Michael Pearl: You make a child happy by giving them hope and a vision with the means to fulfill it. In other words, you want to instill in your children a hope of making something in life, doing something, being somebody, accomplishing something. You want to create a vision that excites them, so that they make commitments. My daughter Shalom, when she was, I don't know, 10 or 11 years old, decided she wanted to be a nurse. We knew she'd get married and she'd never be a nurse, but she wanted to be a nurse. She had a vision of healing and helping people. That's kind of her nature.
You know what we did? We went to the library, Deb did, and got her books on anatomy. She started learning all the bone parts, muscles, tissue, and structure. She studied just like she was going to be a nurse and got a head start. She had a vision that was driving her.
She got up about, what was she, 19 when she got married?
Debi Pearl: 21.
Michael: 21, oh that old. She got up....
Michael: ...boy, it'd ever was, and got married. She never did become a nurse. I knew she wouldn't, but she had a vision that gave her a focus, see? Each one of our children had visions about what they wanted out of life. When Gabriel was very young, he was out working, as Nathan was, 13, 14 years old. By the time they were 15, they were going out on the job, regularly, working with men. By the time they were 15 years old, they were owning their own vehicle, 16. And by the time that, I think, he bought a piece of property. How old were you when you bought your first piece of property?
Gabriel Pearl: 19.
Michael: 19 years old. Bought his first piece of property and built a house on it, debt free. And then he's still owns that piece of property, his rental property. He bought another 25 acres and built a place on it. And then, he has other visions and other goals and things he's seen fulfilled. He's studied this thing and that thing and gone here and there and traveled all over the world and married a beautiful girl and having great kids. And life is just full and rich. You've got to give your kids visions.
It doesn't matter what the vision is because any vision will drive you. There can be a vision to be a great musician when you can't hold a tune. There can be a vision to be a lawyer or a doctor or a farmer or an airplane pilot.
My son Nathan had a vision to be an airplane pilot. He spent a lot of time and money, made his money and went and took lessons and got his solo. And finally got married and didn't have the money to do that anymore and hasn't been flying since.
But for a while, when he was very young, that captivated him. And maybe someday he'll do something else with it. But right now, it's on hold. But it's OK, because as a 16, 17, 18‑year‑old, it consumed him for a period of time. Kept him busy, gave him something to do with the money that he was making.
So, you make a child happy by leading him to succeed. So, even a young child can succeed. You say, what kind of success? Take that tricycle and ride down that hill without turning it over, that's a good start. It builds their confidence. Take that bicycle and put that concrete block over there with that piece of plywood on it and see how much air you can get. That gives them confidence.
We took little Gracie the other day...How old is she now?
Debi: 22 months.
Michael: 22 months old. And we got the creek down there with the big long rope on it. So they put Gracie on the rope and she'll swing out over the creek, like that, on that rope. The other day she was doing it and some people...Sholom was showing it off, you know. And Sholom said "OK Gracie, it's time to drop." She wasn't quite ready for that. But she said again, "Gracie it's time to drop." So Gracie had her feet wrapped around it. She turned loose with her feet but she couldn't get her hands to turn loose. And so she swung back again and her mother said "Gracie, it's time to drop." So she turned loose with one hand. See she's holding on with one hand swinging back and forth, you know.
"Gracie, it's time to drop". Plunk and there she goes into the water.
Now, see that builds confidence. I can do it.
I remember when Shoshana was about 14 years old. Shoshana went through puberty late, maybe 16 years old. She was just rail straight and thin and looked wormy. But she's stout and fast and she's my last girl so I got a lot of mileage. My last kid, I got a lot of mileage out of her.
We hung this rope up down at this other river that was on a bluff, a rock bluff and then there was a tree stuck out over the water. And then there was this high back up to the road.
So Nathan climbed up there and tied a rope. And so we'd get up on the roadway, swing out over and then you had this rock bluff with a foot drop. And then you'd rise up to maybe 25 feet above the water and drop off into about 14‑15 feet of water out there in the Buffalo River.
So a lot of these little fat boys that come down here from the city, they'd get hurt. They'd grab a hold of that thing and they'd get about in the middle like that and couldn't hold on. They'd slide off like peanut butter, bloomp, like that, and pile up on those rocks.
We went down there one day and there was four, five, of these little city boys down there swinging. You could see them just hanging there like that, just barely able to make it. And they wouldn't get all the way up. Just kind of take a little swing like this.
So I said to them, because they kept hogging the rope, I said "Is it all right if my daughter swings?" And they said "Oh she can't do it. Only guys can do this." I said "Oh, come on now. Let her swing." "No. No. No. She couldn't do it. She'd get hurt."
So after about the third one, I grabbed the rope out of one of them's hand and I handed her the rope. She goes up to the bank up high and when she swung past us, she was holding on with one hand with her foot like this, smiling.
She swings way out to the middle and does her body this way and turns and comes back like a ballet and then swings and goes back out there again with one hand like this.
One of those boys looks at me and says, "I guess she's done that before, huh?"
Now, I get a big kick out of doing something like that, showing my kids off is a lot of fun. And kids love it, too. They love to show off for you. They love to be the center stage. And it builds them up, builds them up.
I hate to see discouraged kids. I hate to see kids that say, "I can't do it." I hate to see kids that say, "I'm weak. I'm afraid." I like gutsy kids. I like kids that have confidence, that go up and talk to anybody. Just come up and speak to somebody and discuss anything. So, we want to teach them to succeed and to triumph. And to win.
You say, "But I don't believe in competition." I believe in competition. Not to put other people down, but, when I go to a tomahawk or a knife throwing event, I go to win. When Gabriel plays volleyball, he goes to win. He'll make you eat it on the other side. And I don't care what it is, when you do it, I do it to win. I taught my kids to do stuff to win.
My kids are probably the least bullies you'll ever meet. In other words, old Gabriel here, he's 6'5" and so, weighs 230, 235, and no fat on him. I'm nearly the same height and weigh the same, much, but I've got more stomach muscle than he does.
Michael: In no way would anyone who knows him ever call him a bully or mean to other people. He's gentle. Nathan's the same way, very gentle, very willing to talk, very helpful to elderly people and people with needs, and very kind to people who are ugly and stupid and clumsy, willing to take them in and shepherd them and guide them and try to help them in life, never assuming a superiority air. And folks, that was taught, because they themselves have confidence. They're not thinking about their needs. They're not thinking about their hurts or their wants. They have confidence from success so they can invest their energies in other people, without fear of some personal loss or being personally diminished in any way. Totally opposite to what many people are teaching. And then, teach them to overcome. Teach them to overcome difficulties.
Now, I often pushed my boys so that they reached their limit, and then, encouraged them to go a little beyond. I did it with my girls, too, everybody. Do it with my wife, you know. To push them out there to where they've gone as far as they've ever gone and then say, "OK, let's go further." Let's do it, see. And see them go just a little bit further. Teach them to overcome.
When my children would fall down, get hurt, I didn't run to them and baby them. We do that to the grandkids, it makes us feel so good personally.
Michael: But we didn't do that with our kids. My kids, I say, leave them alone, don't, let them go. And so, they fall down, you just let them get up. Let them get up, so that they don't become pitiful, so that they don't become dependent on your mercy and your praise, so they become tough in their spirits. So, teach them to overcome, overcome adversities, overcome difficulties.
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I love your article about teaching kids to have a big vision, about teaching them self-confidence so they can invest their energies in other people. We have a huge problem in this area with two of our almost adult kids. (We have seven; five were adopted as older children.) The two who mightily struggle in this area came to us as part of a sibling group at ages 7 and 8 from overseas. They came from trauma backgrounds - the birth father abandoned the family, then their mother died of AIDS and they weren't allowed to go to the funeral, plus the girl suffered from sexual abuse as a little thing. They lived in three different care situations before being adopted by us.
Ever since they came, we have tried to instill vision and confidence in them, which our other children have, but the 19-year-old boy, especially, struggles with a fear of failure, which is paralyzing. He is so turned in on himself that he is self-centered to the extreme. His fear of failure has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Here are a few examples: He's trying to find a job, and has had several interviews, but I think he projects an air of negativity and failure, so has not been hired. He also has not finished his high school work yet, which is distressing to him. Yet, he doesn't get busy and do it; instead he takes naps, plays on his ipod, and does maybe an hour or two of schoolwork per day. He is good about doing his chores around the home and is mostly respectful and pleasant to be around. (We have been seeing a counselor with him, who says that since it is obviously not working to let our son finish his schoolwork at his own pace, we should put more structure in place to help him succeed. We are in the process of implementing this.) He plays the cello and we just paid over $100 for him to have it repaired. He's been asked to join a group playing at nursing homes, etc. but has turned down the offer, saying that he hasn't played it for a long time so needs practice first. He watches football games on TV a lot. Obviously, his emotional/maturational age is much lower than his biological age. He and his sister have never fully embraced us as their family (though three of our adopted kids have) and they have fantasies about going back to live in their country of origin. (We're thinking that this might be a great eye-opener for them.)
We think our kids' issues are rooted in their early childhood. ("Since my birth father didn't consider me valuable enough to stick around, I must not be a worthy person.") We hope and pray that through counseling and maturing in Christ, they will come to see themselves as precious and valuable, as beautiful children of God and will develop an interest in and love for others, as well as self-confidence.
Do you have recommendations for us as parents that would help us to help our kids grow in vision and self-confidence even at this late stage in their lives? (We're beginning to think that they're going to have to learn some very hard lessons out in the "real world" since they don't seem to be learning them here. But, we are willing to learn and willing to implement your recommendations.)
We have been on your mailing list for many years. We SO much appreciate you!!!
Thanks and God bless,
Sheri and Tom Muma
Sadly, I don't read of any mention of God in this article. It is He who gives us vision, and that not until we come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, whereby our spirit is made alive. Otherwise, our pursuits are selfish and freshly in nature.