By: Frank Danna, III
I had fully intended to begin this post with a quote about being tough. I couldn’t find one that suited this purpose when it relates to children. I believe that toughness for our kids is different from the toughness we expect from ourselves as adults. Therefore, I have come up with my own definition.
kid tough: a state in which a child displays a desire to keep playing, even after a fall. Proof that you, as a parent have imbued a true sense of what it means to keep at it, and never quit.
We’ve all seen it. Your toddler is running around the house like a maniac, and she runs into a wall. After a dramatic fall, then a tumble she looks up, and makes eye contact, almost as if to ask: “Am I supposed to cry here?” You look back at her, without an utterance and think: “You’ll be fine”. You know the look, for if she cries, you will likely have boo-boos to kiss and tears to wipe away. This is not to say that we assume weakness in their tears. As a parent, you are proud of their awareness that tears won’t make their pain stop. I can already hear parents saying things like: “You can’t expect your child to keep playing after an injury, can you?” Absolutely not, and I don’t expect to see my kid with a broken arm and say: “Stop crying! Don’t be a sissy!” This is most definitely not what I, nor any other tough parent would say.
Being tough is much more than suffering through an injury. It is a state of mind. A state of mind that your kids must see daily for it to take effect. This isn’t the first time you’ve had to set the example is it? We parents are not perfect. We get upset, we curse, we loose our tempers, we may even raise our voices, but we know instinctively that our children are watching. They are watching especially closely when we are faced with adversity. Remember how they look at you when they injure themselves? They do the same thing when you are upset. They watch. Funny how they work isn’t it? Much like toughness, empathy is learned though our behavior as well. Our children witness our treatment of others, and that behavior is recreated in their actions on the playground. Just as being tough is important, empathy is a quality which will teach them to help those in need. It is not always about being tough, sometimes when others are in pain we are called to help them. We are called to teach them our understanding of what it means to be tough.
As parents, it isn’t about who can withstand the most pain or misery. It is about your willingness to keep going, keep working, try again, and never quit. That is what I want my daughters to see. I want them to see that their Dad doesn’t always win, he doesn’t always succeed, he doesn’t always make the right decision. He just keeps at it.
As a (not very good) competitive cyclist, I can say that if you are unfamiliar with the word “humble”. You might give the sport a try. Right when you think you’ve got everything together, there comes a race, that obliterates you. This is just an example. It is very much the same as going to a job interview and feeling like “you got it”, then getting a email that you didn’t. It is the same as taking a test and realizing almost immediately that you didn’t study the way you should have. These are completely and absolutely normal. If you are reading this post and have never lost in a game, failed a test, or been disappointed in yourself, you need to get to teaching the rest of us! We are not perfect, we are not robots, we are humans, and humans must persevere. Perseverance is especially crucial when our children are watching, because they will do exactly what you do.
We have all had our share of victory and defeat. The goal here is to show our kids that no matter the outcome, tomorrow is a whole new day. Start new, start fresh and give it your best again, and again, and again. So, the next time you make a mistake, or don’t get that job you so desperately wanted, or win at a friendly card game at the dinner table: think about your kids. Think about how you would want them to react, and I can assure you, they would want you to be kid tough.