We have come a long way! Today is blog number 16 of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge and I will talk about P for Perseverance. I believe Perseverance is the single most important factor in determining one’s success in life. Talent, intelligence, IQ, knowledge – all of these will go waste if one doesn’t persevere. For let us take for granted that in life difficulties will come along the way and the only way to tackle them is through grit and perseverance. Hence these are important tools that you need to include in your kids’ arsenal to deal with life! These are the extra ingredients that would help them reach their goals.
Perseverance is the ability and self control to continue to push through with a task, working to overcome challenges on the way. It is the ability to continue to get up and go, regardless of how many times one falls. One hears many success stories, each with their own set of challenges, but perseverance is the one common thread through each story. Take the example of Nobel prize winners – years of work may go down the drain in an instant when an experiment fails or a theory is proven wrong. But they are back at their labs or workplaces, to start working on their theory from a new angle in no time.
Many children are unable to persevere through hard work (mine included). When they are frustrated, challenged or overwhelmed, they may tend to shut down or get anxious. My usually calm 10 year old works himself up into a state of tantrum when overwhelmed and just refuses to finish his work. Sudden headaches or sick feelings appear. Lecturing him at that point about the importance of perseverance and it’s necessity for success later in life is of no use. (I still tend to do that – that’s my frustration coming out!!)
The best way to go about it is to slowly build this attitude within our children. Sharing some of my thoughts on how we can build the ability to keep trying in our children.
- Develop their self confidence and self worth: perseverance can come only when one believes in themselves. It is only then that they are able to tell themselves confidently even after failing that they can do it. So we need to mindfully build our children’s sense of self worth. First of all, appreciate them for who they are – with their strengths and flaws. Focus on their strengths – encourage them in what they are good at. Find activities they will do well at. Don’t categorise them with their flaws – “You can’t draw”, “you are not good at math”, “you are better off singing in the bathroom”
- Focus on the effort and praise sincerely: reward their persistence in any form. Praise them for the effort made, regardless of the results. Result and goal orientation is important, but the first thing is to praise the attempt and the level of struggle put in. For example, instead of saying, “Great marks in the maths exam. You are so smart”, you could say, “I appreciate your hard work, I saw you putting in a lot of hours solving problems.” Acknowledge their work in front of others, mention how proud you are.
- Keep reasonable expectations: start with smaller tasks that the children can do and experience some success. The tasks should be reasonable – not too tough, but good enough to be achieved after some level of hard work. Try not to set them up for failing.
- Encourage them to practice: tell them not to get discouraged if they are not good at something. Many times children give up on things thinking they are not good enough. Staying put at whatever they are doing will make them better. Tell them the science behind it. Help them understand that no one gets accomplished at something overnight – it takes a lot of practice, sometimes years to become an expert.
- Teach them to plan ahead and chart growth: let them know that it is important to organize a task or goal from start to finish before starting to work on it. Breaking a task into smaller parts helps to accomplish it much more easily and avoids getting children overwhelmed. Show them how to make to do lists or schedules. Help them tick off tasks done as that will boost them to continue working. Praise each successful step along the way toward reaching the final goal.
- Tell them stories of perseverance: I remember the story of the king and the spider and how it had a very strong impact on my mind. Find real life stories of people who persevered and won over their fears and challenges. There are many real life and reel life examples one can find. Find something from their area of interest – sports, arts, literature. Many such stories abound. Also teach “don’t give up” words – “try, try till you succeed”, “I can do it”, “Don’t quit” and so on.
- Let them fail: I know it is very tempting to intervene and tell our children our to do something the right way. But we should let them do it their way – even if they fail. Use that as a teachable moment to find lessons in failure. Teach them that they may not be great at everything the first time, but it is sticking with something that is important. Also that failure is not the end – this is exactly when we need perseverance and the determination to get up and start all over again. By letting them fail, we develop perseverance, grit, determination, tenacity and hope. If we don’t let them struggle or fail, they will not learn that they can get up after failure or that there is a chance to win after a struggle.
- Teach them to let go or change tack: finally, it is important to let them know that the definition of perseverance is not “don’t give up no matter what” or “never quit”. Sometimes it may be prudent to let go and work on another goal. Or if there is constant failure, maybe it is time to find out what they may be doing wrong and help them change their approach to tackling that task. If they are faced with a wall, help them to find a door – tell them that when a door closes – another one opens somewhere else.
In the end, I believe perseverance is the quality that helps us get through the tough times and keeps us going. I sincerely hope that you are able to practice some of these ideas with your children. Do let me know how that goes.
Read my other blogs on the series here: