5 Quick Tips to Help Your Child Persevere
Hi, my name is Colleen, and I am a perfectionist.
I have been for as long as I can remember.
For a long time, I wore it as a badge of honor, never realizing the adverse effects it had on me. Never understanding that my perfectionism went hand in hand with a fear of failure. Never connecting the intense anxiety I experienced with an irrational need to be perfect, to be the best.
Afterall, I was praised for my A’s in school, my attention to detail, and my being #1 at the things I did. It never occurred to me that anything less than that was acceptable.
I was the smart one, the one ahead of the curve. That was my label by friends, family, teachers, and ultimately myself.
So when it came to doing things that I wasn’t a natural at (sports for example) or admitting that I needed help with something, I shut down. I gave up. Or I procrastinated to the point of no return.
That’s the problem with labels. They don’t leave room for anything else.
So, how can we help our children avoid this sneaky little trap? I’m happy you asked….
1. First things first, stop giving your kids labels.
- Help your child develop a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Praise effort and progress, not fixed abilities that your child feels they can't change. Instead of, “You are so smart.” Try, “You tried hard to solve that problem.” Instead of, “This is the coolest painting I’ve ever seen.” Try, “Wow, look at how creative this is!”
- Praise the journey, not the result. Instead of saying, “You are so good at math.” Try, “ You are working hard on multiplication.” Instead of saying, “You are such a good artist.” Try, “You really enjoy painting!”
- Give specific feedback. Instead of saying, “You are getting better at tennis.” Try, “Your serve is on point!”
- Check your expectations at the door. Make sure any expectations you have are realistic and that you never compare your child to others.
- Encourage your child to feel proud of their accomplishments rather than making judgment statements or expecting them to make YOU proud. Instead of saying, “I’m so proud of you!” Try, “You should feel so proud of yourself for getting up on that stage!” Or, instead of, “I like the way you are sharing with your sister.” Try, “Look at you sharing with your sister!”
2. Help your child learn the power of yet.
Simply adding “yet” to the end of sentences helps reframe problems and encourages your child to keep trying.
“I can’t do it, yet.”
“You don’t know it, yet.”
Part of the power of yet is helping your child see struggles as challenges they can overcome rather than problems in their life. In this post on helping your child grow their resilience muscle, I created a workbook to help your child do just that. Head over to that post to download it now.
3. Help your child see mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
I hear so often, “They should know better.” or “I know they can do better.”
This isn’t helpful, and it doesn’t encourage them to do better.
Instead, help your child understand that even you make mistakes. Even you have to apologize sometimes. Even you are still learning.
4. Help your child recognize their strengths.
Understanding our strengths helps us know what we can draw on in challenging situations, but it also helps us identify where we can improve. While we are all better at some things than others, our strengths are not fixed. We can grow our “weaknesses.”
There are 24 identified character strengths allowing for an incredible number of combinations. Understanding what our top strengths are, not only gives us tools to use when we need them but can also help us strengthen those that are more difficult for us.
For example, one of my lesser strengths is Bravery (it’s #16 out of 24). I know that bravery will never come easily to me; however, it’s a strength that I really want to grow.
One of my top 5 strengths is Prudence (Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.) Because I know this, I can use my strength of Prudence when weighing options and feel confident that if I try to do something brave or out of my comfort zone, I will be safe.
I know that I am prudent; therefore, I can encourage myself to be a little braver without feeling uncertain of my choices.
In my parent coaching practice, I take a strengths-based approach and often have parents and children, 10 and over, take an assessment to find their strengths. If you are interested in knowing your character strengths, you can take a free survey at viacharacter.org.
5. Help your child set mini-goals.
Too often we get caught up in the big picture to-do’s that we forget about all of the little things we do along the way to reach our goal.
If your child (or you) are struggling in a particular area, sit down and think about how you can create mini goals they can work towards to feel like they are gaining traction and help encourage them to keep trying.
For instance, if your child is struggling with organizing themselves. Try choosing one part of their life to work on at a time and help them set mini goals. So, maybe it’s keeping their backpack organized. Help them come up with a system that works for them to hold their homework and papers that they need to give to you. Help them set up some trigger to remind them to give you those important papers.
Remember to check your expectations. This is about setting goals that work for your child’s strengths. Not goals that seem natural to you.
If organizing comes naturally to you, it can be hard to understand why it’s so difficult for your child. In this case, you have probably gone to the office supply store and bought them all the things they “need” to stay organized and are frustrated because it doesn’t work.
That’s why it’s important to involve your child in the goal-setting process. Another one I see often is parents organizing their child’s room in a way that makes sense and continuously frustrated that they have to go in and reorganize it.
Again, check your expectations. It’s about progress, not perfection. And it’s about finding out what works for your child, not what makes you feel good.
And if your child really wants to quit something, here are 3 questions to ask yourself before having a conversation about it.
In the comments below, let me know where you struggle when it comes to helping your child persevere. I’d love to hear from you!