I vividly recall an incident when Ethan was about 2 years old. It made me realize how strong-willed and spirited he was.
He wanted to open a kitchen cabinet that was locked. I explained that it was unsafe and that he can play with all the other cabinets I kept unlocked. He wouldn’t have it. He sat next to the cabinet door sobbing and pleading for about an hour and a half. Nothing I said or did distracted him or changed his mind.
I understood I needed to meet his persistence with an abundance of love and patience as well as consistency to set limits and develop healthy boundaries.
With time, I have learned to gain an appreciation for his temperament, develop more patience, take a deep breath before responding, and try the best I can to see situations from his perspective.
A few months ago, at the age of 7, Ethan reminded me how his determination was effective and how important it was for me to learn from it.
We arrived at the playground with Ethan riding his scooter, scouring to see if any of his friends were around. He spotted a boy about his age, also scootering. He didn’t know him, but nonetheless, his eyes lit up — he wanted to play!
He zoomed in the boy’s direction and shouted, “Hey, do you want to race with our scooters?” The boy didn’t respond and scootered in the opposite direction. As Ethan followed him, the boy kept riding away. So they went, Ethan trying to get his attention and the boy ignoring him and scootering away from him — it was clear that he was avoiding Ethan.
I called Ethan over and explained to him that the boy didn’t seem interested in playing, and I asked that he respect his space. He protested, saying he just wants to race their scooters together. I stressed that we need to respect the boy’s wishes.
For the next 30 minutes, the boys played away from each other. Then the boy was playing with a soccer ball, and when he threw the ball, it landed in Ethan’s hands. Without any verbal exchange, they started to play ball together.
I shook my head and chuckled. I thought, he sure found a way to get to this boy.
They continued to play for the next 30 minutes. They came over to me for a short break, and after they took a few sips of water, Ethan casually asked the boy, “Hey, do you want to race with our scooters?” “Sure!” the boy, said.
Ethan turned over to face me and with his victorious, glowing smile said, “See? Now he listens!” And with that, they went and joyfully raced on their scooters.
Game over. Persistence paid off!
Through my son, I have learned about the value of persistence and it has benefited me personally and professionally. Persistence is an important component in pushing through and achieving goals. Recent studies point out that perseverance and persistence in children are better predictors of success than IQ scores. I particularly like this 2013 article on the value of persistence.
Rather than wondering why or how our children have certain characteristics, we ought to wonder how we can best approach them and how we can nurture who they are.
I no longer view my son’s persistence as a shortcoming, but rather a strength. It presents a constant challenge for me, but it’s one I wholeheartedly embrace.
Additional API Resources on Embracing Our Child’s Temperament
API Teleseminar: “How to Get Kids Cooperating Without Yelling, Bribes, Threats or Punishments” with Dr. Laura Markham — audio recording now only $9!
API Publications: Attached Family special edition, “Loving Uniquely“
Personal stories on APtly Said, API’s blog:
— “Average big”
Professional insight on The Attached Family, API’s online magazine: