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Home » Confidence Building, Featured, Headline, Motivation, Problem Solving, Self Esteem

Teaching Kids to be Persistent

Submitted by on September 13, 2011 – 11:36 pmNo Comment

Author: Cindy Jett, LICSW

Research has shown persistence to be as important as talent or intelligence to eventual success. The old adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is profoundly sage advice. So how do we help our children adapt to circumstances , and retain the desire to persevere through difficulties to achieve what they want? Some children seem to be born with single mindedness and focus in pursuit of a goal, while others will seemingly drop an interest or a pursuit at the drop of a hat. Below are some strategies that can help develop persistence in any child.

1. Often children will give up on something because the goal seems vast and unreachable. For instance, if a child is taking piano lessons and wishes to play the piano fluently, it is possible that after a few years, it is still taking the child weeks to learn a single piece. Measured against the original goal to play the piano fluently, the child may feel that the goal is unattainable. Teach the anxious child how to break overarching goals into smaller attainable goals. Maybe the child can set the goal of learning increasingly difficult pieces, or of learning to sight read simple pieces.

2. Goals should be thought of beacons which guide learning, but shouldn’t become overly important in and of themselves. Help your child to value and get reward in the process of learning rather than a goal. For the young pianist, focus on how it feels to play the piano, to perform for others, to enjoy music and to improve one’s skills.

3. Explicitly teach kids the value of persistence. Virtually any endeavor will have its obstacles, and will require persistence to negotiate setbacks and move ahead. If they stick through something after a setback, acknowledge their effort and tell them how proud you are of them for persevering. You can also mine the past for examples of how persistence has paid off for them.

4. Teach kids to negotiate setbacks and problem solve. This entails identifying a problem area and then coming up with a strategy for a solution. Often the obstacle will need to be broken into a group of smaller issues to be worked on independently. You can help your child improve her problem solving skills, by brainstorming with her when she faces an obstacle, and creating a plan from her ideas. Once this is modeled for her a few times, she will be able to do it on her own.

5. Praise children for their efforts, not just for their achievements. Effort is something they have control over, achievement isn’t. If they stick through something after a setback, acknowledge their effort and tell them how proud you are of them for persevering. You can also mine the past for examples of how persistence paid off.

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About the Author

Cindy Jett, LICSW is a psychotherapist living in Reston, VA. She is the author of Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows, a picture book that helps the anxious child manage fear and adapt to change. For more information on helping children adapt to change, visit

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Leave us a suggestion for articles you would like to see. We will do our best to suit your needs! Did this information help? I hope so. Change can be difficult sometimes. Like I always say in my workshops, It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it because you’re worth it! Donations fund Self Esteem Workshops for teens, supply books to schools for the continual support of character education across America, and are tax deductable. Thank you from Self Help Guides!