Few things in life that are truly worth having or achieving come easily. Raising a family, mastering the violin, running a marathon, surfing a wave, passing your final exams or climbing a mountain all take plenty of good old fashioned hard work. There are times when you feel disheartened as you see little reward for your efforts but, in the end, you enjoy a family dinner, ride that wave, cross the finish line, graduate or reach the summit.
Much of the spirit of our times is about luxury, ease and convenience. ‘Simpler, better faster’. We expect replies to our messages in minutes. We aspire to and come to expect business class, VIP parking, air conditioned comfort.
Children do not learn perseverance, tenacity and grit by themselves. It is human nature to give up in the face of adversity. We need to plan those lessons, as we do others. It starts with giving them responsibilities around the house that are appropriate for their age. A four year-old can help carry the shopping in to the house and by five should be able to help you pack it away. They should be able to feed the dog or cat and help water the garden. By 7 or 8 they should be able to fry an egg and bake a muffin. By ten they can cook a meal for the family. In so doing they learn to be responsible for something, knowing that it is an important task and that it needs to be done reliably and with pride. Quitting or making excuses isn’t an option. Later on in life, they will have the skills of self-mastery to be able to study for exams, practice a musical instrument, or train for a sport.
Important life lessons must be planned into the curriculum. Children must learn that in order to enjoy a tomato you have to plant it and water it every day. It takes weeks for the plant to grow and there is a small but real sense of accomplishment when they see the fruit ripening.
One of my favourite quotes is from Robert Schuller: ‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’
Andy Wood, Green School South Africa’s Head of School.