Knaidel. This is the word that won 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Knaidel is a German-derived Yiddish word for a small dumpling, like a matzoh ball. And now you know what a knaidel is. But for Arvind, a knaidel is more than a dumpling. It represents his triumph over German.
This is Arvind's third crack at the national bee's top title. The last two years he finished third. Both times he was foiled by German words: Last year it was jugendstil, the year before it was schwannoma. (A German artistic style and a kind of tumor that covers the nerves, respectively.) "I had begun to be a little wary of German words," Arvind admits. But instead of letting German intimidate him, he doubled-down on studying those pesky German words -- and it paid off.
Not every kid has to be a spelling champion. Obviously they can't all be. But that's exactly the kind of resilience and determination we want our kids to have, isn't it? Every kid will hit challenges that seem too big for them. They'll experience loss. But then what? Are they able to shake off that loss and try again, but smarter this time?
That's what I want for my son. I watch him sometimes and notice how frustrated he gets when he tries something new and difficult. I keep telling him, it's okay to fail as long as you learn something. And then you just keep trying. He enjoys activities he knows he can succeed at. It's my job to nudge him outside his comfort zone.
So I hope all kids can take inspiration from Arvind's win. You don't have to be a champion. But if you keep trying, you just might surprise yourself.
How do your kids deal with setbacks and challenges?
Image via BoomFiyahX/YouTube