Inventor Thomas Edison filed more than 1,000 patents during his lifetime. His most famous invention, the light bulb, changed the lives of people around the world and ushered in the electric age. Thousands of failures preceded Edison’s discovery of the carbon filament that would glow inside a glass bubble and eventually light the world.
One quote attributed to Edison is, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Edison’s life and his quote aptly apply to the character trait of diligence: investing all of one’s energy to complete the assigned tasks.
Diligence is particularly important for children as school resumes. Cooler autumn days, football games, and television can all be tempting alternatives to finishing homework. For adolescents and teens, it’s sometimes difficult to see the long-term benefits of completing assignments they find boring or tedious, but not finishing work can affect future opportunities. Learning diligence early can make the seas of life smoother.
I Will Statements
- I will finish my projects.
- I will complete my tasks correctly.
- I will follow instructions.
- I will concentrate on my work.
- I will not be lazy.
In NatureThe beaver’s actions illustrate the trait of diligence. Beavers use their sharp teeth to gnaw down trees. They build dams to raise the water level surrounding their lodges made of limbs and branches. This deep water creates a protective moat and provides a place for beavers to store food for the winter. While other animals hibernate, beavers are warm inside their lodge with a supply of tender branches nearby in wet storage. When beavers dam up streams in shallow valleys, it often results in a wetland—offering a rich habitat for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, and ducks. Wetlands also serve the important function of sponging up floodwaters, preventing erosion, and purifying the water downstream.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The end justifies the means.” Some people abide by it; others insist that the means justify the end. But true success requires that both the ends and means come from positive character. Look for the intentions behind both the means and the ends of success w hen praising children. Praising the diligence to finish a project has a greater impact than praising only achievement. Research indicates children who receive only praise for achievement can show preference for quick, easy projects that bring praise without much effort. These children begin to avoid difficult assignments, hoping to reap rewards for less effort. It is important for parents to recognize and reinforce a child who puts his or her whole heart into a project.
Making cookies provides the opportunity to use all of the “I Will” statements this month. Before beginning the project, read the statements with your child and ask him or her to look for the examples of the ideas in what you’ll be doing. (Depending on the age of your child, you may want to point out how what you’re doing illustrates the concepts.) The steps of a recipe allow you to follow instructions. Measuring ingredients correctly provides the chance to do the job right. Stirring ingredients by hand means not being lazy. Making sure all the cookies are the same size requires concentrating on the task at hand. Baking the cookies and cleaning up the bowls and pans finishes the project.
Does your child have a favorite athlete, actor, or musician? In some cases, these celebrities can offer excellent examples of diligence. An article recounting how the accomplished sports figure practices every day can be inspirational for an aspiring player. Biographies of those who have succeeded in an area that interests your child can provide more insight into the diligence required to excel. Reminding your child of academic requirements to participate in sports or band can also be motivating factors for finishing homework.
The familiar story of the ant and the grasshopper illustrates the trait of diligence. The ants work hard all summer long to gather food while the grasshopper wastes time playing in the sun. When winter comes, the ants are warm and full inside their homes while the grasshopper is left hungry out in the cold. (You may recognize the adaptation of this fable into the Disney movie A Bug’s Life.)
For adults: Triumph Over the Odds: Inspirational Success Stories by Louis Baldwin recounts examples of diligence beginning with Moses and continuing through modern times with biographies ranging from Ronald Reagan to Lucille Ball and Sigmund Freud. The book presents the stories of 39 people in a few pages that can be read in one sitting.
For children: Get Busy, Beaver by Carolyn Crimi. The lighthearted book presents the tale of one beaver who wants to bring a bit of creativity to his lodge-building while he works.