How to Teach Your Child Perseverance – Karen Whiting

Perseverance is the drive or continued effort to reach a goal or overcome obstacles despite difficulties. It’s also considered the ability to persist and not give up. Some people call it grit. A baby tends to have natural persistence in learning to crawl or walk despite bumping into objects or falling down. Encouraging persistence helps a child try again and not give up on a failed attempt. 

A person with persistence will achieve more and view failure as an opportunity to learn. Many leaders and successful people discovered that persistence was a key to success and overcoming setbacks. Developing persistence in a child helps them grow, learn strategies to move forward when challenged, and cope better when they struggle. Parents can inspire and encourage persistence.

Develop a Persistent Mindset

Helping children set and reach goals develop persistence. The drive to reach a goal often starts with a desire and encouragement from others. A baby tries to stand and take a step. The parent smiles, encourages, and hugs the child when they take one step. That enables the little one to persist. Babies watch and see that people can move better if they walk. That adds fuel to the desire to walk.            

Remind a child how much they have achieved already in life with walking, talking, and other skills. Then encourage them to set a new goal. It might be riding a bicycle, conquering a new math skill, or hitting a ball with a bat. Then discuss what is needed to achieve the goal, including practicing and trying again if they fail. Applaud them for each step, such as balancing on the bicycle for a moment, setting up the problem correctly, or almost hitting the ball. 

After a failed attempt, remind your child that practice will make a difference. Discuss why they want to reach that goal. Do they want to ride bicycles with a friend? Do they want to pass the math test? Do they want to play baseball? Those give them reasons to persist. The whys become essential motivators. 

Use Persistent Language

As a parent, you’re also a cheerleader. Avoid phrases like “I was never good in math.” You’ll never succeed if you don’t keep your eye on the ball,” as those phrases can discourage a child. If they hear you can’t do something, they may fear trying. If they hear sweeping negative statements, they may believe they are not capable of success. Instead, use affirmative language like, “I believe you can do it.” You are brave and can try again.”  Or “You are tenacious and will succeed.” 

Encourage breaks and time to relax before trying again. When doing a challenging jigsaw puzzle, rejoice at finding another piece that fits, but also take a break to let your mind rest and later see things with refreshed eyes. Remind children of what they have accomplished. They learned to count, add, or do other steps in math, and they can learn more. They learned various physical skills and will learn new ones.

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Discuss strategies. Figure out together what’s needed to succeed. With a jigsaw puzzle, examine the shape of a piece and discuss what shape and colors will be a match to fit together. For riding a bicycle, talk about balance and work on balancing on one foot or walking a straight line to improve the needed skill. Then consider the emotional needs that help a child persist.

Cope with a Child’s Stress and Emotions

Fear and negative emotions or low self-esteem can be a mental block to moving forward and succeeding. Talk about the stress a child feels and how to lessen it or use it to grow. Eustress is the stress that motivates us. Thirst motivates us to get a drink, and that’s good. If we felt afraid to get a drink, we could become dehydrated and get sick. Stress can inspire us to action. Observe what helps your child overcome anxiety and what becomes a major roadblock. 

Sometimes we need to discuss emotions like fear and how we can respond. If the child fears falling off the bicycle, consider using pads to protect arms or knees to cushion the falls. That can build confidence and relieve the fear of getting hurt.  If your child is getting frustrated, switch to an activity they can do well. Once they are enjoying a different activity, chat about how they learned the skills needed to do that activity. Help your child list challenges they have overcome and past successes. Post the list. Then list stress relievers that help them calm down. Talking about why they want to succeed might motivate them to try again. 

Share Stories to Build Persistence

If your child is young, read stories like The Little Engine that Could and use the phrase, “I think I can” when teaching a new skill. For older children, turn on a lightbulb and talk about Thomas Edison, who experimented to create a workable lightbulb. 

Edison never gave up. When an employee complained about working hard with no results, Edison replied, “Why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.” He regarded failure as a learning experience. 

Share your own past failures, what you learned, and how you eventually succeeded. This can be a cooking failure, getting lost, or failing an exam. The incident does not matter, but the spirit of trying again and finally succeeding helps children view failure as simply a step along the road to success. Share stories of family members and friends who persisted and reached their goals. Children remember stories, and one might be the catalyst needed. That’s true of Bible stories too. When the apostle Paul suffered beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment, he endured. He never gave up his faith. His witness and persistence helped spread Christianity to the known world.

Adding Humor to Promote Perseverance

Laughter releases endorphins that help us feel good, making it easier to tackle a challenge and persist. David Cheng and Lu Wang of the University of New South Wales conducted a Study Examining the Energizing Effects of Humor that found people spent twice as long on a tedious task after watching a humorous video clip than people who watched a clip that was positive or neutral. 

