Education, Slippery Sayings

“I cant. It’s Too Hard”

As a parent, you are a teacher. Regardless of how your children are schooled, you guide your kids towards what is right and good and beautiful. You lead them to discover new and different things unknown to them, like a gatekeeper to a new, bigger world. They are the young ones born inside a very old and very large castle. They cannot see it all at once, but must pass through every corridor, into every sized room, each with its purpose, yet each connected to all the others.

do hard things

As a father who is but a servant himself in the larger kingdom of God, opening this new world is one of those joyful struggles. Each subject is a room in itself, and is both wide and deep; and each seems to continue to grow in significance and richness as it connects with other subjects. At the onset, every room is so new it feels as though a new language must be learned each time a door opens. One must open a door first, after all, to enter a room, and is often disoriented upon entering such a room without having walked in it before. This “orienting” is part of the job of the teacher. No less than the teacher, exploring a room of such magnitude as a student takes patience, diligence, and perseverance – these among the top requirements for learning such things.

Music is one of those unique rooms in the larger kingdom that, though a room of its own, is heard in the air and down the hall from other areas and rooms of the castle. To walk into the “music room,” though beautiful and captivating, can be overwhelming as a young learner. I teach music from my home and I see this on many of my students’ faces.

When this overwhelmed look comes over them, one of the biggest things I hear is, “I can’t. It’s too hard.”

Have you ever said heard this?

While I can relate to the student, I’m learning to utilize this golden opportunity as a teacher. Whether they say these words or not, this is where our culture has taught us to go: the “Give Up” room.

“I can’t; it’s too hard” is the key phrase to enter that room. It’s like the secret door in the game Clue to get immediately from one corner of the house to the other.

But it’s more like a dungeon.

I’ve been thinking about these words, and though I don’t feel I ever arrive at the perfect answer, I know one thing – it has nothing to do with skill.

The words “I can’t; it’s too hard” represent an emotional dungeon, not a statement of fact about their skill. This is how deceiving our words can be. We deceive ourselves by saying one thing but meaning another. We think our hands are incapable unfortunately, because our heart is very good at blaming. Yes, it will even blame its own hands.

The reality is something else. I told one student: “You just didn’t realize that it would be this hard to actually sit down and work on it.” Playing music is difficult, yes. Any coach will tell you that the physical skills necessary to do the sport require patience, diligence, and perseverance.

The reason it requires these character traits is of utmost importance. Acquiring strength and muscle memory in any sport (or for any musical instrument for that matter), does not come naturally.

Because it does not come naturally, we feel emotionally exhausted to go through the effort. When our heart is done; when it decides to take the secret “I can’t” door to the Give Up Room, the one place in the castle we shouldn’t go, it tries to excuse itself by saying, “it’s too hard.”

Now, this is different than a physical kind of “too hard.” This is why we do strength and muscle memory training, and endurance training, so that our bodies can accomplish physically what we want it to accomplish.

If they use the secret door (really should be called a trap door), they need to know they do not want to go in there.  It is very hard to get out.

So, when they say, “I can’t; it’s too hard,” they need help defining “it.”

Ask, “what is too hard?” Sometimes they already know the real answer, but need to hear it verbalized.

Encourage: “Be patient with yourself. I know this is tough work, and I know it takes a lot out of you to keep at it, but I believe you can do it. Don’t let your heart tell you otherwise.”

For my music students, I try and keep the physical and emotional separate by telling them that they are working to train their own fingers (for piano and guitar). Though their fingers can be stubborn sometimes, they should keep reminding them. “Don’t worry. You are the boss of your hands – they will learn in time.”

While the physical part of training is important, patience, diligence, and perseverance need the most attention. Though entering a new room can be disorienting and overwhelming, don’t let your students confuse a physical problem with an emotional and/or spiritual one.

You are in the process of training your young students. If character traits like patience, diligence, and perseverance need the most attention to help your kids do hard things, remember that they cannot just magically conjure up the ability to be patient. Remember that true patience is a by-product of faith in a greater Source. Our longsuffering Savior is gracious to provide these internal needs, but you need to foster their faith. Feed them with truth from Scripture.

Consider posting the Word of God on your walls or in frames on a shelf. Keep it in front of them. Keep it on your lips as you walk on your way. As you feed his faith with scripture, you are training up your child in the way they should go. You are a teacher. Guide your kids towards what is right and good and beautiful.

do hard things

This is a wonderful resource my wife designed.  The PDF set includes 8 – 8.5″ x 11″ scripture posters to feed your faith. The set is $3. Click below to purchase.

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