10 Ways to Help your Child Finish Strong
As I bring this blog series, The Importance of Building Character, to a close, I think it’s only appropriate that we end on the character trait of endurance. In our Raising Truly Great Kids Conference, we define endurance as “the ability to keep going when everything is telling you to give up.”
We live in a society of starters. We love new starts and fresh beginnings. In fact, this morning as I was getting dressed and had the TV on, I couldn’t get over how many of the TV commercials were about the latest and greatest offerings. There were advertisements for new cars, new mortgages, new diets, new careers, and new clothes. I didn’t see one commercial that tried to sell me with what happens after you buy this new product. No hype about the 30 years of payments to retire the new mortgage, the 60 months of depreciation that occur as you pay off the new car, or what happens to your new clothes when you wear and wash them a couple of times.
Starting is so much more fun than finishing. It’s exciting, it’s novel, and it gives a rush of adrenaline! But finishing? Well, that’s a different story. Finishing is hard; it’s grueling, it’s lonely, and it’s boring.
But finishing is what separates the “also ran’s” from the winners. It distinguishes the “good ideas” from the great works of literature and science. Finishing takes good intentions and turns them into life-changing results. And unless we develop the character trait of endurance in our children’s hearts, we are setting them up for a life of disappointment and failure.
The Bible weighs in on the importance of finishing. In fact, just like the example we must set for our own children, Jesus set the example for us when it comes to the importance of endurance.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
I am married to a marathoner. He is not. I get my exercise in a more sane way. But my husband is one of these guys who has endless energy. He recharges quickly, and in our 38 years of marriage, I can’t think of a time when he called in sick. He always teases that one day, he is just going to call in dead and that will be the end of him. (Not funny!) One of the things he told me that a marathoner has to tell himself when he hits the wall is to keep on going because “he can rest tomorrow.”
Raising kids is like a marathon, and we need to do that same sort of self-talk as parents when it comes to modeling endurance for our kids. There are too many reasons to want to quit when we come to the end of our rope, and yet, we are the high-water mark when it comes to our kids’ ability to endure through life’s challenges. The walls that we hit may be as seemingly harmless as a child who won’t stay in his or her own bed or a teenager who won’t get out of bed, from a life interrupted by one little pink slip to a future cut short by an unforgiving diagnosis.
Real life gives us endless opportunities to model endurance (the ability to keep going when everything is telling you to give up) to our children. Tough times in our marriage, stressful times at work, health challenges, and financial woes are custom-made to show our kids how to hang in there, finish well, and trust God even during the hard times.
Our children all have their own races that they must run in life. What will determine whether they will be “also ran’s” or finishers has everything to do with how well we plant the character trait of endurance in their hearts. To get you started here are:
Ten Ways to Develop Endurance in your Child
1. Help them count the cost. Before your kids start something, talk through the commitment that they’re making and what it will take to finish well.
2. Help them see the big picture. Relate their present activity to the ultimate and worthy end accomplishment. Learning their multiplication tables may seem boring or hard, but if you can show them how these are the building blocks to running their own business or inventing the next cool contraption, they’ll be more inclined to stick to it.
3. Help them break their goals into manageable moments. Children get discouraged when facing a big project or assignment. Work with them to break the larger objective into smaller, more achievable steps. When they can see a doable plan for completing the project, they will be more inclined to finish and finish well.
4. Help them make trials their friend. When it comes to trials, it’s not if but when your child will face them. If you can help them accept trials as a natural part of any accomplishment and show them how to get through them, then you are preparing them to finish even when the odds are stacked against them.
5. Don’t coddle them. We are raising a nation of wimps who cry “quit” when the going gets tough. How are we going to prepare them for marriage or earning a living if we let them quit the soccer team just because they never score or have to sit the bench their share of the game? Now’s the time for them, when the stakes aren’t so high, to learn how to “cowboy up” and keep going.
6. Practice finishing. Talk about one of their unfinished projects and help them set goals to finish it.
7. Practice Stamina. Take them on a challenging hike over rugged but safe terrain.
8. Practice Staying Power. Open a savings account for them. Have them save a certain sum of money that you agree to match once they meet their goal.
9. Practice fortitude. Get them involved in something that takes disciplined commitment like taking piano lessons, training for a race, or reading a long book.
10. Surround them with finishers rather than quitters. Ask an athlete or an accomplished musician to talk with them about the importance of endurance.
We are the pacesetters when it comes to the race that our children are running. When they’re little, we’re out in front of them, leading the way by the lives we’re living. When they’re older and out ahead of us, they’re looking back to make sure we’re hanging in there with them. Endurance is what keeps us in the race, and it’s what will enable our children to finish well in life.
Building character into your child’s heart is not an event; it’s a lifestyle that begins with a genuine example from you. Developing your child’s character makes him or her strong from the inside out and gives him or her what he or she needs to face the challenges in his or her life.
As I said before, whether you have chubby-cheeked cherubs or stubbly-chinned teenagers, the best time to begin to build character deliberately into their hearts is now!