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A 3-piece puzzle to fostering life skills


[Published by MomClick Utah and The Daily Herald here]

If you were to compile a list of life skills you believe your children need to succeed in their lives, what would they be?

Vision, confidence and heart are three life skills that work together like pieces of a puzzle. You may want to add them to your list and make them part of your family culture.


“Dream it, believe it, achieve it.”

We have all heard this quote. Here is a story of a young man who made this quote a reality:  Anthony Robles was born with one leg. None of the doctors could explain why. Growing up, his mother taught him that “God made you this way for a reason,” and she made him believe it.

In junior high he joined the wrestling team at his school. He was the smallest and worst wrestler on the team. He placed last in the city wrestling tournament at the end of the season. Not many people believed that a tiny kid born with one leg would succeed in such a demanding sport. He (and his mother) were the only ones who believed that he could.

In his junior and senior years at Mesa High School he had a record of 96-0, was a two-time state champion and a national high school champion. When he finished high school, there were no colleges interested in him as a wrestler, and not one school offered him a wrestling scholarship.

He begged the coach at Arizona State University to give him a tryout for his team. By the time his college career was complete, he was a three-time All-American and the 2011 college national champion in his weight class. His mother had helped him create a vision of his possibilities, and he believed her. He then went out and did the work to make that vision a reality.

How do we teach vision to our children?

We can start by teaching them that ordinary people can actually do extraordinary things. We can point out that they do not need to limit themselves, or let others limit them. We can emphasize that they are the ones who can decide how their life turns out. We can teach them that they are responsible for their own happiness, and to remember to consider the consequence before making a choice.


“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage and constancy, and the greatest of these is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”  -Walt Disney

As we think of our children’s lives and ability to succeed, we can realize that without confidence, they will not be able to reach their potential.

I recently watched a 2-year-old girl try to put together a puzzle. It was a difficult puzzle for someone her age and she grew increasingly frustrated. She said to her mom, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard!” and she threw the puzzle pieces down. Her mom wisely said to her, “That is a hard puzzle. I can see why you are frustrated. Would you like some help? Shall we see if we can figure it out together?” They worked together to complete the puzzle. Then her mom said, “Do you want to try and do it yourself?” “OK,” said the little one. She proceeded to put the puzzle together on her own. When she finished, she had a big smile and said, “I did it!” A dose of confidence was added to that young girl that day.

How can we teach confidence to our children?

Confidence comes from an accumulation of successful experiences. We can help our children understand that little successes can turn into big successes. In addition we can teach them that they can do hard things, to not be afraid to fail, to always bring their best, to focus on the things they can control in their lives, and to help them find and develop their strengths.


“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”  -Aristotle

Heart works along with vision and confidence to give our children balance in their lives.

Heart teaches our children to focus on others rather than themselves. I recently heard a story about a Dairy Queen employee who showed great kindness and compassion. While at work one day, he saw a blind man in line waiting to place an order. A $20 bill dropped out of his pocket onto the floor. The person behind him in line picked up the $20 and kept it, thinking he would not be seen. The employee took $20 out of his own wallet and placed it in the blind man’s hand. That young employee was most likely taught what was right by his parents.

How do we teach heart to our children?

It starts with us, doesn’t it? “It’s better to see a sermon than to hear a sermon.” They will learn by our example to look for the good in others, to count their blessings, not someone else’s, to be generous with their time and talents, and to notice other’s examples of kindness, gratitude and generosity.

What are the benefits of vision, confidence and heart for our children?

Our children will make better decisions, negative peer pressure will be less of an issue, they will have direction in their lives, they will define themselves rather than let others define them, they will be leaders rather than followers, they will develop compassion for others, they will reach their potential, and they will be happier.

We can make this three-piece puzzle work together. As we help our children have a vision of who they can become, develop confidence, and have a giving heart — they will do amazing things in their lives. Most importantly, it will make our job as parents much easier!

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