I know, I’m not supposed to start an imperative with a negative, but I digress.
I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of perseverance in difficult situations. A lot of these reflections have come as a result of recent professional and personal obstacles, but what resonates the most with me is how the way I carry stress, burdens, or pressure, also impacts my kids. I’ll explain.
Recently, my oldest daughter who is in pre-k, got a report card home from school updating us on her progress. One of the areas of growth for my daughter was in the social-emotional bucket. Her teacher explained that sometimes, Riley gets frustrated when tasks become difficult, and she doesn’t like to try for fear of failing. So, we as her parents, were encouraged to help Riley develop more self-confidence so that she can learn to persevere through challenges.
Fast forward to the other evening, while playing Super Mario on our Wii with my daughters, I kept losing at a certain level (those castles are always tough to beat!). But I kept going back, and over and over getting killed, though I was getting closer and closer each time. What I expected to take only a few minutes, ended up taking over an hour and before I knew it, I’d kept the girls up past their bed-time trying to beat this one stage. At first, my daughter could sense my frustration with each defeat, and she starting asking if we could play something else. But, I kept telling her, wait dear, let daddy beat this last stage real quick. I wasn’t about to be outdone by a game (trivial, but true!). One of my personal hallmarks is my stubborn nature, and my persistence (that’s how I eventually won my wife over, I don’t give up easily). So when my daughter realized that we were in this for the long haul, she changed her tune and began saying, don’t worry daddy, you have to keep trying. You’ll get it.
I didn’t have to wonder where that sentiment came from. She was being taught the very importance of continuing to try in the face of defeat as we were playing that video game. Finally, I actually did it! I beat the level and we all got to celebrate (though not before I subsequently began to lose again at the next level…sometimes you have to know when to fold’em!). The point is, there are definitely some battles worth fighting, some levels worth attaining, and some challenges worth persevering. I’m realizing that our children notice what we do, more than what we say, and I’m hoping that this brief interaction playing video games ingrained in her the importance of self confidence and perseverance.
It also reminds me why children like heroes and sometimes come to idolize their parents as such. Because on the outside, all they see is the victory. What we need to do a better job of explaining is how we got there, and perhaps letting our children experience a little of the process with us to understand the coping skills we’ve developed over time.