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When our boys were teens they were in an after school music program whose leader used to say that kids don’t know what they cannot do until you tell them. In other words, if the grownups stay out of it the kids will just keep going, unaware that what they are doing may be unusually hard. Our kids learned difficult music at that program, and both our boys suddenly wanted to sing on stage in front of crowds that included there parents! They were teenage boys, for Pete’s sake, and this is what they wanted to do?

I just love the idea of believing kids can do more, now. Maybe they can and maybe they cannot, but if you decide ahead of time that they cannot, you end things before they are even started.

You never know, today may be the day. After all, at some point in our lives we decide to like spinach. What day did that happen? It could have been today, or tomorrow, or in six years, but you don’t know. So on any particular day you have to at least consider trying the new thing. Maybe today is the day your baby falls asleep without a bottle first, or finally sleeps through the night. Since you never know, being the grownup means being the one who decides that today is the day we try. And when we try we have to do things the kids don’t like. Like try. That means that there may be a few sleepless nights on the way to the one where the kiddo sleeps all the way through.

My rule of three says that only after three serious attempts to get our child to take on whatever new challenge we are presenting, do we give up. Maybe after three attempts he is showing us that he is not ready for whatever I thought he could do. But three serious tries means setting a timer and deciding to sit out the tantrum, or continue to persevere when the separations yield tears. But I always challenge myself to try three times before throwing in the towel. I have learned that it is far more likely that some time after that first difficult night the child is going to reconsider his decision to scream for hours on end and just go to sleep, if you have been steadfast in your resolve. When our kids were little if we didn’t have three solid attempts, three nights in a row, I knew something else was wrong like an ear infection I missed, if my child didn’t decide it was time to lose the battle.

Kids want to be successful and they want to please us, and they want to grow. The more we challenge them to try new things and give it a go even when it seems too hard, the more they are likely to show us even more cool things they can do.