Monday, April 9, 2012

Motivating Gifted Students-Part 3... Doing Hard Things

One of my favorite family mottoes is:

What a legacy to give our children! Gifted kids can struggle with doing hard things for a variety of reasons:
They have never had to do hard things because school has always been easy.
They think that if something is hard for them, then it proves that they are not smart enough.
They do not have the skills to do hard things.

So how do we help kids to learn to do hard things?

1. One of my standard answers is to have kids learn to play the piano or another instrument. Lessons progress at their own speed and they are always just a little bit hard. Practicing is not always "fun", and every song is not a favorite song. It is a good exercise in doing something worthwhile that is not easy.
2. Let kids figure out what to do.
 My daughter forgot her science book at school, and the assignment was due the next day. When she told me I said, "What do you think you'll do?" In 5 minutes flat she had the neighbor on the phone, and a study date planned--problem solved.
3. Let kids do their own "business."
My kids have bought and sold and trained horses, to earn money. We have them call on horses to buy and we have them deal with buyers for horses they have trained. We are always there, and there is often a list of questions that we have all come up with sitting by the phone, but they are in charge. They make the decision to buy or sell. This has instilled great confidence in them about their ability to be self-sufficient and capable.
My youngest daughter, then just 8 years old, called about 50 dog owners out of the paper, until she decided that she wanted a toy poodle. She told us that she was too young to break horses, but she could sell papered poodle puppies to earn money! She has a big bank account for a 10 year old!
4. Push the envelope a bit.
All of my kids went on a 50 mile backpack trip when they turned 8. They learned to ski when they were very young, and they all ride horses. None of these things are very easy. When they think things are hard, we say, "Pleas-s-se! You have been training horses since you were 10 years old! You can do this math problem! Let's take a look!" Half of the trick of doing hard things is believing that you can do hard things.
5. No list would be complete without talking about my husband's favorite saying, "Use your R and I!" (Resourcefulness and Ingenuity) Living on a farm presents daily challenges that are not pre-planned. i.e. The cows are walking down the road and it is dark and dad is teaching his night class. So what to do? Use your R and I! The kids have learned to think for themselves and to solve problems without having to be told what to do. They are pretty adept and taking care of business. Again, we are always there, but they have a lot to say about how to solve the problem. We try to model this by creatively solving life's daily problems and talking about our thinking.

We can do hard things!


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