Trish, my pretty in pink daughter who loved lace and books signed up for soccer in high school. She had never played before. They made her a goalie. I watched her dive in the Oregon rain and mud. I watched her take balls in the face. The weather got colder and I watched her want to quit. I left it up to her.
Then one day I came upon this scene: Trish was cornered by her five older brothers and sisters. I heard her brother tell her, "A Symonds never quits." Then I heard them all jump in on the, "You may not like it, but you made a commitment and you have to finish," lecture.
I interrupted, "Wait a minute," I said. "Who told you a Symonds never quits?"
They all looked dumb founded. They insisted that I did. I told them that I had never said that before. Then they explained that they had watched me.
Although I believe there is always a time to quit some things (like eating candy for breakfast), I was astonished at the impact of my example.
Wikipedia defines duty as, "a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment or obligation to someone or something. The moral commitment should result in action; it is not a matter of passive feeling or mere recognition. When someone recognizes a duty, that person theoretically commits themselves to its fulfillment without considering their own self-interest."
Thomas Jefferson said, "Only aim to do your duty and mankind will give you credit where you fail." In other words, the outcome isn't as important as the effort.
For example, even though my sweet daughter thought rolling in the mud being pelted with soccer balls wasn't fun, she was obligated to fulfill her duty and commitment to the team, even if they lost or she wasn't great.
As parents when we do our duty, we are teaching our children to be responsible committed adults. Our children learn to prioritize, keep commitments and delay gratification by our example.
The opposite can be true. When our children see us call into work and report that we are ill, if we are not or if they see us tell a neighbor that our husband isn't home, when he is we send a clear message. We are telling them to do as we say, not as we do. Or we are saying that it is acceptable to lie sometimes to get out of work or avoid our duty.
When children watch us delay gratification to fulfill our work duties or other responsibilities they benefit. As a mom I would have loved to put my chores off until the next day and spent all day making cookies and playing. At our house, we got to play after the chores were done. This taught our children to fulfill duty and delay gratification.
Psychology today shared the benefits of delaying gratification. A researcher named Walter Mischel did a famous study with children. He gave them one cookie. He told them they could have a second if they waited to eat the first until he returned from errands. If they ate it while he was gone, that would be the only cookie they were allowed to eat.
The children who were able to wait to eat the cookie were followed. Here is what we know about children who are able to delay gratification or wait to eat the cookie. They "did better in school and had fewer behavioral problems than the children who could only resist eating the cookie for a few minutes — and, further, ended up on average with SAT scores that were 210 points higher. As adults, the high-delay children completed college at higher rates than the other children and then went on to earn higher incomes. In contrast, the children who had the most trouble delaying gratification had higher rates of incarceration as adults and were more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction." Wow! That is a great list of amazing benefits.
The best way to teach your child to do duty first and play after or delay gratification, is to set an example. If you are asking them to do chores before they play, do your chores at the same time and before you play. If you are asking them to go to do their homework, let them see you sort your mail or do your homework before you watch your favorite show.
Create opportunities for children to practice duty and delaying gratification
Chores before games
Have a day set aside for chores. Show children that duty or chores can be fun. Save your play and theirs for after work. Schedule fun family activities to celebrate a job well done.
Give children duties at a developmental level they can handle. Allow a child to care for a small plant and if they can keep it alive graduate to watering the lawn and so on. Give children the opportunity to do their duty and care for pets. Start small with a goldfish. Allow children to learn to be responsible for others.
. Give children important duties, like helping you with a project. Praise them when they consistently try.
Praise every attempt, even failure
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." Trying for a child is more important than success. Encourage children to just try and praise attempts.
Teach children to fulfill duty and you will teach them to keep a job and be faithful to their children and duties as they grow old. Teach them to delay gratification and the world is theirs. Duty is an important skill for success.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh