Thursday, August 25, 2011


"Perhaps the most important attitude for cultivating good fortune is a strong sense of perseverance. Many of the people in this book faced considerable constraints in finding the Element and managed to do it through sheer, dogged determination. None more than Brad Zdanivsky.
At nineteen, Brad knew that he loved to climb. He'd been climbing trees and boulders since he was a kid and had moved on to scale some of the highest peaks in Canada. Then, while returning home from a long drive after a funeral, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and plunged nearly two hundred feet off a cliff.
The accident left him a quadriplegic, but he remained a rock climber in his heart. Even as he waited at the bottom of the cliff for help to arrive, knowing that he couldn't move, he recalls wondering if it were possible for a quadriplegic to climb. After eight months of rehab, he began to talk to fellow climbers about designing some kind of gear that would get him back onto a mountain. With the help of several people, including his father, he created a device with two large wheels at the top and a smaller one at the bottom. Seated in this rig, he uses a pulley system with his shoulders and thumbs that allows him to scale about a foot at a time. The technique is excruciatingly slow, but Zdanivsky's persistence has been rewarded. Before his injury, his goal had been to climb the two-thousand-foot Stawamus Chief, one of the largest granite monoliths in the world. In July 2005, he reached that goal.....
People who find their Element are more likely to evolve a clearer sense of their life's ambitions and set a course for achieving them. They know that passion and aptitude are essential. They know too that our attitudes to events and to ourselves are crucial in determining whether or not we find and live in the Element." page 167 - 168.
"THE ELEMENT": Ken Robinson

It's hard to stop quoting this excellent, must-read book for all parents!

As Ken Robinson says, most successful people get where they do "through sheer, dogged determination." 
Possibly none of my children are going to become internationally successful, but I do hope that each of them will have 'success' in some shape or form. "Success" could be to learn to ride the bike before Christmas, to save $100 by next year, to stay at school till the end of Year 13, to 'nail' an internship at an admired company, or take full responsibility from here on for washing one's own clothes. The point is - to get there is going to take time and perseverance.
In April last year I wrote a post on an incredible young role model, Jessica Watson, the then 16 year old Australian who successfully circumnavigated the globe - WEEK 9 QUOTE 9 . Jessica is an example of perseverance.
In that post I commented on the harm parents do their children when they allow them to give-up on things, when the parent knows it is an issue of laziness or selfishness on the child's part, and that the child could and should keep going. I'm picking up this point now in this post, because when children get away giving-up on things they should see to completion, they are missing the natural opportunities given in life to learn perseverance.
It is true some kids by nature are more determined than others, but if a child in their growing-up years has little to no personal experience of having to persevere, they will be robbed of knowledge which is needed for success in life.
My 'hero', Charlotte Mason, discusses her search back in the late nineteenth century, to find material to help parents and teachers encourage children in what she called "steady effort" = perseverance. ".... there was the depressing sense of labouring at education in the dark; the advance made by the young people in moral, and even intellectual, power was like that of a door on its hinges - a swing forward today and back again tomorrow, with little sensible progress from year to year beyond that of being able to do harder sums and read harder books." She then goes on to say, ".... they were all incapable of steady effort, because they had no strength of will, no power to make themselves do that which they knew they ought to do. Here, no doubt, come in the functions of parents and teachers; they should be able to make the child do that which he lacks to power to compel himself to "(do). page 99-100 "Home Education" by Charlotte Mason.
Success in learning perseverance depends, according to Charlotte Mason, on the efforts of parents and teachers. Writers on the subject today completely agree.
There seems to be three major reasons why children don't learn perseverance.
  1. Parents don't live an example of perseverance themselves.
The "Knol - a unit of knowledge" website, says that all day our children overhear and observe our reactions to difficult situations. "Your kids won't think it's important to persevere if you're routinely giving up on diets or exercise programs, or quitting college classes when they get tough. They won't think it's important to follow through on commitments if you back out on organizing the church fundraiser or fail to take them to the zoo as you promised."  "If there's discrepancy between what you say and what you do, your kids are just going to ignore what you told them. But if your actions are consistent with your words, then your message is going to be reinforced."
Parents are not being asked to live perfect lives, rather we're asked to take an honest look at our habits and see if we need first to deal with ourselves.
The power of living with a real example of perseverance right in front of us, is found in the story of Robert the Bruce. You can read a short version of the story here. 
  2. Parents don't prepare their children to persevere, because they fail to teach them how to work at things.
The second reason why children don't know how to persevere, has helped me to get thinking in regards to some in my family. In a large family like ours, it's easy as a parent to assume everyone understands what is expected. I now realise I probably have not been clear enough for some to know exactly what is expected of them.
Bernie Quimpo's article "Teaching Your Child How to Persevere" on HUBPAGES, says that when kids are unclear of parent expectations they can end up getting away with anything or feel that nothing they do is ever good enough. It's recommended to start with everyone being involved in family jobs or chores with the understanding that in doing so they are contributing to the family. Jobs need to be age appropriate. Begin by showing and teaching a job, step-by-step. For ideas you can look at my post WEEK 25 QUOTE 25 "What Daughters Need from Their Mothers - B. Flexibility For Multi-Occupations" and also in my most popular post, WEEK 17 QUOTE 17 "What a Son Needs from His Mum - 10 Things Mothers Should Teach Their Sons; by Lilsugar points 11 - 15. 
Before an overly excited child signs up with a sports team or begins guitar lessons, parents should talk them through what is actually involved. This way they can with understanding, responsibly commit to it.
Another aspect of setting children up well, is seen when your child leaves homework till the night before it's due. You are then at this late stage asked to 'help' (meaning "Will you do it for me Mum?"). DON'T. Give them some help with ideas or a plan of action, but don't do more. The next time show them a method to work on the assignment with better time usage. The point is not about getting top marks - rather it's about teaching our kids to persevere, developing ways to work hard at things themselves.
Going back to Charlotte Mason - she said the children were "incapable of steady effort, because they  had no strength of will, no power to make themselves do that which they know they ought to do." - as she concludes, here's where us parents come in.
The last reason children don't persevere is ~
  3. Parents don't praise their children for their efforts.
At first I thought this a weak point - everyone praises their kids! But what do we praise them for?
Professor Carol Dweck PhD of Columbia University, found through her research that when children were praised for intelligence "they avoided risks in a effort to keep looking smart."
However, kids praised instead for effort  "are energized by the difficult questions."
The research of another professor, Sanford Dombusch PhD of Stanford University, shows high school students who were most successful in achievements, had parents who gave praise for hard work and effort.
Students that performed the worst, however, had parents who either ignored results, "punished or criticized poor grades or paid for good grades with money or other material rewards."
'Paying' children for good results, whether it's top marks at the end of school or university, a ballet exam Distinction, for coming first at Nationals in sport and the such, gives the wrong message about the place of perseverance in life. We are only confusing them.
Children of all ages need the correct form of praise - not money - they need to know their parents value and accept them. Another old post you can look at for more on this - WEEK 23 QUOTE 23 "What Daughters Need From Their Mother -  B. A Positive Example Acceptance, Approval, being Valued, Being Loved". 

