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Cultivating Perseverance in Kids

Amber Brandt  |  January 14, 2019

Nearly every success story begins with adversity or failure. We’re inspired by these stories because they remind us that personal achievement and professional success is possible for the every day person, even when we’re facing challenges. If we take these inspirational stories to heart, they can inspire us to dig down deep and find that ‘thing’ we need to overcome our challenges and come out on top — perseverance.

Every month our schools feature a moral focus because we care about developing the “whole” student — heart and character included. This month we’re talking about perseverance in our classrooms and assemblies and outlining what it looks like to develop grit in the face of challenge. We found some fantastic ways you can talk about persevering at home too — because personal experiences (even failures!) are powerful. This excellent list comes from Parent Toolkit online:

  • Regularly encourage children to try new things. You may also want to try something new with your child, like roller-skating or a new arcade or video game. No one is perfect at anything when they start, and this is a great way to show your child that falling down or not winning isn’t the end of the world.
  • Adjust the degree of perseverance needed. If children need a small challenge, present one related to activities they already have ability in. If they need a bigger challenge, take them out of their prior-experience comfort zone.
  • Share some instances when you’ve needed perseverance and grit to accomplish a difficult task. We don’t often talk about our earlier failures, so children sometimes think that adult successes all come with ease.
  • Be overt. Tell them that they are working on perseverance skills and let them know that struggle and failure are likely. Knowing that they are meant to struggle makes it much easier to deal with.
  • Be there for them when they do struggle or fail. Provide support, help them evaluate why things weren't successful, and guide them in determining how to replan and try again. Unless a situation is unreasonable and your child clearly needs help, do your best not to bail them out when they struggle. We develop problem-solving techniques, tenacity and hope when go through something and grow.
  • Encourage them. Don’t reward or congratulate them only for achievement. Recognize effort and perseverance as well.

Take a minute to think about your own personal and professional successes. What challenges did you face and overcome to achieve mastery? Was there someone who impacted your life and encouraged you? Perhaps you desperately wanted a parent or teacher to bail you out when you were facing a challenge, but because they let you struggle a little bit, you discovered your own capability and grew. These are all great stories to reflect on and share with your child. It’s natural to want to hide a personal failure from your children because “parents are supposed to have all the answers,” but it’s actually okay to be honest with them about difficult situations you have faced and how they helped you grow.

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