Accomplishment makes a difference

Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2001

A young reporter once asked Thomas Edison how it felt to fail so many times when he was perfecting the light bulb. Edison's response was, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process."

Sense of accomplishment can be defined as: "Children achieving on personal, social and academic levels and being recognized for doing their best, whatever it is." (from "Believing in Achieving," by Quaglia, Fox and Hyatt, 1998)

Take just a minute to grab a pencil and paper. What I'd like you to do is write at the top of this piece of paper "Accomplishments." On this piece of paper list your accomplishments. After you have done this turn the paper over and list three things you have accomplished today.

Most of us have a difficult time listing all our accomplishments. How often do we celebrate our accomplishments? How many of the accomplishments you listed would fit into the categories of academics, job or sports? How often do our children celebrate their accomplishments outside of the academic or activities realm?

We, as parents, need to challenge ourselves to recognize different forms of accomplishments. Think outside of the "traditional box" and consider other forms of accomplishments. Maybe it could be completing the household chores without being reminded, or maybe a kind deed one of your children did for you, a sibling or friends. An accomplishment may take the form of extra effort or persevering at finishing a difficult task, be it a chore, school work or even a physical activity such as learning to ride a bike.

Look for and recognize accomplishments that may seem mundane but may be important for your child. It will open your eyes to all the great things you and your child do each day.

The sense of accomplishment is a condition that can make a tremendous difference in the development of children's aspirations. That is why it should be recognized and applauded in all its forms. Children's accomplishments should recognize not only academic ability, but also effort, perseverance and citizenship as significant signs of success, according to "Believing in Achieving."

As I did in the articles on belonging and heroes, I am including some questions from the "Parent's Inventory for Affecting Children's Aspirations" from the National Center for Student Aspirations.

This is not a test. It is just a checklist to help all parents in one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in the universe: raising children. As a parent, evaluate how you strengthen the condition of sense of accomplishment in your home. Make a mental mark for each of the items so they are in the following categories.

This pertains to my family all the time.

This pertains to my family most of the time.

This does not pertain to my family, but it should.

1. I encourage my children to always try their best.

2. I show appreciation for the efforts my children make.

3. I take every opportunity to express to my children the importance of education.

4. My children know it takes hard work to achieve goals.

5. I recognize various forms of achievement with my children (effort, perseverance and citizenship).

6. My children know I value their efforts.

7. I support my children's involvement in the community.

8. My family volunteers in our community.

9. My children persevere when things are difficult.

10. I have high expectations for my children.

What follows is an action plan to help you improve your skills in developing that sense of accomplishment. Writing down your answers can be a great help.

1. What can I do to let my children know I value their efforts?

2. How can my family become involved in a volunteer program?

3. How can I model perseverance for my children?

4. What opportunities do my children have to become good citizens?

5. How will I help my children persevere in school and at activities which challenge them?

6. What are the initial next steps I am planning on taking in this area?

7. How will I know that I have been successful in establishing the conditions for a sense of accomplishment?

What are some activities that we can do with our children to reinforce sense of accomplishment?

Share stories about famous people who persevered until they finally accomplished a goal. One book that come to mind is "Olympic Runner: Wilma Rudolph" by Kathleen Krull. Another is Christopher Reeve's battle to overcome paralysis and still another is the story of Thomas Edison and his many inventions.

Another activity that leads to a sense of accomplishment is volunteering in your community. Many agencies welcome volunteer help. The pride and satisfaction gained by volunteering in our communities reinforces the sense of accomplishment in all of us. Reward and recognize effort.

Finally, create challenges: Not only challenges for your children but challenges for yourself. With your children set several long-term goals that require effort and perseverance to complete. Then chart and discuss your progress toward your goal.

Maybe the child could learn to ride a bike or learn a foreign language while the parents learn a musical instrument or a new computer program. The idea is that you are modeling perseverance and effort along with your child. This activity can be fun as well as educational for parent and child.

This is the last of the foundations for aspirations. The next level in the pyramid is the motivation and enthusiasm level. This level contains the conditions fun and excitement, spirit of adventure and curiosity and creativity.

Have a fun week with your child and give them an extra hug: soon they will be gone and on their own.

For more information on aspirations, take time to visit the National Center for Student Aspirations Web site at

Hank Overturf, the assistant principal at Kenai Central High School, has 26 years of experience in education. He has been with the Kenai Peninsula School District for 10 years.

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