The Power of Pause in Persistence

img_4034No, Mommeeeeeeeeee! I NOT!!” Ever heard that before? It feels like Jordan Lilly’s mantra. Only now at 13 it sounds like, “Are you kidding me? I am NOT doing that! You can’t make me!!”

For some reason the Blair Jones clan resists lessons we can’t learn quickly and then the bad kind of stubborn kicks in. In our effort to avoid frustration, the dreaded, ongoing power struggle begins. Honestly, I’m no better than the kids. I don’t like feeling frustrated either. Who does? I will put off and avoid frustrating tasks like nobody’s business. But the struggle is what allows us to grow.  No pain, no gain.

So what do we do when frustrations get the best of us? One solution is to look to ZPD and MKO, the super heroes of persistence, for help!

Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist, who lived at the turn of the 20th century. He introduced the ideas of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) as part of his Social Development Learning Theory.

ZPD is the area in which we all learn best. To paraphrase Goldilocks, “Not too easy, not too hard, just right.” If we take on tasks and learning we have already mastered, we may become disinterested. If we take on tasks and learning that are too challenging, we may quit out of frustration. But if we find where we are independently successful, then push the learning to the next small step of learning that we can do with support that is the Zone of Proximal Development.

For those of us in Dublin schools, Linda Fenner taught us that following the apprenticeship model allows us to learn from the More Knowledgeable Other, our support system. Once the learner becomes more independent the MKO steps back and lets the apprentice “do” the skill/learning independently; often educators refer to this as scaffolding. Just like in construction, support is used when needed and then it is removed when it no longer is purposeful.

So how does that work in practice? Let’s learn from Jojo. Jordan did not like water! We had a baby pool. Jordan wanted NOTHING to do with it. I mean NOTHING! So we started small. I put her on a beach towel with a pan of water. Tears. I gave her a water bottle for play.  All of a sudden she wanted to put the cup in the pan. Cha-ching, success baby! Small success.  She still did not want in the pool and she was not avoiding the water completely.



Everyone has a personal timeline. Pushing the timeline only increases the struggle. Trust me! I have learned the hard way. Rushing children before they are ready and able creates negative, long-term consequences. It not only has the potential to create self-esteem issues, it also erodes personal ownership and self-motivation with learning; more on that in another blog.

When it was time for swim lessons, we did not experience initial success. The very kind teacher carried Jordan on her back. Jojo was hanging on to the instructor’s neck for dear life as the teacher floated other happy boys and girls around the pool with Jordan Lilly screaming bloody murder the entire time. “Don’t let her out of this!” a lifeguard advised. “She will get use to the pool once she realizes she can’t have her way.” That made perfect sense “on paper” and yet, my mommy intuition told me she wasn’t ready. It also wasn’t fair to the other children in her class, who wanted to learn how to swim. We put swim lessons on pause.

We did the back and forth swimming lesson dance for a very long time. Struggle forward with support, struggle less with support, experience success with support, remove the support, celebrate the victory of next step success like crazy, pause by taking a break and repeat.


The key is finding the Zone of Proximal Development. Where can we struggle enough to grow but still experience some success with support from the right MKO? Success breeds success.

This applies to us as adults too.  Writing for me has required the Swimming Lesson Dance.  Take a risk, ask for input, make some changes, grow, pause and repeat.  Word to the wise, take time to enjoy practicing your newly developed success before you push forward into the next progressional dance step.  There is truly power in the pause.




















What’s Your Motivation?

I admire people who take on physical challenges like marathons, biking dozens of miles, competing in triathlons, etc.  I have a friend, Sharon, who is preparing for an Ultra, where she will run 100 miles!  ONE HUNDRED MILES, people!! – – – She said it would take her around 24 hours of running!!!

You might catch me running if you were on fire and needed my help; otherwise I would just assume keep my natural slow poke pace. Run? NO WAY! Persist? – – – Nice word for stubborn – – – Yes, please. Just like you practice to run a marathon to get your body prepared for the grueling undertaking, you can also help your child train her brain to persist.  How?

  1. You model persistence, with or without pancake goo.
  2. It helps if you find something that you or your child find insanely motivating.

Speaking of insane motivation, meet Sassy.  Sassy single handedly and without our consent, decided to insert herself into our home. Who knew the Jones’ Family Circus needed a resident rodent?

Sassy The Squirrel

In her free time, Sassy enjoys snooping to check out what we are doing; she also appears to get a kick out of terrorizing the cat. With two teenagers in the house, there simply is not enough loud and ongoing chaos. Bugaboo flipping out over Sassy peeking in the window is the perfect icing to top our very own, special version of crazy cake.

Fred, the neighbor across the street, tried to tell me Sassy was in the attic. Wouldn’t I hear her if she were in the attic?

Tom, the neighbor next door, walked me out to the street view to show me where Sassy was disappearing into the eaves of the roof. Wouldn’t I hear Sassy if she were in the attic?

Talk about NOT being open minded and flexible with my thinking when presented with new information! That’s a fail for another blog post. Today let’s stick with motivation for persistence.

When my mother, recuperating from a fall, was staying in my bedroom on the first floor, I relocated to the toy room above the garage. Laying (or is it lying?) in my make shift bed, it was then that I first HEARD Sassy. The undeniable sound of claws scrambling across a hard surface caused me to envision Sassy falling through the ceiling onto me in the middle of the night with both of us screaming cartoon style; imagining a Wyle E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner sort of race around the toy room, I realized there would be no way to get the poor girl out. And then Bugaboo would have her revenge for all the months of glass protected taunting.

Knowing pest control businesses were closed for the evening, I did the only reasonable I could, I grabbed a broom, just in case, and I prayed. With great luck there was no “Fast and Furry-ous” in-house appearance.

Calling the Ohio Wildlife Center the next morning, they connected me with SCRAM, who would facilitate a humane relocation for our dear friend, Sassy. Creating a cage with a one-way door, Sassy in the soffit could leave safely never to return inside the house. Even better, Sassy could relocate to the wild before having her next litter of pups. How fortuitous! Wild animals belong in the wild.

Cage in place, we waited two weeks for the door to be removed and the opening sealed.

img_2135.jpgAs in many situations with the Jones’ Family Circus, life did not go as planned. When Corey, the Superman from SCRAM, returned he was shocked.  Sassy had wanted back into the soffit so badly that she chewed the wood around the cage and had pulled the ends of the chicken wire out of the opening. Extremely pregnant and not wanting to have her babies in the nest out back, she was determined. There’s no telling how many hours she worked at getting back in.

Side Note – For those of you worried about wildlife dropping in unexpectedly in the middle of the night, Sassy never reached the attic. She stopped inside the soffit, where she and her babies were warm and protected.

My point in telling you about Sassy is this: if you want to teach a reluctant child/student to persist it will help your cause exponentially if you find something about which they are crazy, wild excited. Intense interest and purpose go a long way in motivating people to do things they don’twannado.

Aubrey is crazy wild motivated by people, attention and field hockey. Jordan loves animals, gymnastics and theater. The more I attach life lessons to their areas of passion, the more likely we are to experience success.

What are your child’s areas of interest and enthusiasm? Nerf toys? Legos? Video games? (UGH) Crafts? Sports? Dance?  Music?  That is where we need to start in the teaching of persistence lessons.



Audacious, bold, brassy, brazen, cheeky, disrespectful, flippant, impudent, immodest, mouthy, overbold, rude, saucy, smart-alecky, wise

Ever since Aubrey and Jordan Lilly were little I have called them The Sassy Girls. Sassy can be cute when your little. It is often perceived as confidence. Sassy can also manifest as bratty, not so cute.img_3457

Someone once told me that my girls would grow up to become incredible 32 year-old women AND they would not be easy to parent. TRUTH! “She will be great 32 year old women!” is a mantra upon which I hang my hat daily. I need hats because I’m pulling my hair out over here. Parenting is not for sissies.  It’s a process, a   v e r y        l o n g   p r o c e s s, especially when addressing spirited behaviors.

When my incredible daughters are 32, no one will walk on or over them, no one will be getting the way of their dreams, no one will treat them poorly with their consent and they will take a stand when it matters. That’s the way they are wired, SASSY! And I am proud, extremely proud.

Please, try explaining that they are going to be incredible 32 year olds to the play group mom, who is flabbergasted because Aubrey is bossing everyone around and insisting on her own way again. How do I help others understand why Jordan is telling friends that their idea is stupid? The idea in actuality won’t work and when I address her word choice, the response is typically something to the effect of why should I beat around the bush? It IS stupid, it won’t work.

“How else could you say that in order not to hurt others’ feelings, honey?”

“Why would that hurt their feelings? I’m not calling them stupid!”   And the back and forth continues. Consistent intervention and redirection look easy on paper. With strong willed children it is anything but easy.

I have been a single mom in charge of the Jones Family Circus for the past nine years. I set out to do my very best to help my beautiful daughters channel their powers for good without crushing their BIG spirits and by BIG I mean GINORMOUS. Honestly, parenting sassy kids is exhausting, especially when you are doing it solo. I’m tired.


As an elementary educator for the past 30 years and a Gifted Intervention Specialist working with intermediate (4th & 5th Grade) students who are gifted for the past 19, my students have taught me a great deal.

When asked at parties what I do for a living, I often hear, “Oh, you get the good students, the ones who want to be at school and work hard”. That is actually a stereotypical misnomer. Sometimes I do work with students who love school and do well; often, I work with little people who need help navigating quirks to reach their full potential. After all giftedness is defined as the potential to work at exceedingly high levels compared to age level peers. Avoiding underachievement and facilitating all of my students reaching their potential is the name of my professional game.

Here’s my truth, I believe life is about balance. Your strengths and your growth areas balance each other out. The greater your strengths, the greater your weaknesses. That can be difficult to manage in a little body that is suppose to sit still, be polite and do what she has been told.

Part of what I do is to help students to reflect and become more self -aware.   Identify strengths.   Identify quirks that get in the way of using strengths. Create plans for growing past quirks to facilitate use of strengths in reaching potential.

When is sassy a strength? When it is used to persevere and persist when work becomes difficult. When is sassy a weakness? When it manifests itself as stubbornness, refusing to be open and flexible when presented with additional information that would warrant a change in thinking and behavior. What is a plan for moving beyond stubborn? I think it begins by helping identify when the characteristic is helpful and when it is hurtful. Being able to pinpoint specific situations where it is less than helpful and finding patterns can be a first step.img_3466

Aubrey, I’ve noticed in groups you are very convincing (in my head, manipulative) about getting your way. Good leaders allow everyone to take a turn having a say, that way everyone gets a little of what they want. You taking over completely (in my head, railroading) is hurtful for others, who want to have a say.

Jordan, you may know that idea is not going to work. The way that you are choosing to communicate is hurtful. You could be wrong and even if you aren’t, there’s a lot to be learned from things that don’t go the way we intend. Making mistakes, reflecting, adjusting and trying again is how we learn.

Side Note – These conversations are not always handled as calmly as I am making them sound.  In complete honesty, sometimes I am yelling my ever lovin’ head off.  We all have growth areas.  Keeping calm is my goal.  When I fall short, I apologize and we discuss.

Ongoing conversations about using our powers for good help our children navigate their big picture path. Staying within the boundary lines of not being a total pushover as well as not pushing over others can be a tricky.  Instead of pushing others over, let us work to inspire our children to support themselves and others with their strength of personality and spirit. Balance in all things is our goal, even in the midst of all of the sassy.

Pancake Persistence

I am a terrible cook.


If you don’t believe me, ask my children.

Ask my guests. I cook; then we order pizza.

Ask the fire department. Steak is not meant to be flambéed. Who knew that water in the grease trap of the grill could be so explosively fiery?

I have friends that look forward to each meal, planning what they’ll cook and serve. I can’t even begin to imagine being like that. I calculate how many times we can feasibly eat fast food without feeling guilty or having children complain.


The fact that I decided to make pancakes on a Saturday morning was a miracle of mass proportions, add angelic voices singing here. Pancakes are the worst; if you don’t turn them at precisely the right time you end up with a lumpy pile of goo.

Insert wrath of a woman scorned imitation here as a result of the ridicule and disparagement over my cooking abilities from my offspring ;(

Recently, one of my children has been struggling with frustrations over not “getting” things immediately. If she has to work in order to master a concept or a skill, she won’t. She has the potential to be a master avoider   Always wanting to model success skills for my children and motivated by an Instagram post, I decided to tackle my own pancake problem head on.

First try, the pancake batter stuck to the cookie cutter. Outcome? Glops of goo!

Pancakes 1

Second try, made an adjustment and sprayed the cutter with nonstick spray. Outcome? The batter came out of the cookie cutter! I tried to turn the pancake too soon, so more glops of goo.Pancakes 5

Third try, used the spray and waited until the pancake was thoroughly bubbly. Outcome? Success!Pancakes 6Pancakes 10

I do not like cooking because I’m not good at it. I’m not good at it because I do not spend enough time and effort trying to learn and get better.

Do you have children in your home or classroom that perceive they are not good at something because it does not come easily? As a result, not only do they not want to do it, they will whine, cry, kick or scream to get away from the frustration of not being able to be successful quickly and to get out of having to work at it? How can you choose to be transparent and show your little (and not so little) people how you choose to handle the uncomfortableness of failure followed by persistence and reward? How do you keep going when you are stuck? What do you do when you run into problems? How do you learn from mistakes and adjust to improve? Success is a choice; how we model it to our children helps develop and determine how they approach life’s struggles.

I am a terrible cook.


I’m a terrible cook, except for pancakes. I’m good at pancakes.

Bunny Pancake 1


Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton