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