Through her research as a child psychologist, Michele Borba, EdD has found that perseverance is the No. 1 soft skill that sets kids who are highly motivated apart from those who give up easily. In fact, studies have supported that it is a stronger predictor of success than IQ.
Kids who have perseverance don’t give up in the face of setbacks. They believe their efforts will pay off, so they stay motivated to work hard and finish what they start, despite any barriers that arise.
Here are nine ways parents can help kids build perseverance:
1. Fight the factors that discourage kids.
The first step is to fight the four factors that derail perseverance. I like to use the acronym “FAIL” as a helpful reminder:
- Fatigue: Safeguard your child’s concentration abilities by sticking to regular sleep routines. Turn devices off one hour before bedtime and keep screens outside of the bedroom at night.
- Anxiety: The pressure to succeed can cause overwhelming feelings. Express to your child that your love is not contingent on their success.
- Identity solely based on fast achievements: Instill a growth mindset so your child understands that success is not fixed. Praise them for their efforts, not their results.
- Learning expectations that don’t match abilities: Set expectations just slightly above your child’s skill level. Expectations that are too high can cause anxiety, while ones that are too low can lead to boredom.
Remind your kids that mistakes can be a positive thing, even if a situation doesn’t turn out they way they expected. Accept their errors and tell them: “It’s okay to mess up. What matters is that you tried.”
Admit to your own missteps, too. This will help them recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and that success happens when you don’t let setbacks define you.
Teaching your kids to divide big tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks will help them feel more confident about completing things over time.
If they’re feeling frustrated with a math worksheet, for example, have them take a separate sheet of paper and cover all the math problems except the top row. Then continue lowering the paper down to the next row as they finish each one.
Or, if they are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of homework they have, they can write down each assignment on a sticky note, stack them by difficulty, and do one task at a time.