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Parenting: Adversity Breeds Success

I love movies about sports. They’re always really uplifting and there is so much to be learned from the experiences of the players. These are the kind of movies that provide plenty of talking points you can raise with your children…

We watched another movie about baseball recently – MoneyBall. It is the story of Billy Beane – manager for the Oakland Athletics – who challenges the system for selecting players for his team.

Although the story is more about how Billy Beane changed the way baseball was played, I confess that I have been fascinated by Billy Beane’s story ever since I read about him in the book Mindset. In the movie, there are flashbacks of Billy Beane’s past – how he was picked up from school by baseball talent scouts and hailed to be the next greatest baseball player because he displayed enormous potential well above the norm that the scouts were used to finding. There are five skills that the scouts normally look out for and most promising individuals have one or two. Billy Beane came with all five and because of that he had the scouts excited about him. Unfortunately, when he got to the professional league, he crashed and burned and never lived up to the potential that the scouts anticipated from him.

For all intents and purposes, Billy Beane was a natural sporting talent – he was not only great at baseball but he also excelled at basketball and football. You would have expected him to be phenomenal in the pro-league but he was not. It was said that he failed because he didn’t have the right mindset. I wonder… would his mindset have been stronger if he had to struggle a little more to be good at sports?

Have you heard the story of the butterfly?

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole. Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body. Nothing happened! In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand: The restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved.

The story of the butterfly is a good one for parents. It is easy to be like the man – wanting to help our children by making things easier for them. In this day and age of cotton wool parenting, we often go overboard by assisting our children too much. We think we are helping them but instead we are inadvertently crippling them because we have taken away their opportunity to learn through their struggles.

It is said that “adversity breeds success”. I believe it’s true. If you have to work hard for something, you value the results you get for it. You learn not to slack off because it was hard enough to get there in the first place. Like the butterfly, we need to let our children struggle so that they can be ready to fly.

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.

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