By: Sandy Churchill
Piano, karate, theatre, ballet, scouting, and student government… What do these things have in common? At our house, any commitment to long-term participation in the arts, sports, government, and community service have the potential to grow a child (or even adult for that matter J) in the three Ps: patience, persistence, and perseverance.
With our older daughters, we had the fortune of meeting with college admissions counselors who confided a gem of a tip when competing for acceptance and scholarships at colleges and universities. Several expressed the popular pattern of high school seniors loading up their activities during the last year as a blend of improving their “well-rounded” image and having fun as a last hurrah during high school. Nothing wrong with fun or even challenging oneself to get out of the comfort zone and try something new. However, what the counselors shared was they would rather see a couple of long-term activities, showing years of commitment and growth, than myriad one-and-done activities scattered here and there. In short, a senior year play, one-time Powder Puff football tournament, and six-weeks of jazz lessons were trumped by the student in her seventh year of clarinet or fourth year in student council.
Our daughters participated in theatre, nearly annually for 10+ years, growing their skills in public speaking, acting, singing, and dance. Over the years, each of them grew in confidence and skills, honing their talents and learning lessons in teamwork, fairness, disappointment, and success. There were struggles here and there with egos and difficult personalities (of adults as well as students) and valuable lessons ensued in patience, persistence, and perseverance.
Patience to wait your turn, patience to embrace whatever role was given to you, and patience to learn new skills are invaluable life lessons because every person needs to learn eventually that the world does not revolve around him or her.
Our 13 year-old son has participated in karate since he was five years old, created a book-and-movie cable TV show where he has been filming since he was eight, and has participated in scouting since he was six. He is in his fourth year studying piano. Each of these activities has challenged him to be patient, for sure, but each has also posed opportunities to learn and demonstrate persistence—overcoming obstacles that happen from time to time. Persistence is continuing to learn and grow despite challenges that are more difficult. Karate continues to challenge Tim physically, with drills and forms, push-ups and sit-ups, and mastery of martial arts weapons. Piano offers challenges not only in sight reading, but fine motor skills and finger strength learning more complex pieces of music. His cable show posed conditions for patience training when he used posters and index cards to remember film facts before the teleprompter cut his film time by 70%!
Perseverance is perhaps the most priceless mindset in my view because it is a life-long virtue that seeps into relationships, community involvement, and dedication to passion on this earth journey. Perseverance is demonstrating long-term dedication—the vow to hang in there and continue to find value in participating, week after week, season to season, year in and year out.
Friendships, marriages, organizations, and communities would all scramble for such commitment, and it seems our culture could benefit from a lovely abundance of perseverance. So, while it’s wonderful to try new things and dabble in fresh activities, it might be equally valid to keep at least one activity in your child’s schedule that offers learning and growth via patience, persistence, and perseverance. The growth in character might be worth it, long after college graduation, as the three Ps never truly fade.