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How to help your child become more persistent

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”

These words were famously said by Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States of America. We know persistence is a good skill to have, but can you encourage this in your children from a young age?

Lets look at what the research suggests, as well as some tips that can help your children be more persistent.

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What is persistence?

A simple way to describe persistence is the behaviour of continuing on with a task despite obstacles. In other words, its not giving up quickly and having the motivation to overcome setbacks.

Growing up, children face many difficult tasks and challenges. This continues during their academic life, and it is often easy to give up. However, being resilient can help students do better academically, as previous researchers found that resilient students were more self-motivated which meant that they performed better academically.

But can you teach persistence? Well, its not really a skill to teach but an outcome. What you can teach are skills that help children become more persistent. Instilling this from a young age can be very beneficial in helping children perform well academically.

How can you help your children be more persistent?

  1. Step back

Often, the knee-jerk reaction when a child is struggling with a task is to intervene and help them with it, or even do it for them.

But can this be harmful and make your child more likely to give up? Previous researchers conducted three studies to look at just that. In one of the studies, children were given puzzles to complete and were split into two groups. These were:

  • Taking over condition – In this group, after the child attempted to do the puzzle for 10 seconds, the experimenter took over and finished it for them.
  • Teaching condition – In this group, children were given instructions that could help them with the puzzle.

After they finished the puzzle, the children were given a different task that they completed alone. The researchers found that children were much more persistent with the new task when they were in the teaching” group, compared to those in the taking over” group. Its important to give your child the space to try out a task by themselves.

But does that mean you should leave them with no support? Well, research suggests that having no support can be unhelpful. In a review, the researchers found that the perfect environment to encourage resilience is one that is high in both challenge and support. Having little support when doing a difficult task can result in excessive stress, burnout and isolation. But too much support with little challenge can lead to boredom and complacency.


Therefore, providing support during a difficult task can help your child be more persistent. But this isnt necessarily taking over and doing the task. It can be by talking them through it or even taking it in turns to complete the task, so they can see how to do it but also try it out themselves.

  1. Encourage a growth mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that your abilities can be improved. Encouraging children to develop a growth mindset from a young age can help them have a more positive outlook on their setbacks and help them maintain their motivation. Some ways you can do this is by:

  • Praising their effort – In one study, children who were praised for their effort when they were 2-3 years old were more likely to have a growth mindset at age 7-8.
  • Having high expectations – Having high, but realistic expectations for your children can help them develop a growth mindset.
  • Exposing them to new things – Trying out new experiences can be rewarding and exciting. At first, they may struggle, but this will only help them be more persistent.
  1. Self-talk

Encourage your children to talk to themselves in the right way” when facing a challenge. Instead of using absolute statements like I cant”, let them add the word yet”. This simple word suggests that they will get through the challenge and can help them be more persistent with the task.

Also, talk with your child about what they could do differently next time. Research shows that talking to yourself in an instructional manner can help focus on what to do next, instead of dwelling on the problem. Therefore, by discussing this with your child it can help them get into the habit of talking to themselves in this way.

To find out more ways on how to help students become resilient, see this blog.

Final Thoughts

Being persistent is key to help you get through challenges and has shown to be important for studentsacademic performance. Help your child develop skills including having a proactive mindset to help them become more persistent – it will benefit them for a lifetime.

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