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Watch a cartoon like The Roadrunner. Laugh at the antics of Wile E. Coyote that fail. Then discuss the critter’s persistence and lasting hope of catching the Roadrunner. Discuss that Wile E. doesn’t try to improve his speed or other skills that he might need, but he doesn’t give up. Share a funny time you failed so you can help your child laugh about failure. Laughter helps us take life with less anxiety and accept that failure is part of life. Mistakes that involved a struggle take on a new perspective in the current day.   

Many times, a difficulty becomes a rallying cry. A phrase reminds people of the struggle, and repeating it becomes a cheer of hope. These are usually shared experiences with family or friends. Watch when your child overcomes a challenge or a family member recovers from a blooper and turn it into a cheer for the future.

Using Bible Characters to Inspire Courage and Perseverance

Bible characters who persevered inspire us to trust God and persist. In the Old Testament, Joseph continued to trust God after his brothers sold him as a slave, through imprisonment, and more. When his brothers reunited with him and feared revenge, he said what they meant for evil God used for good. Read his story in Genesis chapters 30-50. 

Stephen, one of the deacons in Acts 6-8, contentedly served tables. God blessed him, and he performed great miracles. This triggered jealousy. Men argued with Stephen and dragged him before the council. Stephen used that as an opportunity to share the gospel [Acts 7]. Stephen ended his talk by labeling the men stiff-necked and resisting the Holy Spirit. That caused the men to stone Stephen. Even amid stones hurled at him, Stephen proclaimed he saw heaven open and Jesus. No threats or stones kept him from following God’s call. 

One nameless woman in Matthew 15:21-28, known only as a Canaanite woman, persisted in pursuing Jesus to heal her daughter. He denied her request a few times, but her persistence revealed her faith, and Jesus praised her and healed her daughter. Faith and trust in God motivated these men and women in the Bible to persist. They never let go of hope. 

Enjoying Activities that Promote Persistence

Play games and provide activities for children to persevere. Jigsaw puzzles and strategy games help them think and figure out answers. Obstacle courses remind them that an obstacle course is a challenge to find a way around the roadblock. Carrying a spoon with a ball in it or little beads to see if they can make it to a finish line without a spill helps them learn to try again and again. Climbing a rock wall can instill a sense of accomplishment and nurture their courage. Cornhole and other games of skill provide fun and opportunities to encourage a child to keep working toward success. Learning to swim, improving a grade in a subject, and scoring a point in a game are all times to notice and praise your child. Working hard and making an effort are also times to praise a child for their efforts. 

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Celebrating success adds to the reward of accomplishing the goal. Photos of the moments of success remind children they have met challenges with continued effort. Be ready to snap a picture or take a video when a child rides a bicycle, climbs a rock wall to the top, or brings home a higher grade. Celebrate with a game or movie night. 

Being the Parent Your Child Needs to Persevere

Believe in your child. When a child is affirmed and accepted, they are more inspired to persist. Nancy Edison refused to believe the teachers who sent Thomas Edison home after a few weeks of school and declared him unteachable. Nancy believed her son could learn and homeschooled him. She and her husband encouraged his curiosity and desire to experiment. Thomas said that his mother was the making of him. Her faith gave him hope and faith in himself.

Remind your child to be brave and trust God no matter what other people say. Cheer them on when they show courage and persist. Pray for them to God, who has plans for your child. Believe in God’s plans. Consider who inspired you and believed in you as a child. Think of the impact they made on your life. Be one of the people who will inspire your child. Be persistent in letting your child know God has plans for them, and you believe they will succeed. Nurture their curiosity, interests, and talents. Your child will live with hope that will motivate them to persist. 

Parents are still the most significant influence in a child’s life. Be sure to be a good role model and develop perseverance in your child. It will be worth your effort.

Karen Whiting is a mother of five adult children and the author of more than thirty books including Growing a Mother’s Heart that encourages moms in parenting, Devos for Brave Boys, for inspiring courage and persistence in young men, and her new book The Super-Sized Book of Bible Craft Gifts, which will incorporate kindness and encouragement into the 100+ paper crafts.


Karen Whiting is a mom, author, international speaker, writing coach, and former television host who loves sharing ideas to strengthen families. She has written Growing a Mother’s Heart: Devotions of Faith, Hope, and Love from Mothers Past, Present, and Future. Check out her new book 52 Weekly Devotions for Family Prayer that includes a different way to pray each week plus stories and activities to explore questions children ask about prayer She loves adventure including camel riding, scuba diving, treetop courses, and white water rafting plus time at home crafting and baking.

Source: Crosswalk.com

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