05 Jan How to develop perseverance in children
Picture this: your kiddo, knee-deep in a challenge, doesn’t throw in the towel but keeps going. They’re not deterred by a few bumps along the road. Nope, they’re all in, eyes on the prize. That, dear parents, is the magic of perseverance. It’s that grit and relentless determination to reach their goal, no matter the mountains they may need to climb along the way. And the best part? Perseverance isn’t just for overcoming tough math problems or winning the school’s football match. It’s a life skill, one that will serve them well in everything from their studies to their friendships.
So, how do we help our children learn this awesome skill? In this piece, we’ll share some handy tips and strategies to nurture perseverance in both your younger kids and older ones. Get ready for a fantastic journey of empowering your kids to become unstoppable!
Why is developing perseverance so important?
Perseverance means we remain motivated and persist with our goals, even when times are challenging. It dramatically increases our chances of success in the long term because we keep trying, even when others are giving up. The act of persisting also results in our development as a person; through mental toughness, skill acquisition or physical development.
Perseverance is important because it allows us to stay focused and committed towards achieving our goals, even in the face of adversity.
If someone does not develop perseverance, they may find it difficult to stay focused on a task or goal and may give up easily when faced with the most basic of obstacles. This also can result in a lack motivation to keep going and lower self-esteem. With all this in mind, let’s take a look at how you can support your child in developing perseverance.
19 ways to develop perseverance in children
1. Set a range of goals
Having a goal to work towards can give children motivation and a sense of purpose. Help your child set both grand and realistic goals. Kids need to dream big and be ambitious; this is something they can quickly lose if not championed. But they should also have some smaller, more realistic goals to help them build confidence.
If it’s the first time your child has set goals, we don’t want them to become overwhelmed and discouraged if they don’t reach a goal right away. Ideally, goals are challenging but achievable so there’s still a sense of achievement when they’re accomplished.
Activity: create a vision board to remind them of their goals
2. Break down tasks into smaller achievable goals:
When children are faced with a big goal, it can be overwhelming and cause them to give up. Take some of the bigger, bolder goals from step one and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. This can also include creating a timeline for completing each step or sub-task, which is a good way to manage their expectations (see point 3!). You can tick off these milestones along the way so your child can recognise their hard work and stay motivated.
3. Manage their expectations (but only a bit!)
If your child is full of confidence and ready to take on the world, we don’t want to stand in their way. However, we also don’t want their world to come crashing down when they find out some of their goals might take some time to reach. This may result in them setting less ambitious or challenging goals in the future.
Explain to your children that learning new skills and concepts takes time and practice, let them know that being good at something does not happen overnight and will require dedication, hard work, and perseverance. If something was easy, everyone would be good it at. Most things that are worth achieving are very difficult.
4. Celebrate success and completing tasks
Would you persevere if there was nothing good at the end? Maybe not. Do you always recognise when you’ve achieved something great or do you only realise what an achievement it was years afterwards?
Celebrate each small victory along the way and recognize the effort that it took to get there. This will help your child to see that even small victories can be important.
Activity: Keep a journal to document those wins and track progress. This journal can act as a reminder of all the amazing things your child has worked to achieve over the years.
5. Actively seek out challenges
Finding challenges where the odds are stacked against you is a powerful tool to build perseverance. Knowing that a task will be tough and require maintained effort to complete prepares you for what’s to come. Actively choosing hard things to do will practise the skill of perseverance and remind a child that most things in life are a choice.
6. Persevere in the face of obstacles and setbacks
So this one sounds obvious but it’s easier said than done! Especially with young kids, when at first they don’t succeed, their first reaction can be to assume they can’t do something. They’ve not had enough experience of trying something again, trying a different approach or thinking harder about finding a solution. Encourage kids to try things again or consider what other options they have.
That said, this one is important:
7. Ask for help when needed
Facing challenges alone can be daunting. When we’ve tried and tried ourselves and we can’t seem to find a way through, we can feel disheartened and go back to what we know. But we can learn a lot from other people. The fastest way to get something done is to find someone that’s done that exact same thing before. The most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs all have business coaches and mentors, precisely for this reason.
Asking for help is not giving up, unless they really didn’t need help in the first place.
Activity: Write a list of all the people your child could ask for help from. This could also include all the things those people could help with or are knowledgable about.
8. Develop an attitude of resilience
Resilience is a closely related attribute to perseverance. In order to persevere with something, a child must be resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks. Resilience is essentially the mindset or attitude someone must have in order to persevere with something (continue taking action to get something done!). We’ve written a whole list of ways to develop resilience in kids too, which you should definitely check out.
9. Practice positive self-talk
Humans are often harsh on themselves. Sometimes we talk to ourselves far more harshly than we would talk to other people. Instead, it’s important to form a habit of positive self talk; telling ourselves that we are capable of doing something, that we are skillful and we are smart and talented.
