Parents give their children an immeasurable character trait by teaching them that commitment is a choice, and so is giving up.
Teaching “Never Quit” at a Young Age
It’s not hard to imagine a six-year-old boy sitting on the floor with his Legos spread out all around him. As a parent, you come in the room and ask him to put them away, and you hear the universal whining, “Aw, Mom!” Then the child just halfheartedly gets the job done. When you turn your back, he leaves, giving up on the project. He gave up on the chore you gave him. He quit. At that point, you have a choice: you can pick up the toys yourself, or you can call the child back and make him complete the task. An even third option might be, “Hey, look, let’s do this together.” You’ve required him to get back on task, but you’ve helped him, as you required him to finish the task.
What’s going to happen when the child is a bit older and is working on a science project? Again, you will get to choose to what degree you will help. Notice I said “help” them with it, not “do” it for them. By requiring them to finish tasks at an early age, you prepare them for when they face those tough things as a teen. If you train them well at an early age, as teens they will walk in and say, “Dad, Mom, can you help me with this? I’m stuck, and I can’t figure this out.” There is a difference between seeking advice so they can finish the project themselves and asking you to do it for them. It’s important that you start them on the right path on a small scale when they are young.
What Quitting Looks Like
There’s not a person in the world that did not shudder when they heard the story about the Italian Captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner that ran aground. The captain of the ship left the boat before he should. He indicated that he was in a rescue boat directing rescue efforts. Meanwhile, the Italian Coast Guard ordered him several times to come back onboard so that he could tell them how many passengers needed to be rescued. He kept saying back to the Coast Guard officer, “I don’t know. You tell me.”
The captain of the ship had a choice, to be the captain of the ship or to abandon his responsibilities and be a coward. At least thirty people died as a result of the accident.
Too many parents pretend to be the captain of the ship, yet they are sitting in the lifeboat hoping everything works out OK. If you are in the lifeboat and you are blind, or if you are thinking everything is OK when deep down inside you know it’s not, you need to get out of that lifeboat, crawl back onboard, and climb back into the captain’s chair, even though the ship is on its side. The ship will never be righted unless you resume your responsibility and sit in the captain’s chair.
Things to Do
1. Look for age-appropriate projects around your house that you and your child can start and finish together so your child learns the principle of not giving up when a project gets tough.
2. Teach your child this mantra, “Do it right, and don’t start what you can’t finish.” Once you start, you finish no matter what it is, be it your marriage, your parenting, a backyard patio, or replacing tires on a car. You have to finish what you start. The greatest gift you can give your child is an example of not giving up and the expectation that they will finish what they start.
3. Set the expectation of fulfilling a commitment. If your child joins a sports team and halfway through the season decides it just isn’t what he or she wants to do, require that they finish what they started. It can be a great lesson in being responsible.
4. If your child plays a game and keeps the commitment even when he or she isn’t feeling 100 percent, that is when you go out for ice cream and say, “I’m proud of you for not giving up and playing even when you didn’t feel well.”
Focus Is Crucial
Not everybody can play football. Not everybody is built for the strain, the rigors, the pain, or the frustration. Not everybody is a Heisman trophy winner, and not everybody is going to be a superstar.
Few people can truly identify with being a football player without having been there. They don’t understand what it’s like to have a cracked rib or to hurt so bad you can’t even breathe. Few understand what it’s like to hold your left elbow against that broken rib trying to make it not hurt so bad so you get up and get back into the huddle. You line up, and the guy in front of you is bigger and stronger, and he’s crushing you in every play. You still get up, go back in and fight, even though you are hurt and you know he will knock you down again. But, at the end of the game, you can hold your head high and be proud that you didn’t quit. He and his team might have won the game. He might have won every skirmish against you, but he will respect you. And you should respect yourself because you didn’t quit. You got up and kept going because that’s what committed football players do. That’s what great parents do. That’s what, hopefully, we are training our children to do.
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