Recent events have reminded me about the importance of perseverance, that it is an essential quality that I want to develop in my children.


Scrat from the movie Ice Age – his perseverance to get that acorn is admirable!

Frankly speaking, I’m not sure which is the best way to do so. How do I instill the value of perseverance? It is not something that can be learnt from a textbook. I googled, I read parenting books, I sought advice from other mothers. Then I looked at how my mum did it.

I know that as a child, my mum had never allowed me to give up. When I was growing up, she had always emphasized the importance of 有始有终 (carrying things through, or perseverance).

Two incidents come to mind:

I started taking swim classes at a young age. I was very petite then, and was easily the youngest and smallest of the entire swim class. As part of the test requirement for water survival skills, I had to swim 20 laps within a certain time limit. The laps were grueling, and I dreaded going for the weekly classes. Often I would cry or feign illness but it never worked. My mum simply picked me up, asked me to change and we would travel by bus to the swimming pool. There, she watched me struggle through my laps and would wait for me at the end of the pool with a towel when I climbed out exhausted. Stopping halfway was not an option. All I remembered was her telling me “做任何事都要有始有终,不可以半途而废” (you need to persevere in all you started out to do, do not give up halfway). I passed that test.

In secondary school, I joined a uniformed group as an extra-curricular activity. It was tough – I had to march under the hot sun for hours, sleep late because I had to polish my boots and iron my own uniform, then wake early for training the next day. Push-ups and laps around the track were common (think military boot-camp, you’ll get the idea). Friends dropped out with their parents’ blessings. My mum? She stayed up with me while I polished my boots, and woke me in the morning in time for my training. When I wanted to quit the group, she told me that she would respect my decision, but reminded me that I made the choice to join – she didn’t want me to give up halfway (again, “不可以半途而废”). I chose not to quit and I’m glad that I didn’t. I met my best friends during that period.

My mum never scolded or punished me. Each time the going got tough, she stood by silently, giving support. When I wanted to take the easy way out by quitting, she simply stated her firm belief that I needed to persevere, to try harder. When I look back at my childhood, I don’t recall reading books on perseverance, rewards, or excessive praise. It was just her presence, her words and her smile when I succeeded.

I guess my mum’s method worked – as an adult, in face of difficulty, my first instinct would still be to push on.

So I’m going to do what she did – stand by my kids when they face difficulties and remind them not to give up.

I leave you with a song C learnt in school (sung to the tune of Oh, My darling Clementine):

Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance,
We must have
Working hard and not to give up
This is how we succeed

Not to give up, not to give up
We must never say: “I quit!”
Slow and steady, ever ready
This is how we persevere.

How do you encourage perseverance in your children?


14 thoughts on “Perseverance

  1. motherhoodisanart

    Oh, your mother sounds so wise, supportive and gentle! I know exactly what you mean about wanting to teach your children perseverance. We live in an age of instant gratification. My children and I often play Hidden Picture games on the computer together. It will give you a list of things to locate in a big picture. Sometimes they are hard and really stump us. If it takes more than a minute for us to find a certain object the kids quickly pipe up with “click on the Hint button.” This drives me nuts! I tell them that there isn’t always hints in life and that we have to just keep looking on our own.

    1. mummyshymz Post author

      She is 🙂 As I grow older and become a mother myself, I’ve come to appreciate her wisdom and support more and more.
      Oh, tell me about it. It’s ‘instant” everything. “I want it, I want it now” … it’s another post…

  2. Lil' Bebe Academy

    Your mom as your driving force is admirable. I tell my young kids can’t is not a word. They are still very young but, your article gives me positive ways I can help them as they get older. In our Jamaican culture were taught this quote – The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.

  3. Zee

    Wow. This is a tough one that I haven’t really thought about. You are right. It’s difficult to teach perseverance.

    But I think my mum also taught me the same way as yours did. She stood by me, she reminded me not to give up without trying harder, she always gave me a choice and she always cheered me on. That seems to be the best way?

  4. pinkbekah

    I love that song! That will definitely be a new one we sing! We are at the frustrate toddler stage where he want’s to do everything himself but can’t, and tries to communicate but can’t always get things across and tends to just melt down and give up in anger/frustration. I don’t want that to be a continuing theme though! Parenting is such hard work and makes us think deep thoughts!

    1. mummyshymz Post author

      C loves that song, she has been singing it for the past 2 weeks.
      Oh, this stage is tough for both parents and the toddlers. G is at this stage right now. I guess we have to be really patient, it will get better once they can communicate what they want. Yes, parenting is hard work, and I’m growing a lot more grey hairs! 🙂

  5. Valerie

    It’s so easy to quit and try something else when things get difficult, but then, when that behavior continues, what do you have? You have a bunch of activities you never mastered because you gave up too soon. It’s wonderful to hear that your mother taught you to continue on even when it was tough. xo

    1. mummyshymz Post author

      Exactly! We would miss so many beautiful things in life – including breastfeeding! Without the perseverance at the beginning I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful journey 🙂

  6. genn

    never thought you were also one of those who harboured thoughts of quitting heh. i stopped my piano lessons because i couldn’t cope with it anymore on top of schoolwork and eca. and everytime i talked about quitting, my mum reminded me what i had given up in exchange for it. that was part of the driving force behind my completing 4 years of pure hell. perseverance? more of pride for me lol.


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