From the day you become a parent, you begin to have questions. “Is my child growing normally?” “Am I feeding my child correctly?” “How can I foster their learning?” The questions persist and even become more complex with time This series will help address many common parenting questions. 

Parenting and child development writer Amy Webb, Ph.D., will be your guide as we explore these questions asked by real parents who probably face many of the same struggles as you. Fellow parents submitted these questions via social media platforms. Although there is not usually one simple answer to individual parenting questions (every family is unique), we will use the latest research and expert advice to address these concerns.

Question #5:

“How do I help my son not just give up immediately when trying something new? He gets very upset and says he can’t do it, and then he repeatedly asks me to do it.”

Persistence is an extremely valuable skill for children to learn to foster success in all areas of life. Just like any other skill, it requires practice to learn. As parents, we can help children build their persistence by:

  • Modeling Persistence in Our Lives: Children learn from everything they see us do, and persistence is no different. When we persist with tasks or learning that is difficult and ultimately succeed, children learn that persistence pays off. Be explicit about how you struggle with certain tasks but keep going and learn how to do them.
  • Focusing on Emotional Regulation: A big part of helping children learn to persist through challenges is helping them cope with the emotions that come along with it. Feelings of frustration and disappointment can be very dysregulating for children if they don’t have the tools to cope with these emotions. Younger children, in particular, often need help from parents in learning how to feel frustrated but still persist. Discuss strategies they can use when they feel frustrated–deep breathing, taking a break (but coming back), or exercising. Once they learn that the frustrating feelings don’t have to derail their progress, they will be more willing to persist with a task.
  •  Supporting (but not taking over): Children sometimes need our support to persist in a difficult task. While it is tempting to simply take over and do the task for them, this doesn’t aid the development of persistence. Instead, focus more on a teaching or scaffolding approach. Can you ask questions that might prompt the child to see the problem in a new way? Can you break the task into smaller, more manageable pieces so the child can feel that they accomplished a small win? 

Like many mental skills, persistence takes time and practice to learn. With your guidance, your children can strengthen their persistence “muscles” and learn how to push through frustrations and not give up.

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