10. Write positive affirmations
Take positive self-talk to the next level by having some affirmations written down. Having words of affirmation in view serves as a useful reminder that we can persevere in the face of challenges or when we don’t feel our confident, strong selves.
11. Maintain focus and stay motivated
In order to overcome a challenge, we can’t just spend time on it. It has to be quality time, when our focus and attention is on the task at hand. The attention span of the average human has reportedly shrunk during the digital age so we need to ensure our kids have chance to develop their focus over longer periods of time.
Puzzles are a great way to build this focus. Jigsaw puzzles are particularly good for keeping motivation up as every piece reveals more and more of the picture. As your child gets older and more familiar with puzzles, they can try harder and harder ones so it’s an activity for kids of all ages. Children with better perseverance will stick with a puzzle for longer, believing they can eventually figure it out. Perseverance is a skill; it needs to be practised!
12. Practice patience and delayed gratification
Ever heard of the marshmallow test? Check it out. Being able to delay gratification in pursuit of a greater reward is a powerful cornerstone of being able to persevere. If we don’t have the patience required for achievement, we won’t stick with a task for longer than the time we expected it to take.
Young children, especially, need to learn that “good things come to those who wait”.
Activity: A really easy idea is to encourage your child to set aside money for a future purchase.
Of course, some children can find being patient a real struggle. They feel frustration, anxiety and desperation when they’re not getting what they want immediately.
With this in mind, try practicing an age-appropriate form of mindfulness to help them stay calm and focussed. Suggest techniques such as deep breathing, counting to ten, and using their positive self-talk. You can make patience fun by playing games that require patience, such as charades or card games.
13. Participate in team sports or group activities
Sports teams have their wins and losses. It’s easy to play for the winning team. Over a long enough period of time, those teams will go through challenging times. Perhaps your child will find themselves challenged for a spot on the team. These moments are perfect to build perseverance in real life.
They could also try volunteering for a cause or organisation. Volunteering can be both challenging and rewarding. Causes and organisations exist because those behind them believe the status quo needs changing but this is often tough to do.
14. Encourage self-reflection and identify areas of growth and improvement
Recognising that we’re not the finished product can make self-improvement and perseverance part of our identity. Help children reflect on their own behaviour, progress and mistakes and identify the areas in which they could improve.
This should be a positive conversation, not one about picking faults and criticism. Ask questions and provide guidance to help them understand that self-development will help them overcome challenges more easily in the future.
Encourage children to write about their thoughts, feelings and actions. You can help by asking open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about that?” or “What could you do differently next time?”
5 more tips for nurturing perseverance
15. Talk about mistakes
Talk to your child about mistakes and how they can be used as learning opportunities. Explain that mistakes are part of the learning process and can be used to help us grow. Your children will look to you for guidance, so model what it looks like to openly talk about mistakes. Make sure you talk about your mistakes, how you overcame them, and how you learned from them. Let your children know that it’s OK to make mistakes and that you are there to talk about them without judgement.
16. Learn a musical instrument, new skill or hobby
Even the best musicians in the world continue to hone their craft every day. It’s a never ending process of learning. In the early days, learning a musical instrument can be hugely frustrating. The expectation of playing the piano or guitar is to create music that sounds pleasant; the reality is obviously very different. Overcoming that initial setback and putting the required hours to improve builds perseverance over the course of months and years.
17. Point out examples of people who overcame adversity
Share examples of perseverance in the world around you with your kids. Show them examples of people who have faced challenges and stuck with them until they achieved success. You could use examples such as Wilma Rudolph, who overcame the odds to become an Olympic champion and world record holder in track and field. She was born into a poor family and had to deal with the effects of polio as a child. Or that of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl, who despite a Taliban attack that almost killed her, stood up for the rights of girls and women to receive an education.
18. Model perseverance
Children learn best by watching and imitating the adults in their life. Modelling perseverance for your child is the best way to show them how to stick with something, even when it gets tough. Parents and caregivers can model perseverance by showing the children that they are committed to tasks and are not easily discouraged. They can demonstrate that they are willing to put in the hard work and effort necessary to overcome difficulties. For example, if a parent or caregiver is trying to learn a new language, they can show the children that they are consistently studying and practising, and that they are not giving up when it is difficult.
19. Give encouragement
Last but not least, ensure you’re there to support your child. Provide them with words of encouragement and remind them that they can do anything they set their mind to. It is important to praise a child’s effort, regardless of the outcome, and acknowledge that their hard work and perseverance is valued and will lead to success.
Avoid comparing your child to other children, this can lead to discouragement, a lack of motivation and undue focus on the wrong things (we are each running our own race, after all!). Instead, provide emotional support to let them know that you are there for them and that you believe in them.
Be patient and understanding and offer positive feedback when your child accomplishes something that requires perseverance.
This is the perfect starting point to help your child develop the skill of perseverance towards life, play, work and relationships. If you have any more tips and ideas, we’d love to hear from you.