Have you ever struggled to motivate your kid? Do you feel like you’ve tried everything, but they still procrastinate and give up everything they start? Persistence is a key quality to teach someone, especially children. It can put you on the right path towards success in life. But the trick is knowing how to encourage persistence positively.
There’s nothing worse than using bad strategies and hurting your child when you’re trying to help them. So, how do you avoid using bad techniques? And how can you become a better teacher for your child?
Why Is Persistence So Important?
Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth United States President, once famously stated that nothing in this world could take the place of perseverance. From his point of view, persistence and determination are omnipotent. Persistence is key to success. No matter how smart, talented, or wise you are, if you give up, you will get nowhere. If your kid is brilliant, they will be able to excel for a little while, but without work, they will fall behind. No kid, no matter how great, will understand how to solve integrals without learning. Same with talent. If your kid is an exceptionally gifted chess player, they will perform well for a few years. But not learning at the same pace as their opponents will be their drawback.
Persistence is the best weapon to achieve self-improvement. If you want your kid to compete well with their peers and with themself, teach them to persevere. On the path towards success, you have to be better each day than you were a day before. And that’s the mentality you want to induce in your children.
Being positive is the critical component, though. It makes the difference between helping your kid or potentially scarring them. If you’re negative, punish them, or are harsh in your teachings, that could set them back. They could risk associating the idea of persistence with punishment. This could make kids avoid trying new things to prevent penalties if they fail. Instead, be supportive and positive. Have patience and be calm. Remember, you are there to help them along the way. You aren’t there to force them to be something they’re not. It’s all about guidance, not punishment.
3 Positive Ways To Encourage Persistence In Children
1. Involve Them In Your Goal-Setting Process
The best way to teach something a new attitude is by using the power of example. If you want them to behave a certain way, show them how.
Words are just that for kids—simple words without weight or much meaning. Sure, you can tell them, “Be more determined!”. But what will they understand from that? Not much. It will go in through one year and out through the other. Even if they would want to understand, these words are too foreign for them. Persistence, perseverance, what even are those? Parents, you are the ones who understand those words, and you are the ones who can show them the way. Everyone needs models in life, but for kids, it’s imperative.
According to Virginia Shiller, Ph.D., adults have a much greater sense of what it takes to accomplish goals. They have been through life and have felt on their skin the weight of needing to achieve goals. Adults also know how to set reachable goals and break them down into manageable steps. And this process is something they can show their kids first-hand.
Take them along with you on certain errands you might have to run. If your goal is to make a particular meal, take them along with you through the whole process, from grocery shopping to prepping the meal, setting the table, and cleaning up after. Explain every step, why you did the things the way you did, and how you did it. Or take them on a more leisurely day to see what you do at work. How projects work and how you manage them.
Making them part of the process will make them feel involved and respected. They will have a real incentive to pay attention and learn. You don’t have to be mean or scare them to get their attention. The importance they will feel will do the job just fine. Not only are you teaching them persistence, but you do it proactively and positively.
2. Give Them Responsibilities
Parents often tend to take over everything their kid seems like they can’t achieve on alone. Whenever a task gives your kid some trouble, you immediately jump to help them. And that’s understandable but very unhelpful for a variety of reasons. Even worse is the lack of trust parents can sometimes have in their kids’ abilities. The tendency to give them as little freedom and responsibilities as possible can be damaging.
To ensure your kid learns to be persistent, show them you trust them and give them responsibilities.
For younger kids, the responsibilities will be smaller. You don’t need to let them go to the shop on their own or pay the bills. But small stuff, unique jobs like feeding the pet can go a long way in developing a perseverant spirit. Just be careful how you frame the task. It shouldn’t be framed as a chore. Kids hate chores. It’s a special grown-up task meant only for them.
For older kids, things will be a little different. Their responsibilities can grow in importance as they grow older. Teenagers can start being involved in more complex tasks. They can be responsible for cooking dinner once a week. They can be responsible for walking their younger siblings to school. Again, be careful how you frame these responsibilities. It should never be “You are my kid; therefore, you have to work around the house because I say so.” Instead, try, “You are growing up, and I will entrust you with responsibilities, so you can learn and have more freedom.” Show them you trust their judgment, and you need their support.
Always let the kids know how much you appreciate their help. Let them take pride in what they did.
How does this help with perseverance? By teaching your kid how to be responsible, they will learn how to effectively juggle a routine. Make them feel how important their work is. When you efficiently create a link between working and being appreciated, they will want to work more. Help them associate work with positive feelings. That way, they will want to complete all tasks they take on to receive that gratification, thus making them more perseverant.
One of the best ways to grow determined and responsible kids is by nurturing a hobby. A hobby implies a big responsibility. Most importantly, it’s something of their own. It is something special for them that they do for themselves.
When nurturing a hobby, always start small and let them choose what they want to do. This approach is supported by Edward Coyle, Ph.D. Expose them to different sports, arts and crafts, whatever it might be, and see what they like. Please don’t force them into something you want them to do. If they don’t like maths, accept that. Maybe they like drawing. Please support them in that area.
Let them enjoy their hobby at their own pace. Don’t push them, and don’t do things for them. Let them be in charge of how fast they learn. By letting them do what they want, they will have personal goals to strive towards. Dreams will make them persevere. They will be determined to do well because they do it for themselves. And they are also responsible. They have to put in the work, and they have to practice and get better. Give them the guidance and the freedom they need, and they will become determined people.
3. Offer Emotional Support
What most people don’t understand about perseverance is that failure is part of the journey. No one is born determined. People have to learn to deal with setbacks if they want to be persistent in life.
You have to show your kids that it’s ok to struggle with certain things in life. Don’t teach them that the outcome is the only thing that matters, but rather putting in the work counts more. And most importantly, be there for them when they hit the inevitable obstacles that life throws at them.
If they quit something, listen to their reasons. Be the shoulder they cry on. Let them grieve and when the time is right, point them towards something new. Make them understand that doing things you hate is not worth the pain. Instead, to persevere is to try as many items as you need until you find the one you want to stick to. And when you find that special something, then it’s the time to persist and become as good as you can.
And when they find the thing they want to stick to, let them take pride in it. Perhaps your child hated dancing, so they quit. But then they fell in love with creative writing, so let them enjoy it. Let them show you what they wrote and be proud of their achievements. Reward them when they reach a particular goal.
This is a healthy way to teach how to manage all the stress of dealing with setbacks. And when they learn to deal with them, they will embrace a determined mindset in life.
Everyone wants their kids to become the best version of themselves. To be focused and determined. To succeed in life. But sometimes, parents aren’t the most delicate about how they teach their kids to persevere.
If you genuinely want to help your kid, embrace a supportive mindset rather than relying on punishments and scare tactics. Don’t force your kid to act a certain way, but rather, guide them. Be a role model and show them in real life how goal setting and achieving an objective works. Show them you trust them. Give them responsibilities and the freedom to choose for themselves. Encourage them to find their passion and nurture a hobby they care about.
And, most importantly, be there for them when they fall. Teach them how to deal with setbacks and that failure is typical and can be managed. Take these positive measures, and your kid will grow to be a persistent adult!