“My kids always take the easy way out. Whether chores, homework, or learning a sport or musical instrument, they are quick to find the laziest way to do what they have to do. Even if they are really into the activity, discovering a shortcut is as thrilling as unearthing buried treasure. How do I get them to see the value in old fashioned hard work this summer?”
Don’t confuse “discovering a shortcut” with “taking the easy way out.” Shortcuts along the path to completing a task make sense if they save quantities of time, money, stress, etc. without sacrificing the qualities of either the process or end product. There are legitimate ways to be more efficient. The danger is in crossing the line from shortcut to short change.
(Prepare to sigh, roll your eyes, and shake your head from side to side.) The best way to help others, such as your children, learn this valuable life lesson is to model it yourself. Yes, we know- easier said than done. Even more important though than modeling a specific behavior is modeling the life-enhancing attitude that energizes it. More specifically, it is an appreciation of possibilities that can result from difficulty that is valuable. As an English proverb puts it, “A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.”
We have been greatly influenced by the counselor-writer Bill O’Hanlon who co-wrote, “A Guide to Possibility Land.” In it he suggests counselors focus more on what is possible than what has gone wrong or is too little, too much, or too absent: “… and I have become passionate about spreading the word that there is a route from misery to happiness, from frustration to success. I call that route Possibility Therapy.”
What we are suggesting therefore is a route we call Possibility Parenting. There is still plenty of time this summer to do something that is clearly more challenging than you would normally take on. Do it anyway. Do it out where everyone can see and hear what you are doing and most importantly where they can learn from your appreciation of possibilities.
If you have a child that you know will benefit from tutoring now to maximize success and minimize frustration when school starts back, you can start with modeling the needed perspective. Make your attitude as clear as Emily Dickinson’s: “I dwell in possibilities” as one more way to help your children prepare today for success tomorrow.