When I was little, I frequently heard, "If at first, you don't succeed, try, try, try again." It stuck with me, and in my teaching I tried to spread that valuable trait. We need to reinstate that belief for the kids of today.
So often these days we find that kids are "rewarded" for merely participating. We give them a trophy for being on a Little League team, even though their team came in last. What does that teach them? It says, "You just have to be there, and you're a champion." Is that the way life is? Certainly not in my experience.
No wonder so many kids have so little ambition and drive. Adults have been told not to destroy a child's psyche, don't mess with their self-esteem, give them a feeling of success. Bull! Kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for. Give them earned success, not merely the feeling of success. Not everyone can be the Valedictorian, but everyone can at least get in the running.
Children just are not as stupid as many adults think they are. They are simply inexperienced. And that is where we must do our jobs as leaders guiding these little ones to experiences that they can grow on.
That little engine that could did so because his heart told him that he could. It was perseverance and confidence gained that he proved to himself he could do it.
In the real world, there will always be "winners" and "losers". Maybe Johnny has a fine ability to play baseball, yet does poorly in a spelling bee. At the same time, David will come out on top in the spelling bee but couldn't hit a ball if his life depended on it. There is absolutely nothing "wrong" with Johnny because he "fails" in the spelling bee, and there is nothing "wrong" with David because he "fails" in baseball. It's just not his forte. Accept it, and move on.
However, both of them, when properly guided by a caring adult, can improve any skills with determination, with practice, drive, and supporting encouragement.
Benjamin Franklin, well-known for his wisdom, said, "The noblest question in the world is 'What good may I do in it?'" If a child learns that his putting all he can into his work as a baseball player will help all the other teammates, and that by just showing up, he lets his team down, that is, I think, a worthy lesson. "Hang in there!" is encouragement to someone having trouble on his spelling tests just as much as in his other endeavors.
Harry Truman reported that being president "is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed." Once you commit to something, see it through. Nothing much is gained through hesitation faltering, doubting, or just not sticking with it.
Remember Aesop's story of the tortoise and the hare? What did that story teach? "Slow and steady wins the race". How about the story of little Peter whose determination saved the Holland town from flooding as he plugged the hole in the dike? Had he not hung in there, it would have been a disaster.
Thomas Alva Edison is reported as saying that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
When a child hears and learns of these concepts often enough, it begins to stick to his persona and then when he needs it most, he will have the skill to see something through.
The story of the Hebrews' 40 years of wandering in the desert is a story of great difficulties, and it tells of the strength of endurance, persistence, perseverance. Had they not possessed those characteristics, they would not have made it to the Promised Land.
One of my memories includes a poem by Edgar Guest called, "Can't".
Look it up, and read it often. Discourage your children from using this word. "Can't is the worst word that's written or spoken; Doing more harm here than slander and lies; on it is many a strong spirit broken, and with it many a good purpose dies." It needs to be part of your kids' character, just like integrity, love, and all the other traits that this country was built on.
Put that together with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream", and firmly embed those concepts in your child, and you'll be giving the greatest gift you can, because they will have the necessary "stuff" to make it in a tough world. He encouraged people that if they worked with faith that change would come, not because the color of their skin but by the strength of their character.
Give your children the gift of perseverance, and they will learn that failure will not find them, their character will grow, and their opportunities will be forthcoming. Help them earn their way and have the satisfaction that comes from creating their own dreams and using their talents they have been given to persevere even when the road is loaded with challenges.