof— in life stems from luck. But much of that luck is also related to our persistence in the game. If you don’t play the game, after all, you can’t score. Life will certainly throw many curveballs, so teaching ourselves and our loved ones to have a resilient mindset can help us deal with that uncertainty and persevere. It is critical that we build— in ourselves and in our offspring— the self- confidence necessary to keep playing the game, even if we don’t think we are that good at it. The more we play it, the better we get at it.