teaching kids perseverance

Teaching Perseverance to Children: Lesson from a Yo Yo Champion

This video from TED got me thinking as a parent about teaching perseverance to children. What if your child had this crazy idea that he or she wanted to play with a yo yo as a career ambition? Honestly, I wouldn’t feel optimistic about that kid’s future.

My husband would be moaning that our kid would be need to be financially supported for eternity, perhaps failing to launch and living at home forever.

It doesn’t have to be a yo yo dream. My middle daughter wants to go to hair school. There’s nothing wrong with being a hair stylist but it isn’t my dream for her and it doesn’t seem to jive with her other dreams (which I’m more behind) of going to Stanford — playing soccer for Stanford actually as an outside midfielder (she gets more specific with each passing year) and becoming a billionaire. Because I googled billionaires and no hair professionals came up. Not even Jennifer Aniston hawking Living Proof made that cut.

kids dreams, pickykidpix

stanford dreams

But, as a parent, perhaps my impulse to flatten a dream that I don’t see a future in is just plain WRONG. The jobs of the future are a glint in someone’s eye right now. There’s also the argument that pursuing your passion is more important. The corollary being: do what you love and the money will follow. I also like: If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

I also believe that a weird juxtaposition of skills truly does make you unique, valuable and irreplaceable. Sometimes you just can’t see how they will come together but it somehow does. Mindy Kaling’s a good example. To be successful, just study hard, go to an accredited college, work random jobs that don’t seem to add up, write your own material, work hard, stand your ground, and become quadruple threat (all while exacting revenge on the tormentors of your youth): author/writer, actor, director, producer.

At fourteen, BLACK discovered his passion for the yo yo. By eighteen, he was a world champion but without yo you job prospects. He had a traditional salaryman job as a computer programmer. He quit to learn classic ballet, jazz dance, and acrobatics to make himself into a yo yo performer.

Black yo yo champion, TEDTalk yo yo guy

It’s a great story but as a parent, tell me if you would have freaked out. Your son says he’s quitting his really good job to study dance. I’m half Japanese and I KNOW his parents would have been FREAKING out and not in a good way.


How Do We Parent Passion in Our Kids?

Since I’m in my mid-40’s (and rapidly hitting my 50’s), I’ve witnessed many friends, some with expensive and difficult to acquire MBAs, flounder as their career skills no longer matched what their passion was. In fact, some didn’t even know what their passion was exactly. They just knew that their six-figure jobs were feeling like golden handcuffs.

It’s easy for me, as a parent, to applaud Mr. BLACK and knowing that the unknown has turned out favorably. If my child has professional yo yo aspirations, perhaps I will even remember this video to provide a glimpse into that career path. But for every yo yo dream, will I remember that this is a yo yo dream too? My oldest wants to be an artist. My middle a hair stylist/billionaire. My youngest to play video games — ok, I turned his Yo Yo dream a bit sideways and have been whispering “yo yo developer” I mean video game developer.

As for myself, I was a failed pre-med who started a business out of a dorm room with two friends. I was chosen because I could type really fast. Two years of typing including summer school will do that. Also took sewing classes in high school summer session. These don’t seem like life changing decisions do they? But they resulted in a multi-national staffing agency and a women’s golf clothing business. There were other start-ups as well that I fronted: print magazine publisher and online accounting business.

My question for you is how do we parent passion, irregardless of career in our kids? And is this even important? Is a crazy, unpredictable and  seemingly financially unsuccessful series of jobs the true path to career self actualization, a mid-life crisis’ polar opposite? You tell me.


p.s. As for Black, in five years I expect him to be opening for rock stars.

p.p.s. I do think he needs a snappier name. How about Samurai Yo Yo? Or Ronin Yo Yo?

[ted id=1716]

teaching kids  perseverance

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Ann

    Hmm, That is a hard one. I think my answer right now would be to pursue your passion even it that was to be a hair stylist but maybe I would require my child to go to college first. I am a pretty cautious person. My mother wanted us to go to college. She went. My father offered to give us kids the college money towards starting a business instead. None of us took him up on it but for a smart self-starter it could work. You can learn a lot from books and from hands on experiences. My father, an immigrant, is a very successful builder who came to the US when he was 18 with a trade school diploma.
    Ann recently posted…Pages to PonderMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      What an interesting offer: college money or start up money! I think PickyKidPix wants both! I like your suggestion of letting her pursue her passion while getting a backup plan based on education. I’m not sure her dad would agree but I think also that her passion will vary widely as she grows older. But if it continues to be hair for the next 5 years, I’ll get more serious to help her pursue her hair styling ambitions.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Children’s Choice Book Awards 2013My Profile

  2. My daughter is passionate about cosmetology. She is 14 and has been into hair and nails since she was 7. I have seen a talent in her for that as have other people that I know. I am telling her to follow that passion, but she is also looking into taking some business and marketing classes in high school and maybe getting an associate’s in some type of business field so that one day she can run her own salon.

  3. I think it is significant that this kid was capable of holding a good more typical job. I’m happy for my kids to pursue their dreams, provided they have some practical skills to fall back on if need be. 🙂
    maryanne recently posted…Pretend Play Matters: Playing SchoolMy Profile

  4. Interesting discussion! It struck me that maybe Black’s perseverance could be BECAUSE OF going against his parents freaking out, not in spite of it. On the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, some resistance from parents to wayout job plans might help a kid find out if he REALLY wants to do something enough to make a success of it – as this one did.

  5. Interesting. I wish I could yo-yo even a little like that! My parents encourage us to do what we love even if it isn’t what they think (I think my dad would like me to be a football player, but he is also my biggest fan for reading and writing). 😀
    Erik – This Kid Reviews Books recently posted…Creative Kid (Character) Thursday! JJ from S.W. Lothian’s Quest Series!My Profile

  6. I think that all children will find their way. As parents we give them love and guidance, but we cannot control their destiny. They are the master’s of their fate. No matter how hard we try, they will make wrong decisions. Hopefully, if we have done out jobs well, they will have the determination and courage to change their course and find the way to happiness.

  7. sara

    Yo Yo Champion is great! I just care about injury while such things.
    sara recently posted…Roasted Potato and Steak Salad RecipeMy Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge