It’d be amazing if it wasn’t so common, but I have a real habit of using something right to justify my wrongs. Almost all of us are familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare, a fable with a great deal of wisdom in it. As a brief recap, the hare and the tortoise decide to race, and the hare, arrogant in his speed, jumps out to a big lead before taking a nap, the tortoise keeps a steady, albeit slow, pace and manages to take the win. This is the origin of the saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Obviously, there is a lot of wisdom here, but like most things, there’s also a lot of room for us to misuse parts of the story and ruin the impact.
What do I mean? Let me try an example. I’m overweight and out of shape. This isn’t new. I don’t want to be either of those things. Also not a new development. How do I go about fixing it? Well, let’s look back to our fable. Do I eat nothing but protein bars? Start going for a 5 mile run every morning? Not for very long, I won’t. That’s the hare, I might do it once(Okay, not the 5 mile run. Maybe a 5 yard run.), but it won’t be long before I give up on the idea, order a burger, fries, and shake, sit on the couch watching sports, and probably find myself in worse shape than I was when I began. “Like they say, slow and steady wins the race.”
Let’s be real, though. That’s not even a temptation for me. What I am much more likely to do, based on the historical proof, is try to eat a little bit better for a while, still not exercise, and tell myself that I need to give myself time to adjust. Slow and steady wins the race, after all. The problem is, of course, that while I’m being very steady and consistent, it’s such a small change that I can’t even tell I’m doing it. There’s no progress, because I’m not even being slow, I’m standing still.
This is a long run on the analogy, but I think it makes the point. Let’s apply this same lesson on “slow and steady” to our work with the children in our lives. The steady approach becomes more important the longer the race, after all, and their race should be going a while longer than ours. This is why we need to focus less on making massive changes in their behavior, and instead take the steady approach by helping them build good habits. You know, slow and steady.