Developing Significant Discipline
By Jeannette Webb
We’ve seen them and been amazed – kids who somehow seem to have a hidden secret to accomplishment. I’m not really talking about winning awards or knocking the top off standardized tests, but a driving motivation to do something with their lives. When their existence is viewed from the outside, others aren’t really sure why they are successful, but their life seems to be purposeful and moving forward. There is an inner fire that pulls them out of bed in the morning and gives shape and meaning to their days.
These are the kids who are hugely successful in the college admissions process and have their choice of great schools.
Are they a fluke of nature? Is a parent just lucky to have a child like that? Is it just a special gifting that is randomly dispersed through the population? The answer is “none of the above.”
In fact, any child can be awakened. It doesn’t matter if they live in the ghetto or a gated community. This fact was proven by John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down who spent 30 years teaching in the Manhattan Public School. His success in turning around problem kids earned him the New York State Teacher of the Year award. Upon receiving that prestigious honor, the Wall Street Journal printed his op-ed piece “I Quit, I Think” and Mr. Gatto walked away from public education and began a second career speaking to groups about the problems in our educational system.
A huge believer in the potential of every child, Mr. Gatto makes a strong case for parents and/or other adults guiding young children into a significant discipline – something the child will grow extremely adept at.
What things might qualify for mastering a significant discipline?
- · A musical instrument
- · Sculpting
- · Wood working
- Auto mechanics
- Science research
The list goes on. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what the discipline is, but something that requires mastery over time will change your child. As a Youth Development Specialist, I saw the magic happen over and over again. I would take a bright-eyed 10-year-old, teach them skills and let them take risks over the course of years, then release a confident 18-year-old into the world who knew they had something special to offer.
The interesting thing is that discipline, once learned, is easily transferred to a new endeavor. My daughter would tell you that the daily routine of practicing an instrument was great training for her current daily wrestling with upper level mathematics or physics. Tiny successes with her little violin taught her that she could do anything she set her mind to. That training at a young age gave her an incredible confidence in her own ability to wrestle with something until she mastered it. It also taught her persistence, something that she uses daily as a student leader on her campus. And, it trained in her a tenacity for friendship. She daily invests time in the lives of friends from dysfunction backgrounds who can be frustrating in the extreme. But she knows that anything worthwhile can take years of investment. Because of learning to persevere on ¾ size violin, she has learned to never give up on people.
When do you start training for significant discipline? Mr. Gatto suggests, and I wholeheartedly agree, that the best time to start a child on the journey of mastery is between the ages of 4-9. Everything is so much easier at that point. There is also a short window of opportunity between the ages of 12-15, but is much harder at that point. Past the age of 17, change is still possible but takes an incredible amount of effort. Honestly, few people have what it takes to make a major change at that point.
To help your children live a significant life, introduce a significant discipline into their days. You will be amazed at the outcome!
Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a firm dedicated to helping Christian students gain admission to great colleges. She has a heart of assisting parents as they train their children for excellence. Jeannette works to empower families to make thoughtful choices as they make thoughtful choices for their younger children, to confidently navigatet the difficult high school years, and then ace the college admissions process.
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