Photo Credit: A Kids Co.

Title: A Kids Book About Perseverance
By: Yonina Schnall Lermer
Publisher: A Kids Co.



A tzaddik falls seven times and gets up, while the wicked are tripped up by one misfortune (Mishlei 24:16).

How do you explain tough concepts to a child? Is it possible for a child to have a broader perspective?

This book got me thinking about how to inculcate middos into children. Many of us ponder this topic, because we all want to raise children who listen to us, who learn from our values, and who behave in our homes and out in public. I would like to think that we do not want to unduly pressure our children, make them feel they cannot be themselves or think independently, destroy their curiosity, or stifle their creativity and spirit.

We also want to take care of their needs without spoiling them. We want them to be able to fit in socially without them being emotionally crushed if they don’t. We want them to stand up for themselves but not be chutzpadik. It’s a tall order.

One family is a small sample size and not statistically significant. But for what it’s worth, my experience is that a lot of what happens is based on personality. Chinuch that works great with one personality backfires with a different one. Some personalities need barely any encouragement to thrive, while other personalities seem frequently on the verge of disaster even with hours (or months, or years) of dedication and effort. Some of my children flourish if they are given only one or two responsibilities a year and take decades to slowly build their stamina; I have other children who are so conscientious that we actually encourage them to be less responsible sometimes and to on occasion practice standing firm against authority so that they can call upon that skill if necessary.

And let’s not forget that magical alchemy of personality mixtures: the parent and the child. Sometimes the best thing you can do is the Hippocratic Oath of parenting: just try not to make things worse. Sometimes the parent’s own struggles (especially when your kid has the same poor middos as you) can make the parent overly harsh, or incorrectly worried that it will be a problem for the child just because it’s been a problem in your own life. Your child might actually outgrow it and be fine, but you are overly intense because of suffering you experienced in your past. (Is that an overly specific hypothetical?)

Fortunately, we have a wide choice of tools and resources to help us guide our children. I’m a little wary of middos books because I don’t always find them psychologically attuned. I’m glad to say that I like this book very much. It is one of those books that even adults will be thinking about. The ideas are explained with such simplicity and clarity. It stayed with me for days and I believe it is so well done that it effortlessly helps the reader make a major paradigm shift, no matter what your age.

This book is geared for ages 5 and up. The first page declares, “better together” and explains “This book is best read together, grownup and kid.” I like that setup a lot, as it gives the adult access to what the child is seeing and learning, and it gives the two of them opportunities to learn together and to have dialogue about the concepts.

The layout and font are appealing. I appreciate how it visually separates harder things onto the left side of the page, and then a simple explanation or a few engaging words with pictures on the other side. For variety, some pages are a large, dramatic word and picture that takes up both sides of the page.

The cover already starts illustrating the concept, even before you begin to read. It has a picture of a brick wall with the word PERSEVERANCE beginning to crack through the wall. A brick wall is a classic symbol for something impenetrable that we cannot break through. I cannot help but be reminded of Rabbi Akiva, one of our perseverance role models. He did not begin to study Torah until age 40. The midrash (Avos D’Rabbi Nasan 6:2) seems to imply that he found the beginning stages frustrating and difficult, because he was standing at the mouth of a well and he asked, “Who hollowed out this stone?” and they said to him, “Akiva, didn’t you read that water wears away stone? The water drips on it every day.” Immediately R’ Akiva resolved a kal v’chomer for himself: “If water, which is soft, can penetrate this hard rock, then certainly Torah can penetrate my heart.” Right away he went back to learning Torah.

Small drops may feel like they are not having any effect. But daily small drops can wear through stone.

This book teaches about perseverance. Although not explicit, it seems consistent with Carol Dwek’s research on the fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. By adding just one word, we can change our mindset. (I won’t spoil it by telling you what the word is – read the book!) It also teaches the words “stamina” and “pivot,” giving a relatable example for each word.

It gives language for handling frustration. I was moved by the discussion about the contradictory state of not wanting to be uncomfortable, while it is the experience of this discomfort that leads to growth. The concepts are pretty profound while being so very understandable. Once you’ve read the book, you’ll find it very easy to bring it up when your child (or niece or nephew or student) is getting frustrated.

And it is so easy to relate to that when you get frustrated or feel like giving up in your own life, you might find yourself reaching for the ideas in this book and saying them to yourself.

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Jessie Fischbein is a Tanach teacher, popular lecturer, and author of the book Infertility in the Bible. She homeschools her children in Far Rockaway, NY.