Dear Dr. Robyn,

I was always raised to believe that you never quit something you start. I truly
think my children can do anything if they just stick with it! But one of my
children starts off strong with whatever the “favorite” activity is and then
loses interest. How can I get her to commit and stick with it?

— Pat G, Charlotte, NC

Dear Pat,

It can be particularly frustrating to see a child start something and refuse to finish it—especially when you know the good that comes from the activity itself, realizing one’s goals and working through pitfalls. As perseverance is a precursor to future success, it’s vital that we cultivate it early. So let’s talk about some ways to get children to persevere:

(1) Set small goals:

Encourage your children to set short term goals to practice committing. This may be completing a small art or gardening project, doing a special class for a few weeks, or walking someone’s dog while the owner is on vacation. Once they can stick with these kinds of short-term goals, have them create longer term goals as well. In this case, practice is vital!

(2) Show them how it’s done:

Many children don’t realize that we set goals for ourselves. Declare your goals publicly and talk about both the successes and the frustrations you must deal with on your journey to goal realization. And of course, talk about how proud you are that you stuck with your goal until you reached it!

(3) Create a family “vision to mission accomplished” board:

At the beginning of the year, I encourage all families to create “vision” boards– poster boards with pictures, photos, text, and other reminders of one’s goals this year. To celebrate perseverance, encourage your children to mark each “mission accomplished” on their vision board with a large red
mark or a photo of them after they achieve that goal. This makes perseverance more tangible and visual. It’s fun to see how far we’ve come at the end of the year!

(4) Praise and reward stick-toitveness:

Perseverance has it’s advantages. Reward your children with special time with you or a celebratory call to a beloved relative to declare the good news. Provide full appreciation for their effort. They will also
get the privilege of declaring a new, perhaps even “better” goal. Children and teens will automatically get the reward of achieving the goal in the first place but knowing that you noticed it and celebrate it with them will help etch the importance of perseverance in their minds.

Here’s to Your Success!

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