“Johnny’s not on the team anymore, mom, he quit,” your son tells you while you drive home from soccer practice.
“What?” you ask.
“Johnny quit!” your son says, upset, now looking out the window sullenly. Johnny and your boy were friends. And Johnny was one of new boys on the team; he liked soccer, but because he wasn’t established, he wasn’t getting the playing time he wanted and had grown discouraged.
“Why honey, do you know?” you press in a bit.
“He said he wasn’t getting enough playing time. He said soccer is stupid.”
Your boy is frustrated and unhappy and you share his frustration, but what can you do? If Johnny just had have hung in there, he may have broken through at some point because he had potential.
Persevere: Nobody is Great Right Away
The same can be said about a lot of different scenarios whether it’s sports, academics or some other interest. Everything takes practice, nobody is great right away. And it gets you to thinking: What can you do as a parent? How can you encourage your own child when he gets down and wants to give up on something?
Lessons on perseverance are about finishing something that you’ve started. Finishing something you’ve started is about setting doable steps in place and accomplishing them. Author Michele Borba, EdD., says that perseverance is the most important soft skill that kids can develop so they don’t simply give up in the face of setbacks. Borba is the author of several books, including the most recent Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine (GP Putnam; 2022).
Persevere: Teach These Steps
• Fight discouragement: Be sure to praise efforts, not just results. Almost all of what we do in life is the DOING, not the ACHIEVING, so all along the way as a kid it trying something, continue to cheer him on. For the best results, while you are encouraging your child with a particular endeavor, keep expectations at or above his skill level, says Borba.
• Teach your child that mistakes are actually teachers! Mistakes don’t need to be the big, bad awful. Let your kids know that as long as they are trying mistakes are teachers. Mistakes aren’t meant to stop you, they are meant to point you in the right way to go.
• Teach how to do challenging things in doable steps: Anything hard can appear daunting, almost impossible at first glance. But if you can break a larger task it into small, manageable steps, the overall may not look so bad and he’ll have something to work toward. Of course, kids need backing up to stay on top of important tests and school projects, so you have to talk about managing time, too. Combining available time with doable steps makes everything come together in a reasonable, less stressful way.
• Celebrate victories! From working on learning to recognize letters to writing your name out to reading a sentence, there are a lot of wins along the way that need recognition. Be sure that with anything your child is doing you take the time to celebrate the small but promising gains along the way.
• Acknowledge frustrations. Not everything comes easily, in fact someone once said, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” A little progress is better than none. Sometimes a goal will come easy to a kid — but it’s not the norm. Be sure to tell your kids that achievement is filled with ups and downs and that it’s OK and actually a part of the process.
• Step back and let them do it. Resist the urge to fix whatever your child is going through.
• Persevere yourself. Enough said!