This past Sunday, NHL and I were heading to his weekly Hebrew lessons. As we drove, I began to worry. You see, it had been a couple of weeks since his last lesson (thanks to Passover) and NHL, while very bright, has a tendency to give up easily if a task seems difficult to him. He’ll insist that he can’t do it and will complain endlessly, stubbornly refusing to even try, until we wear him down. Then he’ll grumble as he tries and then will act really surprised when he finds the task easy.
Therefore, I decided to have a talk with him on the way in. I told him how smart he was and how he should never sell himself short. He should never say that he can’t do something because he can do anything he sets his mind to. He said “ok” but somehow I didn’t think the lesson really sunk in. Sure enough, he began to panic during his lesson. He insisted that he couldn’t read the Hebrew because he didn’t know any of the letters. This despite the fact that a) he learned the letters a long time ago and b) he had a sheet with all of the letters and their sounds sitting right next to him. We got over this hump, but I decided that another talk was needed.
This time I considered my reference material. I could tell NHL stories of my youth about how I did things that seemed tricky but was able to do it once I tried. Of course, to a seven year old, stories that take place 10 years ago or more are ancient history. I could describe projects I work on in my office. I could tell him how a big web application I’m trying to develop seems impossible when I look at it, but working on it bit by bit leads to it being completed far earlier than I thought it would be. That might help, but developing websites seems esoteric to a child (even if he uses websites all the time). Relating to my personal experiences didn’t seem to be helping. Thinking about it, how often did we roll our eyes at our parents when we were kids and they told us that they went through similar things.
That’s when inspiration struck. It just so happened that we were holding a party that day. I had received some toys from Mom Select to use to throw a Green Lantern party. NHL loves superheroes and was excited about the upcoming party. I thought about the Green Lantern oath:
In brightest day
In blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power
Green Lantern’s light!
I asked NHL what the Green Lantern would do if he found that beating a bad guy was difficult. Would he give up and walk away? NHL answered “No.” He told me that Green Lantern would keep trying until the villain was defeated. Then I asked him about Batman. Would Batman give up? Of course not, NHL said. Batman keeps trying until he wins.
I could almost see the light turn on in his head. Where my personal experiences failed, comic and television references succeeded. After all, these are characters that he sees everyday. He sees them encounter difficult situations. He seems that they could easily give up. Instead, they keep at it. They use their minds, bodies, superpowers (if they have any) and all resources at their disposal to overcome and prevail. Is it a geeky way to teach a life lesson? Sure. But it can be an effective one. (And a method that I’ve used before.)