Flexibility - MetroFamily Magazine
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Robert Burns is credited with the sentiment that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, and it is all too true. No matter how meticulously we prepare and schedule, unforeseen and uncontrollable obstacles can present themselves. The weather and illness are only two of many factors that can wreak havoc with plans. When this happens, the character trait of flexibility helps us deal with the changes and make the best of the situation. Flexibility means not becoming attached to ideas or plans that could be changed.

We've all seen news footage of hurricanes with strong winds that bend palm trees at sharp angles. Unlike other trees that grow rings making them taller and wider, palms produce growth disks. These disks stacked one on top of the other give the palm enormous flexibility and allow it to survive fierce winds that would topple more rigid trees. We can survive the changes and storms of life by taking a lesson from the palm tree and adding flexibility to our agenda.

I Will Statements

  • I will not get upset when plans change.
  • I will respect the decisions of my authorities.
  • I will not be stubborn.
  • I will look for the good in changes.
  • I will not compromise what is right.

In Nature
Tiny hummingbirds have no control over their food supply, the weather, or their migration routes. But they can control how they respond to changes they encounter. Most hummingbirds migrate to warmer climates each winter. During the long journey, the birds must compensate for winds and storms that can blow them off-course. In anticipation of the changes they may face, the birds store up as much energy as possible and slow their hearts and breathing so they are almost hibernating.

Hummingbirds eat by putting their long bills into the openings of flowers to sip nectar. If the wind blows the flower up or down or from side to side, the hummingbird must be flexible enough to follow the opening of the flower. The shape and movement of the hummingbird's wings allows it to hover like a helicopter or fly forward and back at dizzying speeds.

Teachable Moments
When talking about flexibility, it is important to remind children that while things around them might change, who they are and what they believe in should not. The palm tree may bend, but it stays firmly anchored by its roots. To illustrate this, make or purchase a pinwheel. Using a marker, write the child's name on the post of the pinwheel, then write the following on the points of the pinwheel: "my expectations," "my plans," "my wishes," "my privileges." (Use words and phrases appropriate for your child.) Talk with your child about how the winds of change move the various points on the pinwheel, but the post remains steady, representing principles of character which do not change.


  • Raising a Responsible Child by Dr. Don Dinkmeyer and Dr. Gary McKay offers parents practical advice to prepare children for our complex world.
  • Who Moved My Cheese for Teens by Spencer Johnson reminds adolescents that change may be scary, but it can also lead to a better outcome.
  • Try and Stick With It by Cheri Meiners is aimed at beginning readers and explores the challenges in learning a new skill. 

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