Blackberry Picking: How to Build Resiliency, Grit, Joy and Happy Memories on a Summer Day
Warning: May include some whining but usually building grit does!
Who would have thought picking blackberries could build resilience, grit, joy and deep gratitude for our earth? Forty-five years ago, my mother plonked my brothers and me down by the railroad tracks in Port Coquitlam, BC and said, “Fill your bucket, then come find me.” The first few berries hit the bottom with a sense of hopefulness that the task would soon be over. An hour later I had laid on my back, listened to the birds, fed my face until I could eat no more and the bucket was only half full. I would find my Mum and she would say, “It’s not full yet; come find me when it is.” Deflated and complaining, I would head out again to another section of the field. Hours later my brothers and I gathered together and met at the car, earning an ice-cream at the local drive-thru as our reward. We had to stick to it. There was no choice. The berries were a part of our winter food supply and would be made into jam and pies.
Last night, I went out picking berries with my young nephews. My brother and I hadn’t been out picking together in 40 years. We reminisced about how valuable the simple act of picking was. We learnt about contribution, grit, and the simple joy of experiencing a summer day. These were now happy memories encoded in our brains.
My nephews, on the other hand, were bored in minutes. ” Keep picking”, I said. “Fill your sandwich bag.” The boys did well and with each berry filling their bag asked questions about their long-passed grandparents. Certainly, it would have been easier to fill the bags ourselves and it would have stopped the whining. But in doing so, I would have taken away a gift I have only come to realize was so precious and valuable: the gift of berry picking.
Is it sometimes easier as a parent to just do the job yourself? Of course it is. Who wants to hear, whining, excuses, and resistance?
This has been said before but it is so important that I say it again.
If you can hold in your mind, that in the long run you are doing a SERVICE, to your children by having regular chores, you may find the whole exercise much easier. Research indicates that children who have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, are better able to deal with frustration, and can delay gratification. They are building GRIT. Wow! That is a full line up of great outcomes.
James Baraz and I had a recent webinar sharing our book Awakening Joy for Kids with parenting expert, Dr. Christine Carter. She shared much of the research of why paying for chores does NOT support children over the long run. (Research indicates that external rewards can actually lower intrinsic motivation and performance over time. Money can lower a child’s motivation, turning an altrusitic act into a business transaction.) You can read the research and decide for yourself and as a family how you choose to work this one out.