By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
We all want to see our children realize the great potential we see hidden in them. How often have we seen our kids desire to achieve a goal but lack the will to do the work required to accomplish it? When our kids are young, their relentless persistence can be a challenge for us parents. As they grow, it’s a trait that will serve them well. Persistence is absolutely necessary to be able to accomplish what we want in life.
How many more times have we had the same struggles as adults? I know that for years I desired to change my diet and lose weight but lacked the perseverance required to reach my health goals! I could make similar confessions for many areas of my life - I desire to see progress but struggle to remain persistent enough to achieve it. The reality is that persevering is hard. It’s hard for our kids to push through to achieve their goals, just the same as it can be challenging for us to change our behavior. It’s not impossible, though! We all can do hard things when we set our minds to it.
Here are some great ways to help teach your child perseverance:
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1. Reward Persistence
It’s our job to highlight the things our kids do that we admire and desire for them most. It is important to take a moment to praise those instances where our kids keep at something until they master it. It can be hard for us to watch our kids keep trying, only to experience multiple failures as parents. Really though, these are the moments our kids need our glowing praises, not an easy way out.
When our kids are struggling, focus on ways to praise them for their efforts. Show them how admirable it is that they didn’t give up even though the task was hard. You want them to walk away feeling proud even if they didn’t see the results they were hoping for.
2. Help Your Child Set Proper Goals
Sometimes we struggle to persevere because we are working at a near-impossible goal. Our kids may need some guidance and direction when it comes to their goals and dreams. This can even apply to your persistent toddler. If they repeatedly ask for access to something you can’t give them, a good solution is to offer them a more accessible alternative.
Older kids may be tempted to give up on learning something new because it’s complex, or they aren’t the best at it. Breaking the task up into smaller, more easily mastered pieces can help. Your child doesn’t have to be the fastest swimmer on the team in order to learn to be a good swimmer. Help them see that improvement is worth celebrating, especially when always winning is not achievable.
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3. Let Them Grieve
When your child faces big emotions after experiencing disappointment, loss, or failure, allow them the space to process these feelings. Being upset is not a reason to give up. When our kids feel like they have the space to process those emotions and then try again, they are less likely to give up. Emotions are important to recognize, but it’s good for them to learn that they don’t have to be the boss of your decision-making.
4. Model Perseverance
This may be the hardest for us parents! We live in a quick-fix culture. Embracing tough goals and pursuing solutions to hard-to-fix problems is not something we are accustomed to doing. Our kids need to be witnesses to our efforts when life gets challenging. Persevering in our faith, marriages, relationships, or in reaching our goals even in the face of harder life seasons is such an important life lesson for us to teach our kids.
For sure, they will face hard seasons, and your model will be something that gives them strength in these challenging moments.
5. Teach Your Child to Take a Break
We can’t make progress when we are exhausted! We need to teach our kids how to step away from something to rest and then come back to it. When they begin to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or emotional, these are good clues that it’s time to take a break to recharge before returning to the task.
6. Offer Emotional Support
When our kids come to us wanting to quit something they love, our instant response can be to shoot them down. These moments are an opportunity for us to lean in and offer emotional support. The chances are they want to quit because they are feeling discouraged or upset in some way. We can help our kids process their emotions by asking probing questions to understand why they want to set away from something they once loved.
For younger kids, “playing” that activity can help them process their emotions around that activity. If your child wants to quit dance class, try playing dance at home and observe your child’s behavior. See if this playtime gives you an insight into why they don’t want to go to class anymore.
Once you’ve taken the time to investigate the real “why” behind their insistence of quitting, then you can together decide if their decision is going to serve them well, or maybe after talking it out, they will be ready to return to their activity joyfully.
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7. Let Them Choose
Interest leads to effort. When our kids are interested in mastering something, they are so much more motivated to complete the task! Just think of those first rolls, laughs, or steps. Your baby spent all day and night working on these skills until they were joyfully running around the house.
The same is true for our older kids. We can’t always only let them do what they want, but getting them interested in the task makes a huge difference if we really want them to show up for something fully. Ask them what goals, sports, activities, or academic achievements appeal most to them, and then help them plan how to pursue learning and growing in these areas.
If you want them to persevere in a task that may feel less exciting, find a way to capture their interest in this activity. Maybe they can listen to their favorite song while cleaning their room. If you want them to read a certain amount of books, allow them to choose some of the titles for their reading list. If you want them to grow in their writing skills, let them pick a topic to research and write about. Kids excel when we give them agency in their learning.
Perseverance is an essential character trait for us to help develop in our children. Life is full of challenges; the only way to find joy in uncertainty, love others well, and find success comes through a learned ability to remain faithful in all circumstances. While we as parents want to be safe arms to run to when our kids fail, we also want to be their cheerleaders when they face hard things and need that extra boost to keep going.
Galatians 6:9 captures the heart of this idea so well. It says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Our kids have to learn how not to let weariness stop us from pursuing good work. They need to learn when to rest and return to a task with fresh, recharged eyes. And while they are under our roof, it’s our job to help them develop these skills. The benefits of being a persistent person will follow them for their lifetime.
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