“How do you teach your kids not to give up?”
For the past couple of years, my wife and I have struggled to find our daughter a physical activity that she would enjoy. Our chief aims were for Sophie to make friends, be active and to have fun. We exposed her to soccer, gymnastics, skating, dance and Taekwondo with little to no success. About two months ago, Sophie finally chose something that she wanted to do: rock wall climbing. Employing a level of concentration and determination that I have never seen her demonstrate before, she attacked the wall struggling to get to the top. Despite her efforts, she only made it half way up the wall. She broke down in tears, saying, “Daddy, I just can’t do it.” To some degree I was able to comfort and encourage her but my words at the time felt inadequate.
Flash forward to the past weekend. Friends and family who know me know that I am next to hopeless when it comes to fixing things. With all the snow melting I thought that I had better check on the sump pump in the basement to make sure it was working. Of course it wasn’t. I went out with the kids to purchase the new pump and parts and began to the repairs. Sure enough, I faced problems with the installation not to mention stabbing my hand in three different spots with the screwdriver. As I was making some progress, the dryer exhaust pipes decided to dislodge and come crashing down on top of me. Here was another project that required my immediate attention. With my frustration mounting, I turned to see my assistants, Simon and Sophie, watching me intently. Looking at Sophie, I was reminded of our rock wall expedition months earlier. I now knew how to teach my kids about not giving up.
Paul, in Philippians 4:13, reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Paul suffered greatly as he sought to spread the Good News. He suffered imprisonment, beatings, abandonment and ultimately he was killed for following Jesus. When in prison, Paul didn’t despair. He placed his trust in God and was miraculously released. When he was persecuted, he spoke boldly to his challengers. Paul did not give up and kept moving forward. While many of us do not face this level of hostility in our day to day lives, we do face challenges. How often are we faced with decisions that force us to choose between God’s will for our lives and what the rest of the world is doing? How often do with think we are alone in our struggles or that we have to go it alone? I would venture a guess — far too often. I don’t think that Paul’s words are just meant for spiritual struggles alone. I believe that we are meant to rely on God for everything that we do, can’t do and need to do. Ultimately, God is in control and will provide a way if we seek His guidance. This of course doesn’t mean we will get the result we desire all the time; sometimes God wants to accomplish some other goal through us. We also need to be prepared for that reality as well.
Looking at my home repair dilemma, I saw an opportunity to teach my children how to persevere when they experienced difficulties. I stepped away from the work area and sat down with them. “How can I help you, dad?” Simon questioned. “Well, I need to step away from what I am doing to think,” I responded. “And calm down like I did at the rock wall place,” added Sophie. “Exactly,” I said not missing the connection that she had made. I took some time to make a plan, sought the assistance of two people I could rely on, calmed down, slowed down and finished the job (with only one more scraped knuckle). The kids helped a bit, their attention spans didn’t last too much longer. Yet at the end of the project, Sophie remarked, “You did it dad!” “Yes Sophie I did. Now what about your rock wall climbing?” I asked. “I’m going to keep trying,” she said in a determined voice.
So how do you teach your children not to give up? Here is what I learned. You, as a dad or a mom need to demonstrate perseverance to your children. By showing that you didn’t give up in a difficult situation, you inspire your children to do the same. You also need to talk about how you get through difficult times so they can understand how to as well. I taught my children to step back from a difficult/frustrating situation, to calm down, seek help, make a plan and try again. While there are many different strategies for many different situations, your children will begin to develop these skills for themselves. As they learn to persevere in their day to day lives, they will learn it in their spiritual lives as well. Step back from the situation and calm down. Seek advice and help from God through His word and prayer. Consult the people God has placed in community with you for assistance. Make a plan and try again. Remembering that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.