Developing Your Child’s Perseverance Muscle Not giving up and persevering towards our visions and goals is critical for success

Developing Your Child’s Perseverance Muscle

Perseverance is the critical piece in any success story. Usually, no one achieves incredible things on the first try. All great innovators, and achievers struggled for many years to reach their goals. Despite many setbacks, struggles and rejections they kept on the path of their dreams and visions.

It is not easy to stick with things and not give up when there seems no light at the end of the tunnel. And yet they kept plodding on refining, retuning, reinventing, restructuring their visions, till one day they hit jackpot.  Often most of us see the success but not the sweat and struggle.

Thomas Edison famously said:

 Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Even after failing over 9,000 times, he kept persevering to perfect the light bulb. He did not see his prior disastrous attempts as failures, but rather as lessons – how to improve his prototype. He kept refining and upgrading the light bulb, till the magic of electric lighting came into existence.

perseverance success not giving up persisting persevering parent child achievement
Honing in your child the attitude of perseverance begins early

It is not easy to stick to our visions and dreams, particularly when they are derided by those closest to us. Nonetheless, in order to achieve them, we have to persist and keep working through failures without giving up.

Perseverance is the one key personality trait that divides the successful from the unsuccessful.

Resilience – Perseverance Connection

Resilience is our ability to easily recover from adversity or changed circumstances.  It is a warrior mindset that means we’re able to find ways/solutions to tackle difficult situations. However, just thinking upbeat is no use without focused action. To get out of the deep well, we have to persevere – like the second frog keep churning the milk till we are able to reach the top and get out.

Perseverance is the unwavering effort of keeping on going until you reach your goal/desire/outcome.

It is a key element in Angela Duckworth’s grit concept – perseverance and passion for long-term goals are the critical elements for success.  With it, you can go further than most people, and, without it, you will never get anywhere.

Sometimes perseverance can mean that small voice with us that keeps prodding us to keep going on, even though we want to give up. There were so many times during my darkest times when I thought of suicide but decided to give life one more try.  Those of us who have struggled with depression know the struggle of not taking the easy way out.

The Perseverance Muscle Develops

Babies are born remarkably persistent. Ever watched a baby taking their first steps, even after falling, again and again, they will get up and try and keep on trying till they master that skill.

Unfortunately, most caregivers try to dampen down the baby’s uninhibited enthusiasm to try new things. They instill fear, shame, doubt and so much negativity that eventually we become afraid of failing or being laughed at. We stop trying beyond a certain level so as not to be seen as a fool or idiot.

Studies have shown that the primary caregivers have a huge influence on the degree of the child’s persistence. Children learn tenacity by watching tenacity. Babies who had just watched an adult struggle with a different kind of task tried harder to overcome their own little challenge, compared with babies who didn’t witness such a struggle.
There is wisdom in not showing things are easy when your child is small. Your blood, sweat, and tears do impact how your child perceives and responds to challenges.

How To Raise Persevering Kids

The early years are a perfect time to encode into a child the perseverance habit. Restrain your reactivity, reactions, and criticism toward your child’s ingenious efforts. Have patience, don’t unnecessarily intervene. Let them learn through trial and error. Most importantly, encourage them to keep trying to find their own solutions. Remember, you will not always be around to rescue later on.

1) Model Perseverance

Parents are the first role models our children encounter. During their early years, they will instinctively imitate your behavior/s.  How do you behave when faced with a challenge? Do you persevere or give up?
No amount of lectures will instill persistence as well as just watching the significant adults in their life stick to difficult tasks and succeed.

2) Giving Them Space To Pursue Their Own Interests

Every child is different and has their interests, likes, and dislikes. Based on their temperamental inclinations they will pursue something to the exclusion of other things.
Don’t try to push baby Einstein flashcards before time to make them super geniuses. Kids need free play to discover their passions, likes, and interests.  Watch, wait, and give them space to find what they are interested in and nurture that.

