I see the quote everywhere. You can do hard things. I happen to love it, and have used it frequently in our home. In this post I will talk you through this idea and how you can teach your children to do hard things!
Set the Example
This is how you teach your kids to do just about everything. Did you set out to really teach your child to talk, walk, interact or smile? No, likely they learned it by watching you. By following your lead. Well, the same principle applies here. Teach them to do hard things by doing hard things yourself! Let me explain..
Have you ever heard the phrase, “more is caught than taught?” This is so true with raising children. Have you ever cringed when your child displays a sassy attitude or a sarcastic spirit? You shutter because you know all too well where that came from! My husband and I joke that our kids only seem to pick up our negative qualities. You can see them mimic your mannerisms, your attitudes and your language. It can be alarming at times, but other times you see some of your strengths shining through as well. Observing a child push through a problem or deal tenderly with a sibling can be such a blessing!
I will walk you through some steps or attitudes you can display to your children to encourage them to push themselves and live a rewarding life. At the end I will give you some examples of this in my own life and how the results were positive.
Depending on your personality, you may not like this. However, this is the best way to display a spirit of tenacity, persistence, determination and resolution. Make a bucket list of things you yourself would like to accomplish in life. Set a goal. I want to achieve x,y, or z before I turn 35 or 40 or by next January. Whatever it is, set the goal and let your kids watch you achieve it.
Don’t make excuses
We all like a good excuse don’t we? Oh, I can’t make it to that event because the weather is bad or my kids have colds or my husband’s back is hurting. We like it when we can avoid something we don’t really want to do because we have what we deem to be a “legitimate” excuse. There are times when we really do have an excuse not to do something, and perhaps we should stay away from people when our kids are sick. However, I think we often over-use excuses.
Let me brag on my husband. There have been so many times when I have seen him push through when I think he could have pulled out an excuse. I have observed this in his life and it has encouraged me to push myself a bit harder. So I have purposed to not make excuses even when I really do have one!
Be an encourager
Please note that pushing, nagging, bribing or forcing are not anywhere on this list. Those are easy to do, however you are setting the example by DOING hard things. So don’t take the easy way and nag. Treat your children the way you would wish to be treated. If you honestly evaluate your life you will notice that the times when you succeeded or the times when you were highly motivated to succeed didn’t come from times when someone imposed themselves on you in a negative way.
Most likely, your most successful times in life stemmed from a positive push from a parent or mentor. Someone encouraged you to go farther–to keep on trying. There may have been some constructive criticism, but I can guess that it was done in love. I know for me that has been the case. Someone telling me that I am doing a good job motivates me far more than someone telling me what a loser I am.
Some children are naturally more driven than others. I can see this in my home. However, I truly believe that you can nurture a spirit of drive and accomplishment in your child, even if they don’t seem to have that on their own. On the surface, we all want life to be fun and easy don’t we? We all need to be motivated to do more than the bare minimum in life at times.
A few examples
In this section I am going to tell you a few stories of times when I believe my husband and I have taught our children to do hard things by setting the example. Please don’t read this and think that I am bragging about myself or my abilities. I hope my tone lets you know that is not in the spirit of what I am doing here! Also note that my husband and I did not start out with a clear vision for doing this. We didn’t purpose to set out and do this, we are honestly looking back over the years and seeing where this has worked and are now purposing to do it more.
I have watched my children teach themselves piano, harmonica, guitar, and flute. We have encouraged them along the way, and provided them with materials. However we have also set the example for them. Ben (my husband) taught himself to play guitar when the children were quite young. He then used that ability along with his singing voice to do specials at church. He doesn’t love to be in front of people, but he saw that God had blessed him with a gift and he got out of his comfort zone and shared it.
About six years ago we were attending a church that had no piano player. I have always wanted to learn to play piano. I had taken some lessons as a child, but never really poured myself into it. It was always in the back of my mind though. So, when our pastor mentioned that if we didn’t want to sing a capella then one of us would need to step up and learn to play piano. I felt the nudge and decided that I would be the one. I practiced and practiced and worked on learning to read music. After a few months I was playing piano perfectly! Just kidding! I was good enough to play at church with very gracious people.
Was it easy? Good grief no! Did I mess up weekly in front of a whole congregation of people? Yes I sure did. But guess what? I wasn’t just filling a need in the church. I was showing my children that it is okay to fail, even when people are watching! The people who never fail are the ones who are sitting there doing nothing.
I know that it works because my oldest son recently told me that he doesn’t struggle with stage fright. He is not fearful of getting up in front of people to perform music or to be in a play. This he attributes it to us encouraging him from the time he was very young to quote scripture or to play harmonica for people. He also attributes it to his parents setting the example and not being afraid to fail in front of others.
Video of some of my children performing at a local talent show
Fitness has always been important to me, I would even say a priority. However, after 9 children and the blessing of age, I began to notice that it was a bit more challenging to get back in shape! If I wanted a fit body, I was going to have to push myself a bit harder. There was always some level of fitness, but through the many years of babies waking at night and nursing…I was becoming a bit lazy…I was making excuses! So, I decided that walks with my husband and the occasional bike ride wasn’t going to cut it. I was going to have to set a time to get up and really exercise. Becoming a runner was always on my mental bucket list. So I purposed to get up 30 min early every day and run.
Initially this was very hard. Oh boy, I had some good excuses! The baby woke me up three times last night. It’s cold outside…or it’s hot outside. It looks like rain….uggh I will get all sweaty. Whatever! Finally, I decided that I wasn’t going to let the excuses stop me. So I started. At first I was running (very slowly) for 1/2 mile. Then I walked another 1/2 mile. I did this for weeks until I felt less challenged. Then I began to run the full mile, then after a month or so I felt less challenged by that. So, I began to run two! Finally my three oldest children and I signed up for a 5K. Guess what…I finished! I ran the whole time!
All the while my kids were encouraging me and I was encouraging them. I can still picture my boys smiling at me and hear their voices saying “you can do it mom” as we would pass each other on a run. Since that first run, my oldest daughter joined us on another 5k! She got to feel the benefit of doing a hard thing too! Encourage your daughters to be strong–it builds their confidence in something other than just looking pretty.
Starting a farm
My husband and I had no experience with gardening or raising animals. We dreamed this life along with our children and then we jumped in feet first to live it. It has not been easy and there has been so much to learn. Our kids have watched us fail at certain endeavors and they have watched us succeed at others. Along with us they have learned to raise their own food and to appreciate the sacrifice that goes into it.
Will they all continue in this type of life? Maybe some, but probably not all. That’s okay, because that isn’t the main goal. The main goal has been to teach them to work hard and to love learning. The skills they have learned here will benefit them no matter where they live or what they do. I truly believe they won’t be afraid to try something hard. I really believe that they can do hard things!
Make a bucket list and do some things together
I encourage you to make a list with your kids. What are some things you would like to learn or do? How about them? Make a list, and then do those things together. Get out of your own comfort zone and be willing to try something new. Even be willing to try something that your child picks. You will see that your relationship with your children is strengthened and suddenly you have more in common!