Character Building: The Value of Persistence – Part 2

How apt that I should watch Soul Surfer right after writing about the value of persistence… If you haven’t seen the movie and you don’t know what it is about, here’s the preview:


It’s based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton who dreamed of becoming a professional surfer when her arm is taken by a shark. The movie tells her incredible story of courage, strength and faith as she continues in spite of the odds to realise her dreams. It is a magnificent testimony of the human spirit and what we can do when we put our hearts and minds into it.

If there is one lesson I want my boys to learn more than anything else, it is this: “where there is a will there is a way”. And if they can face life the way that Bethany Hamilton has, I know that nothing is beyond their reach.

Many questions come to mind as I think about how to teach my children to develop that kind of mindset. Knowing that the differences in temperament in children will have some impact on their outlook of life and the opportunities and obstacles that it brings, I wonder how far a parent can go to reverse the negative temperament of a child.

There is a story I heard a long time back about twin boys with extreme personalities. Here it is from Gregg Hake’s blog:

The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist.

First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist.  Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys.  But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears.  ”What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?”  “Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”

Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist.  Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure.  But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist.  Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands.  ”What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”

This story reminds me a lot of Aristotle and Hercules with Aristotle being my pessimist and Hercules my optimist. I find myself often wondering how much I will be able to influence Aristotle in his outlook of life and how I can help dampen his pessimistic nature. I was recommended the book “Flying Start” by Emma Sargent which gives parents “realistic nurturing tools for raising happy and confident children who feel secure in their ability to overcome any obstacle, have healthy minds, and will reach their full potential in adulthood in this guide based on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques”. I’m hoping to find some answers in here.

Aside from this, if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears because whatever I’m doing right now, it’s not working.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Character Building: The Value of Persistence – Part 2

  1. Yes, it is interesting to see how different children can be– even though they have been raised in the same family situation, they can be as different as night and day. Isn’t there a saying that says, “Variety is the spice of life”?

    My only idea is that maybe those who tend to be more pessimistic and lacking in confidence need to have lots of opportunities to succeed, so they can “own” the experience of success. It can be hard for parents to know if an activity is something they really must stick with, but if you have made a decision to do that, a pessimistic child may need to have some gentle leading by you, and encouragement to continue.


    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Diane. Yes, I agree – the differences in our children help us to take more notice of our other children, too. I think there’s a tendency to be over zealous with the first child and forget the other children because we’ve “been there, done that”, but the differences in their personalities are like a check that make us sit up and take more notice.


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