"I Wanna Quit" is a phrase we never like to hear. As parents, we know that that these three words start a predictable battle of push versus pull. We plead; "but you’ve always loved it!" We beg; "please just stay at it for three more weeks!" We even bribe; "if you keep up your lessons, I’ll take you to your favorite restaurant when it’s all over." And if that doesn’t work, we give in.
It’s hard not to acquiesce to quitting when children are struggling to achieve their goal. We hate to see them falter. We balk when they fall down. We want to protect them from harsh realities of failing or loosing even though we know that the one who stands back up and perseveres is the one who triumphs in life.
So how can we teach our children to commit to the end even when it’s challenging? Here are some ways to teach your children to persevere:
(1) Adjust the family language: Use language at home that shows that your family is filled with winners who never give up. Ask your child…what do people say when they know they’ll persevere? These phrases may be, "I can do it!" "Winners never quit, quitters never win," "It’s not whether you win or lose but whether you stay in the game," or "I’ll never give up!" Ask your children when they have used these phrases and be open to when you’ve done the same.
(2) Point out perseverance in action: If your child exhibits perseverance, take notice and let them know you’re proud! Tell them, "I know it was difficult but you stuck it out and reached your goal. What great focus! You must feel terrific and I am so proud of you!" Your specific praise can help to motivate a child who feels challenged. It also let’s your child know that you notice his hard work and you value his commitment.
(3) Be a persevering role model: Allow your children to see the ways you persevere and discuss these successes with them. Tell your children about your commitment to follow through with the tasks you take on—even when they get difficult. Let them hear you say, "I will keep trying and never give up until I have reached my goal!"
(4) Agree on a family commitment motto: Call a family meeting and decide on a family motto when it comes to perseverance. Here are a few to get you started: "Winners never quit, quitters never win", "Finish what you started," "Don’t give up!" and "We will try, never fear, we will always persevere!" When you live by a family motto of commitment and perseverance, your children will hear it in their head when they are facing a challenge and will be much more likely to follow through.
(5) Remind them that to start is to commit: Be sure to explain to your children that each time they start something; they need to commit to an agreed amount of time. This might be a session, a year, or a full several-year program. Signing an agreement of commitment that can be hung on the refrigerator will help everyone understand that your family takes perseverance and commitment seriously.
(6) Don’t give in: While it may seem easier for everyone, when you allow your child to drop out or stop trying, you teach them that it’s OK to give up. They might be children now dealing with small hurdles like a losing Little League team or getting the smallest role in the school play, but how they cope now is indicative of how they will deal with challenges in the future. Barring serious issues like broken bones or abusive coaches, encourage your children to follow through with their commitments once they’ve made them.
(7) Discuss the Sacrifice and Rewards of Commitment: When your child commits to something, make sure he understands what he’ll have to give up as well as what he’ll gain through his commitment. For example, a child who commits to participating in a sport may not have time to be in the school play. However, he will gain the camaraderie of being on team, the challenge of the competition, and the pride of achieving his goal. Understanding both the sacrifice and the rewards of a commitment helps your child to make a more informed decision about how he would like to spend his time.
Remember, the more you believe in the importance of commitment, model it for your family, and weave it into everyday family life, the more that your children will learn that quitting is not an option when aiming to complete a task or achieve a goal.
Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child development specialist, success coach, and parenting expert. Known as “The Character Queen,” she’s the creator of the Powerful Words Character Toolkit, a character-building program for children’s activity centers and families. For more information, or to contact Dr. Robyn, please visit http://www.DrRobynSilverman.com or to take part in her Powerful Parenting Blog, visit http://www.DrRobynsBlog.com