Rewarding Sustained Effort

Essentials  Principles for Kids

(Number Two of Five)

Hebrews 6:9

And we desire each of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

With their hair tied back in bows and ribbons, black tap shoes on their small feet, the five young girls looked ready to participate when the dance instructor asked them to stand on a star painted on the dance floor. I watched from the door pleased that Kate was listening intently. I understood tap and ballet to be disciplines that required focused attention and the willingness to follow instructions. An hour later, I left the dance studio sad over the events of the class period. One dancer spent the entire hour disrupting the class, listening to instructions only when she wanted to participate.   Another girl cried through the entire class captivating most of the instructor’s time and attention. I was proud of Kate.  Despite the circumstances, and being youngest in the class, she listened and tried hard.  I wondered what lessons she was actually learning though.  She left the class with a sticker and “good job”.  So did every one.

Whether it is soccer class or swim lessons, the same scenario is frequently played out as I observe children participate in lessons of any sort today. Parents pay hefty fees for their kids to take lessons but all too often the lesson is cut short and lost in the process of managing inattentive kids who are not interested in learning.

My husband frequently asks his math students what they want to become. Many talk of aspirations to become a star athlete, a recording artist or a doctor.  Most want to be RICH.  Yet few put in any concerted effort toward achieving their goals.  Little thought is given to the connection between effort and success. They regard themselves as smart and talented, something they have been told their entire lives by well meaning adults.  AND they audaciously believe that their innate talent and intelligence alone deserve opportunities regardless of any work ethic.

Shockingly, when American teens were asked in a survey how they envision themselves becoming rich, the top two answers teens gave were winning the lottery and winning a law suit.

Kids today need to be rewarded for sustained effort and for working hard.  The difference maker for success of any kind is not intelligence or talent but whether  your kids want to grow, want to learn and are willing to put in the effort it takes to excel in whatever they set out to do.

Sustained effort is necessary:

  • To develop attention and memory, essential skills for learning.
  • To focus and control one’s mind.
  • To write, to solve problems and to comprehend difficult text.
  • To start a project as well as to finish it.
  • To become an accomplished pianist or worship leader.
  • To excel in a sport.
  • To develop close relationships.
  • To parent effectively.
  • To get up in the morning and persevere through the day.
  • To contemplate and pray.
  • To understand God’s word and His purpose for man.

So how can parents and educators encourage effort and a strong work ethic in their children?  Below are a few tips but please send me your thoughts and suggestions as well and I will post them in next week’s blog.

TIPS

  1. First and foremost, consider that research conducted by the Center for Bible Engagement indicates that regular Bible reading – 4 or more days a week – is the key difference in young people who stay committed to their Christian faith.  Intentionally develop regular habits of Bible reading for your family.  God’s word is living and active and it must dwell within each of our hearts and minds.
  2. Use correction and complimenting versus criticism and flattery:
    • Criticism focuses merely on what you don’t like.  “Your yelling is frustrating me”
    • Correction involves removing one kind of action and replacing it with what you want. “I expect you to talk in a quiet voice so that I can concentrate on driving safely.”
    • Compliments are specific and purposeful.  “I like how you listened intently to the instructor and kept your eyes on her.”
    • Flattery is fluffy general praise.  “Wonderful job” – “you are the best”
  3. Compliment your kids for perseverance, diligence, paying attention, courage and sincere effort.
  4. Allow your kids to struggle through mistakes and disappointments. Reality is a valuable teacher.  Don’t shield them from the consequences of their poor decisions.  Let them learn from mistakes while the cost is still low. They need to understand that wise choices produce positive results and poor choices produce poor results.
  5. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge varying outcomes in your children. Hard working runners usually run faster. Students who put in sustained effort, will wind up doing better in the end.  The correlation between effort and success is clear and needs to be acknowledged as such.
  6. Refrain from saying “do you best’.  What does that really mean or produce?  This simple and often stated phrase sets up an impossible goal, especially for the perfectionist driven student, because it is indefinable and out of reach.
  7. Expect your kids to work hard and to do difficult things.  Learning to do hard things well is the best way to grow confidence and a positive self esteem.
  8. Refrain from extending second and third and fourth chances.  Mean what you say and say what you mean. Kids learn to not pay attention when they don’t have to and many will do what is expected only when they have used up all the chances they expect to get.
  9. Paint a vision for what you desire your kids to become. You must see beyond who they are to who they are becoming. Use specific words of encouragement tied to your vision. Look for evidence of the fruit of the spirit – joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

What happened to Generation X?

Today we hear much talk about Generation Y, the millennials, or the ME generation. But what happened to Generation X, those of you born between 1964 and 1980?   Undoubtedly many of you reading this are part of this generation, and are currently raising children. Sandwiched between the large nostalgic group of baby boomers and the twittering/face-booking millennials, your generation is sometimes referred to as the forgotten generation. The baby boomers spanned a twenty year period and the millennials are still going strong at thirty years but you seem to be skipped over, even though you are still in the process of making your contributions.

I am blessed to work with many generation X parents at Veritas Academy.  To those of you who are reading this, I find you refreshingly authentic, opposed to hypocrisy, and very teachable.    At the same time, you are deeply concerned and befuddled over how to best parent your kids.  You are anxious over what the future may hold for your children and wonder what will define this next generation.  If you are any indication of the legacy generation X will be remembered for, it will be about restoring family priorities and moral character in our kids. Parenting in the midst of a “whirlwind distracted culture”, I watch you consistently pour your efforts into what really matters.  You know firsthand how easily day in and day out living can dilute focus so you regularly examine your own priorities and consider what is essential for your kids to learn. I applaud you for your sustained effort.  You are the difference maker for your children who need not become a part of the alarming statistics!

Current Statistics
91% of youth say there are no absolute truths

1/20 families have a spiritual connection to their children outside the church

77% of Christian kids leave the church once they leave home

Four in ten females will be sexually abused by age 24

90% of young boys will view hard porn by age 12

Parents spend only 16% of their weekend time at home with their children

A mere 17% of families eat meals together regularly

Only ¼ of high school graduates are college-ready in the four main subject

Children are biblically illiterate with only 1/3 of adolescents considering the Bible to be accurate

2 Comments

  1. You’re so right that kids need to learn to work and focus…so many kids (and adults) think that money and success come without effort!

    Reply
  2. I have to constantly remind myself to not say “do your best”. When did that become the standard for encouraging our children? I know as a perfectionist natured child, this did nothing to encourage me and yet it is ingrained in my mind and I often find it hard to think of something else to say. Can you feed us some other, more appropriate phases to use in place of this unachievable one? Thanks Ellen!

    Reply

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