3) Failure is a Learning Curve

When your child fails in a test or anything else, don’t berate or blame them. Acknowledge their setback and ask them to review what went wrong.
Failing is a learning curve. They have learned something that does not work.  Use that result to reappraise their strategies to change the outcome.

4) Don’t Over-protect – Give Them Small Challenges

Often in this age of having just one or two kids, we become like landowners constantly trying to remove any obstacles. Growing up in this kind of environment kids never learn how to deal with problems and at the first instance of uncertainty they give up.

Help them discover their own answers.  Let your kids try, fail, redo, and repeat in order to learn. You only know what you are capable of when you do something. Through small successes with intermittent failures, we can instill self-efficacy  – the intrinsic belief that one can overcome and manage a challenging situation.

Having this encoded in our kids’ mindset enables a child to tackle challenges and find solutions. They will believe that setbacks are temporary and can be overcome by persevering and keeping their goals in mind.

5) Caution Without Being Critical

As parents, we must know when must know how to reign in our child’s unbridled enthusiasm. We have to know how to keep them in check without unduly criticizing them. Instead of saying, that was a stupid thing to do,’ say, ‘you could have gotten hurt, doing that.’

Teach your child to be aware of the dangers without curbing his instinctive desire to explore. Constantly, criticizing a child’s behavior only instills self-doubt and erodes their confidence.

6) Don’t Over-praise

Parents have been incorrectly misled into believing that over-praising raises our kids’ self-esteem which in turn leads to adult success. In his book, The Examined Life, psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz states:

Ultimately, the thrill created by being told ‘You’re so clever’ gives way to an increase in anxiety and a drop in self-esteem, motivation, and performance.

When your child completes a task, acknowledge his effort, but don’t say he is the greatest, smartest, or most amazing.

Motivate your child to keep trying rather than feel afraid of falling short of your given labels that they feel frozen to pick themselves when they don’t meet your set standards. Most importantly, don’t make your love dependent on their performance.

7) Teach Them Self-Control

Self-control is critical for success in life. This has been aptly depicted in psychologist Walter Mischel’s ‘marshmallow experiment.’  Children who were able to delay immediate gratification and were able to wait for their reward did better in life.

Don’t give whatever your children ask for, let them wait, or better still let them earn it. However, be cautious not to pay them for chores that they are supposed to do. Maybe, they could earn some points helping out with painting the yard or washing the car. Working and waiting for something helps them to understand that rewards come with effort.

The neural basis of both self-control and perseverance is located in the prefrontal cortex. Strengthen one aspect the other automatically gets hardwired into the brain. Furthermore, kids who are intrinsically motivated have a greater chance of reaching goals and succeeding.

8) Building Emotional Regulation

Teaching our kids how to manage difficult emotions is important when they are faced with tough situations. They need to know it is normal to have feelings of anger, rage, jealousy, or envy. That they are our guideposts showing us what we need and want.

Discuss how they feel when they lost a game or did not get that extra cookie. Help them identify the emotions and where they are feeling them. Give them a hug when needed but also teach them how they can self-regulate – maybe taking a shower, doing some painting or hitting the ball or quietly swinging, or listening to music.

Being able to move past difficult feelings and not get stuck is vital for being able to push forward toward one’s goals.

Never Give Up

Often, it is the parental reaction to their setbacks/mistakes that lead a child to associate failing with them being a failure. Encourage their solo efforts and guide them when they fall short, Never denounce them as incompetent, stupid, or whatever adjective parents/teachers/ thoughtlessly hurl at any mistake a child makes.

It is important to instill the spirit of not giving up. Sometimes, what seemed like the sure path to success does not seem plausible. Sometimes one may need to modify our goals and change course. And that’s okay. To deal with an unpredictable world, one always has to have a plan B, C, D, etc. lined up.

Teach your kids that it does not matter if something does not work out, move on to finding what works.  And not stay stuck in fear or hopelessness. Learn the lessons and keep persevering. Like the tortoise, if we keep moving onward, we will reach someplace better and we’d have become much wiser – and maybe richer.

Image Source: Pixabay

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