The importance of character
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
There’s a saying that adversity develops perseverance, perseverance develops strong character, and strong character leads to hope.
I always thought that was backward. It seemed to me a strong, tough character is what keeps one going when the going got tough.
Then I remembered one of my favorite sagas, “Lord of The Rings.” One of the main characters is an unimposing, comfort-loving hobbit named Frodo. In a climactic scene, Frodo volunteers to go on a dangerous quest to destroy a ring of evil. He didn’t volunteer out of delusions of success or expectations of reward; rather it was out of a sense of duty and responsibility. He had gumption.
As he and his companions faced each challenge, the tensile strength of Frodo’s character was strengthened, deepened and refined. And in the end, he triumphed.
Isn’t that what we want for our children? Gumption. Courage. Common sense.
Resourcefulness. The ability to persevere under adverse conditions. As parents, we know what the real world is like. We know there are tough challenges out there, and we want our children to be equipped to overcome them.
How do we develop that sort of character? Frodo’s friends and family could have protected him. They could have restrained him from going. They could have offered to go in his stead. But they didn’t. They allowed him to take on the task and test his mettle. We can learn a lot from a hobbit. It’s the struggles and obstacles of life which develop a can- and will-do attitude.
When we, as parents, rush in to protect or rescue our children from the consequences of their choices to ensure they’re never disappointed, we rob them of gumption-building experiences.
It is hard to watch your child sit out an important game because of his grades, or to live without her cell phone until she pays the bill, yet that is what develops persevering character.
One way to start building gumption is to allow your child to come up with his own solutions to problems he encounters. If he has difficulty coming up with ideas, ask if he would like to know what other kids have tried, then offer three or four suggestions. After each suggestion, ask what he thinks the consequences of the idea might be.
Tell him you’ll be interested to see what he does, and then let him try it out. By allowing your child to take ownership of a problem and to struggle through the solution, your child learns responsibility, learns about cause and effect, gains confidence in his abilities, and develops character.
Each challenge your children overcome, each unpleasant consequence your children endure develops gumption ” the sort of strength which will help them successfully meet the challenges they’ll face in life.
Allow your children to experience the consequences of their decisions. Let your children face obstacles and overcome them on their own. Give your children the gift of gumption.
Karen Nadon is a YouthZone counselor
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Centrists are likely extinct