February 20, 2017

Teaching Your Child Perseverance

A week ago at my son’s hockey practice (he’s five), I witnessed an older boy (around 10) come off the ice and meet his dad who promptly directed him to sit on the bleachers so they could take his equipment off and go home (pretty standard practice). After the long two-hour practice, the dad’s first (rather stern) words to his son off the ice were, “you need to pay better attention!! Everyone else is focusing on the drills and you don’t even know what’s going on!” The boy huffed, “I’ll NEVER get this. I’ll NEVER learn it.” The dad totally redeemed himself with an encouraging rally-like response, “you’ll get it! Everyone starts out learning the fundamentals! You have to keep practicing. You can learn this! You got this!

The dad was now in a better standing on my mom-radar, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the kid’s response: “I’ll NEVER learn it.” His attitude didn’t seem to get much better from there, even after his dad tried to encourage him.

A family playing at the skating rink in winter.

A family playing at the skating rink in winter.

So I asked the experts at Kiddie Academy, “If your child feels frustrated when faced with difficult tasks, how do you help them overcome it?” What can you do as a parent if they can’t do something their first time, or it doesn’t come easily, and they want to quit? Their answer: character education and lessons in perseverance.

What is perseverance?

Those people who are determined to “stick it out” when they’re faced with a challenge will continue trying even in the face of adversity. People who persevere are focused and determined. They’re often trustworthy because they follow through with what they say they will do. They set goals and work toward achieving them – an approach most parents want to raise their children to be able to do.

Any parent who has watched their toddler try (and sometimes fail early on) at learning to walk, can relate to their child’s frustration in not being able to accomplish something you both know they’re capable of! Here are a few ways to help your preschooler adopt a can-do attitude next time they face a big obstacle…

Learn to ride a two-wheel bicycle

Every child learns to ride a bicycle at some point and feels the challenge is somewhat out of reach (which they eventually overcome). But learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels is its own incredible reward! With such a natural prize for overcoming personal fear, learning to ride a bicycle can be a great family activity and exercise in perseverance. Then, taking off the training wheels forever is just icing on the cake.

Let your child choose their own goal

You might have some ideas in mind about what you’d like your little ones to achieve in this life. Maybe you want them to be an all-star hockey player, like you were. Or you want them to be a world-class chef. But in the end, you have to grow the tree you’ve got. Listen to what your children’s interests are and help them make plans to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

Provide the verbal support and encouragement along the way

Just like the hockey dad mentioned above, most parents want to help and encourage their children to overcome difficulties. Make supporting observations like, “I’m really impressed by your determination” or, “wow, when you want something, you really stick to it and put your heart into it.”

So, my last question: “what could this dad have done when his kid said he would ‘never’ figure it out?” Here are a few tips from Kiddie Academy’s Department of Education…

  1. Help your children envision the benefits of their hard work. For example, “what do you think it will feel like after you learn the basics of hockey and you get to play a game?”
  2. Take opportunities to share your own anecdotes and empathize with what your child is going through. If you have a childhood story of something you overcame, share it. It might help you and your child connect over those common challenges.
  3. Don’t bribe your children into achieving their goals. Offering them prizes or rewards in exchange for getting honor roll, for example, doesn’t teach them how to follow-through with passion and enthusiasm later on. When a challenge or obstacle is overcome, that should be its own reward.

Your teamwork as a family in learning perseverance will all be worth it when you start seeing your child focus on a difficult task and resolve to finish what he started, without your encouragement at all.

Keep at it,

Kiddie Academy Mom

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