When I was writing Mighty Mindsets, my children were quite young and so I had very little time during the day to do any writing. I would snatch a few minutes here and there during naps, but they rarely condescended to sleep at the same time, so even that was a limited option. So, despite the fact that my post pregnancy brain still had a habit of grinding to a halt around 3 pm most days (if indeed it ever truly got going), I really had no choice but to start writing once they were asleep. And so, despite our mantra of “it if hasn’t happened by 8pm, it ain’t happening today”, I found myself night after night sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by pages, pens, laptops and half empty cups of tea.
One night, I felt really fed up. Hard done by. Oh-so-sorry for myself. Around 11 p.m., knowing full well that my first born would be wide awake in 6 hours, I found myself staring blankly at my husband who was sitting innocently on the sofa. Recliner out, legs up, with a cup of tea in one hand and a biscuit in the other, he was clearly enjoying the peace and quiet that descends when 2 and 3 year olds finally give up on the day and fall asleep. He laughed at the television, oblivious to my resentful stares from across the room. I wanted to be over there, watching reruns of The Office, mindlessly eating half a pack of chocolate biscuits. I felt like quitting the book. “Who do I think I am, pretending to be a writer,” I thought to myself. As I threw my pen down, I glanced at the chapter I had been working on:
And with that one word, I knew. I knew I’d keep going. That I’d finish the book. No matter if anyone ever wanted to publish it, not to mind actually read it. For the first time in my life, I actually knew what it meant to commit to something. To commit to myself. To finish what I had started. And I did it. It took another few years before I’d see Mighty Mindsets in the shops. But in a way, it didn’t matter. That night was a turning point for me. I learned the true meaning of perseverance. And I’ve never regretted missing those reruns of The Office. They’ll always be there for me at any time. I do regret the biscuits slightly, though.
Perseverance isn’t a topic that gets talked about a lot, but it is a crucial life skill that we all need. I’ve learned to accept that it’s not something that comes naturally to me, so it’s something I need to think consciously about. It’s not just about big things like finishing a degree course at University – it’s an integral part of our day to day lives.
Children don’t always know how to stick at difficult or challenging tasks, but we can teach them strategies to develop the ability to persevere. Practicing the skill with the smaller things in life, like tidying their room, or finishing an art project they started, will help them be able to keep going, to persevere when more challenging issues arise in their lives.
Here are 3 things that can help when faced with a big task:
1. Break It Down
Break the task down into smaller goals or steps. So instead of panicking about learning all the spellings on Monday night, divide them up over the week, focusing on 2 or 3 per night.
2. Time’s Up!
Decide how much time they need to spend on the task. For instance, have them set a timer themselves to do 15 minutes of piano practice. When the time is up, they’re done. Even if they haven’t focused for that full 15 minutes, be sure to end the practice when the timer goes off. Let them learn to trust the timer. Gradually, most children will start to use the time better. But it doesn’t usually happen overnight! Change takes time to become the new normal.
3. Delay the Reward
Talk about delayed gratification with your kids. To a child it just means saying things like “Homework first, then playtime.” In our house, we (try to) follow the routine on the weekends of “tidy room, then t.v.”.
It doesn’t always happen, and that’s okay too. There’s no such thing as a perfect life or perfect parenting – and definitely no such thing as perfect housekeeping for that matter – at least in our house anyway.