This trait is incredibly important and something that can be taught to children, from a young age. One that is, in our opinion vital, when it comes to having oneself create success. In today’s entitled world, many believe that deserve better for nothing, however, those that truly acquire success are not always the ones with a high IQ. Psychologists have mapped out that the soft skill of perseverance is the number one skill a child should learn as it sets apart hose who easily give up versus those who are highly motivated.
Now while there are many studies on just about anything these days, there are a few that contend the fact that children who learn this soft skill from an early age tend to have a stronger forecast of success than those children with high IQ. This is because children who display this trait strongly do not give up in the face of set backs. They stay motivated to work hard and finish what they started, because they believe that their efforts will pay off, regardless of the barriers in their path.
We have consolidated a few ways to help you as parents build that skill of perseverance in your child.
Combat the circumstances that discourage children.
There are four factors that inhibit a child from developing perseverance.
Fatigue. Ensure that your child’s concentration abilities are shielded by sticking to regular sleep routines. Make sure to turn off any electronic devices at least an hour before it’s their bedtime and keep any screens outside of their room. Regular and routine rest contributes to a child’s concentration abilities.
Anxiety. Children display anxiety in a variety of ways. Especially when parents talk to their children in a manner where the pressure to succeed is in the foreground. This may overwhelm your child’s feelings causing anxiety. Ensure that you convey the message that you love your child no matter what and that your unconditional love is not bound to their success.
Identity on instant realization. In today’s world, children and adults are conditioned for everything to be instant – from deliveries to results at the gym. We want everything here and now and we deserve it that way. Wrong. Instill a growth mindset into your child, so that they understand that success is not a fixed thing. In this case it is important to convey that the effort is much more important than their results.
Learning aspirations that do not correspond to abilities. As a parent you should have a good feel, in most instances and environments, where your child’s skill level is. Set expectations with them right above this skill level. If your child is taking tennis lessons, and they are in their age group, however are ahead of the curb, have them move a class up. They might be the “worst”, however, it challenges both their growth mindset and their abilities to self improve through determination and perseverance. Expectations that are too high might generate anxiety, while expectations that are too low can cause boredom.
In other words, as a parent, lay the foundation with the above by remembering the acronym FAIL.
Mistakes are chances for progress.
Remind your children that making errors can be beneficial, even if the outcome is not what they intended. Accept their mistakes and tell them, “It’s acceptable to make mistakes. What is important is that you tried.”
Accept responsibility for your own mistakes and convey to them that you too do the same.This will help them understand that everyone makes errors and that success comes from not letting setbacks define you. This contributes to their thought pattern for future scenarios.
Toast to small wins.
When a child repeatedly fails at something, they will feel anxiety in wanting to accomplish the given task at hand and this will lead to a reduction in perseverance mentality. The way to combat this is to celebrate those small wins. This will encourage your child to keep at it and help them with seeing those small wins as progress towards the end goal.
And this can be in or with anything. Say your child is learning to spell and they spelled six words correctly whereas yesterday it was four. Tell them that they spell six words correctly. “How awesome is that. You are making gains and that is because you are working hard at it.”
Part of perseverance and a growth mindset is to be able to teach your kids that they can chunk and divide a big task into smaller ones. Small tasks that will help them be more confident about completing what they want to achieve progressively.
If they feel frustrated with a math worksheet, then ask them to grab a sheet of paper and cover the entire page expect the first row. Show them that now they only see a small amount. A small task. As they finish each row, slide the paper down to reveal the next section. Done repeatedly, children will grasp how to chunk tasks into smaller things to do without feeling overwhelmed.
If you have an older school child who has a lot of homework in which they feel they wont be able to manage. Have them write each down on a sticky note and categorize them from hardest to easiest and then have them do one assignment at a time, throwing the sticky note away upon completion.
Extend their attention span
This one goes hand in hand with managing tasks on a smaller scale. Teach your child that not everything can be done in one go. Just the way you as an adult need a break, whatever your job may be, they too need to learn to gradually increase their attention span in completing the task. If they have an assignment they want to give up on, utilize a timer (such as a stop watch or something similar), set it next to them utilizing a decent amount of time for their skill level and explain that once the clock goes off for them to take a quick break and reset the time, however while the timer is on, they need to keep at it. Doing so gradually over time will also gradually increase their attention span, little by little.
Stimulate and encourage them to see how many problems they can get done today versus tomorrow in the given time span. And as mentioned, over time, the focusing will become easier as well.
Rectify small barriers
When a child gives up, its often because they do not see a way out of their situation confronting them. Acknowledge their frustration and make sure to tell them that their feelings are normal. Do a breathing exercise or have them take a short break. Then after those few seconds, return back to the task and see if you can help them identify the small barrier or hurdle in their way.
It could be that they keep skipping a number or a letter in the alphabet while writing, or they get the addition and multiplication symbol mixed up. After identifying, help them focus on that barrier slowly until they no longer make that mistake and then ensure to tell them how proud you are that they did not give up, which leads us to our next point:
Always praise their attempts/endeavors
This is an important one, as children from a psychological standpoint develop certain patterns and behaviors depending on when they are praised. Carol Dweck researched that when you praise a child for their intelligence by saying something like “You are extremely smart”, they are less likely to persevere.
However if you praise them for their effort by saying something like “You worked so hard on that”, then they are motivated and inspired to continue working harder. This is a key difference in children who are entitled versus children who stick with it.
Stretching perseverance in a child is about praising their efforts, not the result such as grades or scores. That is something that can be celebrated, however the goal is for them to be inspired to succeed without extrinsic motivators. Superficial reinforces such as stickers and gold stars can reduce a child’s perseverance ability – however we have not yet come across a study that shows this to be fully true, yet.
Negative talk is programmed into us from early on. Things like “I can’t do it” or “I am not smart enough” roll off the tongue fairly easy, however this obstructs and impedes your child to develop a strong perseverance ability. Teach your child short, positive statements that they can repeat themselves. You might think that your child will never do so, however once “drilled” into them, you will be amazed when your child tells you that they said that statement in a situation and that they kept going.
Help them by repetitively doing this exercise and repeating the statement out loud several times for a period of time. Have them write it down, if they know how to write – things like “I can achieve it.” or “Things are not perfect, but I’m getting better as I try harder.”
Let them do it
Lastly, one of our rules is to not do something for our children (depending on the situation and environment) that they can do on their own. Every time you as a parent step in to fix an error or fault or do something for them, then they become increasingly dependent on you. Utilize each opportunity in such situations for them to fend for themselves and develop perseverance.
Once you see your child do it on their own, praise them for their effort, take a step back and let them enjoy their moment and feeling of accomplishment.