As a parent, I knew it was essential to teach my kids perseverance. You just can’t beat it when it comes to, say, finishing chores, completing homework, getting into and through college, and finding and keeping a job. Throw in friendships and community, dating and marriage—not to mention raising children—and the skill of perseverance just keeps on giving.
What I didn’t know as a parent—but what has become abundantly clear to me as a grandparent—is how much time and effort it takes to build this particular quality into children in an engaging and winsome way. How often, as parents, do we attempt quick results in our kids with minimal effort on our part? A bit ironic—especially when it comes to teaching perseverance.
So when my two grandsons (born three months apart) began toddling around, I began wondering what part I might play in helping them acquire a taste for a job well-done and skills well-mastered. Could I create a rich, bonding experience and avoid forcing a “lesson?” I hoped so.
When the boys were about three years old, I began teaching them to use a handsaw. Using a saw effectively is a great skill for any adult—a sure confidence booster for a child! And building a chicken coop proved the perfect way to get the boys pumped about sawing. I began with one-inch lattice strips clamped in a vice, small six-inch saws, and two little boys on stools. Over the months they progressed to twelve-inch saws and one-by-one boards.
Of course there were times both boys became frustrated and tired, but I could talk them through the rough spots. We took breaks. We celebrated a lot. Enough victory and accomplishment kept them wanting more. Branches and small logs came next. At age four, Victor proudly gave me my Christmas present: a set of coasters, sawn (and sanded) slices of what used to be a four-inch thick log. Visit me in my office, and I’ll let you rest your coffee mug on one.
Today, at age six, both boys know their way around a saw. Several saws to be exact. In fact, they each have a favorite saw—complete with their initials. “A” for Archer and “V” for Victor. These boys know the joy of a job well-done, the pride of a skill well-mastered, and that satisfying moment when frustration turns to achievement. They have experienced the pleasures and rewards of perseverance.
Me? I received my own reward. Yes, I adjusted my home project pace and expectations. But I also got to bond with my grandsons over saws, sticks, boards, and logs. Remember, I’m a grandfather. I have a whole new appreciation for “time well-spent.”