The Value of Persistence – Instill it in Children

December 6, 2019
Learning the value of persistence allows children to grow up knowing that they can do great things.

Instilling the value of persistence in children is important for many reasons. For example, recent studies show that it, along with self-control, can improve academic results regardless of intelligence quotient.

Even our personal beliefs about effort can affect academic results. Children who believe effort leads to achievement outweigh those who believe that success is a fixed trait.

However, persistence is something you can hardly teach directly. Instead, it’s about encouraging learning by helping children find the activities they’re passionate about. The things they like enough to try and easily not give up on to learn motivation.

Children who grow up with the value of persistence can do great things, provided they believe they can do it. This is why it’s crucial to teach your children not to give up and to be persistent.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”

-James A. Michener-

Use the right language when instilling the value of persistence in children

A child writing on a book.

The way children ask for help influences the way they complete a task and, consequently, a way you can instill the value of persistence in them. In fact, a recent study (Foster-Hanson, 2018), published in the journal Child Development, reveals that encouraging children to “help” instead of asking them to “be helpers or collaborators”, will motivate them to keep it up in spite of any challenge they may encounter.

The research, conducted by a team of scientists from the University of New York, suggests the use of verbs when talking to children about actions. Also, encouraging them to help, read and paint, can help increase their resilience after the setbacks they’ll inevitably experience.

The results are a bit different from those of another 2014 study. This one showed that asking children to be “helpers” instead of asking “for help” encourages them to help more. The difference between the 2014 study and the newer one is that the one in 2018 evaluated what happened after the children experienced setbacks when trying to help. It underlines how your language choice definitely affects a child’s persevereance.

This research, according to Emily Foster-Hanson, one of the main authors of the study, shows how talking to children about the measures they can take to succeed can encourage their persistence after any setbacks. At least a lot more than talking to children about the many identities they can assume.

Keys to teaching children the value of persistence

Instilling the value of perseverance in children at a young age will help and guide them throughout the many challenges they might encounter. These are some pointers you can use to teach your children the value of persistence:

Talk to your child about the value of persistence

Children will be more interested in persistence when they hear about it on a regular basis, especially as they get older. The more they hear about it and see it’s results, the more they’ll be willing to learn and understand what it means.

Keep a positive spirit

It’s very complicated to teach perseverance without having a positive attitude, even if it seems that your child isn’t getting it or shows little interest. You’re responsible for keeping their morale high. Children, sooner or later, will be “infected” by your positive attitude.

Be a model of perseverance

Children learn more by watching you than from what they hear from you. That is why it’s very important to be aware of what you say and do. In this regard, be aware that you’re constantly setting examples and that these can be good or bad. Everything an adult does is a valuable learning experience for a child.

The child must have responsibilities

Having responsibilities since they’re young is a great way to learn the value of persistence. Thus, it’s important to begin by giving them simple tasks that are well suited for their age.

Don’t rescue the child, but give them a push if they need it

Learning perseverance is also about learning independence. Don’t rescue your child when they struggle to do something. You’re not doing them any favor by lifting them through; they can climb on their own if they really want to. Similarly, let them assume all the responsibility they can assume when you do help them. For example, let them get dressed and select their own clothes, even if you later help them tie their shoelaces.

Provide opportunities to succeed

It’s very important for a child to face challenges they can overcome, even if it’s hard. If they never succeed at anything, their persistence will hardly increase.

Show them the value of persistence so they know effort pays off

When children are used to easily getting their way, then they’ll learn to discard anything that requires an effort on their part. In fact, many learn what they need to do to keep themselves from straining. For instance, they’ll learn it from making progress in the educational system because others help them do their homework, to getting to a new level on their video game by watching tutorials on YouTube.

Thus, it may not be easy to convey the idea that the goal isn’t what matters but instead what they achieve and the way in which they achieve it.  However, this is a basic foundation when it comes to instilling the value of persistence in children. This is why it’s so important that adults know how to reward their efforts, just like we know to praise them and reward them when they achieve something all by themselves.

Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K., & Dweck, C. (2007). Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention. Child Development78(1), 246-263. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00995.x

Bryan, C., Master, A., y Walton, G. (2014). “Helping” Versus “Being a Helper”: Invoking the Self to Increase Helping in Young Children. Child Development, n/a-n/a. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12244

Communications, N. (2018). New Research Helps to Instill Persistence in Children. Recuperado de http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2018/september/new-research-helps-to-instill-persistence-in-children.html

Duckworth, A., & Seligman, M. (2005). Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. Psychological Science16(12), 939-944. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01641.x

Edwards, C., Mukherjee, S., Simpson, L., Palmer, L., Almeida, O., y Hillman, D. (2015). Depressive Symptoms before and after Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Men and Women. Journal Of Clinical Sleep Medicine. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.5020

Eskreis-Winkler, L., Shulman, E., Beal, S., & Duckworth, A. (2014). The grit effect: predicting retention in the military, the workplace, school and marriage. Frontiers In Psychology5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00036

Foster-Hanson, E., Cimpian, A., Leshin, R., y Rhodes, M. (2018). Asking Children to “Be Helpers” Can Backfire After Setbacks. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13147

Stevens, J (2018). The Art of Teaching Perseverance To Your Kids. ADAM & Mila. Recuperado de https://www.adam-mila.com/teaching-perseverance/