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Along the route of learning to persevere, there are struggles and difficulties working against progress. Naturally, such experiences are not enjoyed by children, teenagers or adults. But for parents to bail out their children, cover them from the hurts, avoiding situations of difficulty - they ruin the possibility of their children becoming future adults who persevere.


  1. Hello. I love this post, I will have to check out your other ones :) One part of Brad’s story that really stood out to me was ‘At nineteen, Brad knew that he loved to climb.’ and then at the end, ‘People who find their Element are more likely to evolve a clearer sense of their life's ambitions and set a course for achieving them.’

    My parents let me change what sports I played, instruments, what languages I took whenever I wanted to. Dad use to help me when I was little with my homework but once I got to about 12 there was never an emphasis on getting my school work done. I still did it though. I was really different to my brother and sister, they didn’t do as many activities and they weren’t really interested in their schoolwork, where I was.

    I’ve talked to my parents about it and they say things like ‘yeah, but look what you are all doing now, you are all doing what you love’. So what I take from Brad’s story is that it’s important to be given the opportunity to find your passion. I have friends who have been made to play the piano and study calculus throughout their school years because they once wanted to do that and now they say things like ‘I will never make my kid stick with something they aren’t interested in’. But then I have a really good friend whose parents both studied medicine, she was pressured into studying medicine, and she loves it.

    I already know that I will be different than my parents because I’m already printing off homeschooling lessons for my son and he’s not even at school yet. So for me I expect him to do what he needs to do, his homework etc, but I’m going to do my best to let him try different things and encourage him to do them, but like my parents, I don’t want him sticking with something that he’ll moan to me about in 20 years.

    I’m going to have to read this book, perseverance is a very interesting topic. What I’m thinking is that it’s really important to really know your children, have a good relationship with them, and help them find their strengths while emphasizing the consequences of their decisions.

    Sorry this is a super long comment!! xxx

  2. wow okay that looks more like a mini essay, sorry sorry!!

  3. Glad the post has caused you to comment :) Thank you. What we see in other families as parents pressuring a child to pursue something, may be a wise parent 'helping' the child to follow through on something they know the child will in time love. We have such an example with one of our sons who on finishing one sport insisted he would NOT like tennis. His dad would say, "Your dad knows you better than you know yourself" and he was right - within a year the sons eventually admitted that he absolutely loves the game. Thanks for reading my blog.