Many of us worry from time to time that our kids aren't developing perseverance. Circle of Moms member Marci T., for one, is concerned that her eight-year-old daughter doesn't stay with a task or challenge that she's not good at. "Does anyone have trouble with...kids who are quitters?" she wonders.
Xiomara G. is one of several members who say this issue tends to emerge during the grade-school years. For her son, the completion of nightly homework a struggle, so she's hesitant to sign him up for activities like sports or piano lessons. "I am wondering if it is the age, as I have an 8-year-old who has the tendency to quit. He is very talented in sports, piano, reading, and Legos. His problem is that when it's time to move to the next level, he just wants to give up and stay where he is comfortable and successful."
How do parents teach kids to have perseverance? Is it ever right to give in and let your kid quit? Here are tips from Circle of Moms members on encouraging kids to keep trying even when they're not good at something.
1. Pick the Right Activities
Part of the battle is selecting the right activities for your child from the get-go. "I have four kids and my youngest, nine, sometimes wants to quit," says Elizabeth S. "His problem seems to be his ten-year-old brother, whom he idolizes, but who is pretty much good at everything he puts his hand to. My suggestion is to let a child pick what he wants to try, and then encourage, encourage, encourage! In our case, both boys played baseball, but the skill level gap started growing last year. My youngest decided to quit baseball (after getting hit by the pitches one too many times, I think!), but chose to try golf instead. This is something that is just 'his,' none of his siblings do it, and even though he's not great at it yet, it's his special thing so he keeps at it."
2. Set Realistic Expectations
You can't expect your child to be a pianist when she would rather be racing around the backyard or the soccer field kicking a ball. Likewise, an intellectual child may not excel at football and will cry out to quit, Circle of Moms members say. "I had a son like this who turned into a different child when he didn't understand something or couldn't do something right away," says Dawn N. She realized that her son was involved in the wrong activities, and with "a lot of encouragement," convinced him to try something new. "He began to learn that he would face challenges and that he could get through them."
3. Enlist the Coach or Teacher's Help
Sometimes your child just needs some nudging, and a coach or teacher can provide a more effective push than you can. Angelica H.'s 5-year-old begged to play t-ball, but quit after just 5 minutes at the first practice, saying that he was "no good." Constance, a member who's dealt with a similar situation, suggests leaving a kid who's doing this in the coach's hands: "Sometimes...not having mom and dad around does the trick. His coach will be able to establish a relationship and lead him into working harder. If you are there then more than likely he will walk away again"
4. Make It Clear That Perfection Isn't the Point
As Angelica's son's story illustrates, one of the most common reasons kids want to quit is because they think they aren't good enough. At this age, "they are starting to really experience the world outside of just themselves and have this fear of failure or judgment," says Diane. When her 8-year-old daughter is afraid of failing at something, she helps by reminding her of "things she likes to do and does well." She also reminds her that "If you don't fail at something, how do you learn or get better?" and offers "lots of support and encouragement to do the task, not to do it perfect[ly]..." The bottom line, she says, is that "this is a stage that needs encouragement and support."
Tina L. agrees. "My 9-year-old son is a quitter," she says. "All I can say is to encourage him. I also point out to him that the more he tries, the better he gets at it.
5. Instead of Allowing Quitting, Make Adjustments
If your child is simply in a slump, try to find out how you can help him make it through. If his schedule is over-booked, take it back a notch."I think it is fairly typical behavior," says Tracy L. "If a child asks to do something, be it a sport, musical instrument, etc, and then want to give up after a couple of weeks, DONT give in! Make sure when they start that it's clear if they do it then they must finish out the term (at least) before they quit. Children need to be taught to push through things they don't like and to try to improve. This will make for a successful adult in future."
6. Model Perseverance
Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, many moms say it's important to set a good example with your own actions, so that your child sees that you're not a quitter. As Jakki T. explains, "My nearly 7-year-old son is absolutely a quitter and I really despair. He gets enraged if his LEGO creation doesn't work, and literally throws it across the room. I think it could be his nature and there mightn't be so much I can do. But, actually, when I think about it, I'm probably a quitter too! I guess the best we can do is to keep on talking them through it, and when they do keep trying at something, to notice it and congratulate them. And not quit ourselves."
How do you teach your child not to give up?
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