This story began several years ago when my 15-year-old granddaughter, Lydia, was two or three. She has a very interesting personality which has been present at least since this experience. In some situations it can be challenging to her parents and siblings but in other situations it has served her well. The incident of which I am writing occurred at bedtime and her mother was trying to help her put on her pajamas, but Lydia didn’t want any help and she stubbornly insisted that she could do it herself.
As I watched this incident take place, I was reminded of what it was like chasing an escaped chicken back into its coop. It didn’t want to go in, it wouldn’t go in, and it did everything it could to avoid it. I thought my little granddaughter was responding in a very similar way. No amount of talking, pleading, coaxing, or cajoling could get her to let her mother help with the pajamas. For perhaps five minutes Lydia held her mother hostage and anyone else who tried to help as she fought to do it herself. After a great deal of effort, she accomplished her goal. Of course, she was rewarded with smiles, hugs and compliments from her family. Grandpa was also proud of her for not giving up and reaching her goal. Lydia thought Grandpa’s reward was the best of all, a promise not to kiss her for two days.
I recognize that this is a little, seemingly unimportant example of perseverance, confidence, self-discipline, and not quitting when the pressure to do so was great. It took a great deal of determination and effort for Lydia to push forward with this simple developmental activity. At the stage of life, she was at, it was a significant accomplishment.
The greatest lesson she learned that night was not how to put on her pajamas but rather to know that she succeeded in reaching her goal (a big goal for her considering her age and developmental stage of life). The question must be asked about why did she succeed? The answer is because she believed in herself, she was diligent, and she had an attitude that wouldn’t let her quit. Quitting was not an acceptable option for her.
Some time ago, I saw the following written on a wooden plaque: “When you think about quitting try to remember why you started!” I was impressed with the simplicity of the message and the power of its meaning. This simple message has remained with me and has caused me to ponder about the many people who get discouraged and find it easier to give up than pursue a meaningful change. Discouragement is part of living and so is the struggle to master it.
The real message I want to share comes from an Indian proverb that not only gives understanding to Lydia’s struggle but to all of ours as well. Life is not a continuum of pleasant choices, but of inevitable problems that call for strength, determination, and hard work1. ” If we choose to quit, then it will become easier to quit the next time we face a challenge. The inverse is also true, sticking to a difficult challenge without quitting makes life easier for the next challenge that comes along. Lydia set a great example for me.
Happy Failing Forward,
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