Thomas Edison is probably the modern day king of perseverance. It is said he tried 3000 different prototypes for the light bulb before he was successful. He is known for his quotes like, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” and “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”. Would we have the light bulb today if Edison had given up before that 3000th try? Probably, but it may have taken someone else several more years to discover it and who knows what other discoveries would also have been delayed.
Successful inventors, artists, entrepreneurs and parents will tell you one of the secrets to their success is perseverance. In anything you do in life, there are moments where it just seems impossible to go on. The task is too difficult or the solution is too hard to find. The temptation is great to give up and move on to something else. Behind many people, there is a string of unfinished tasks, “quit” jobs and broken relationships, all because they gave up rather than persevere until they could successfully reach their goal.
Bosses and teachers will tell you one of the qualities they often see lacking in today’s children is perseverance. Whether the cause is “hover parents” or a lack of “home training”, the result is the same. Many of our children have learned that “I can’t” is an acceptable response to get them out of unpleasant situations and hard work. Unfortunately, a lack of perseverance will also rob your child of the successful education, jobs, relationships and Christian life that can only be achieved by working through the “hard parts” until some success is achieved.
Whenever a Christian brings up the idea that perseverance is necessary for Christians, someone will mention grace. I do believe God’s grace covers our sins, but I also know even the Apostle Paul (as well as Peter, James and John in their writings) talked about the need for perseverance in the life of the Christian. In fact, Paul mentioned some form of the word persevere seven times in his writings.
Now, you could make your child do some pretty miserable things in an attempt to develop perseverance. With a little creativity though, you and your child can have some fun and work on developing perseverance at the same time. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Board games and puzzles are a great way for young children to begin learning perseverance (and other skills like graciousness!). If you have ever played the game with the candy and slides back to the beginning, you know what I mean! As your children get older, make the games and puzzles more complex. We used to leave a several thousand piece puzzle on a card table during the Christmas season. We would all work on it a little every day until it was finally completed. It is amazing how everyone rushes to be the person to put in the last piece that signals a successful completion!
2. Crafts are another fun way to develop similar skills. The great thing about crafts is that the finished project is an immediate psychological reward. Make sure the craft presents a stretch for your child, but doesn’t require so much patience and perseverance he becomes frustrated. For example, if your child can focus quietly for ten minutes, don’t choose a project that will require a minimum of an hour of focused attention at a time. On the other hand, don’t expect your child to learn perseverance if the project can be completed in one, five minute sitting. Crafts allow you to not only work on your child’s perseverance in the length of one session, but also sticking with a project which may take multiple sessions to complete.
3. Creative problem solving is another fun way to develop perseverance in your child. It requires your child to work beyond the immediate response of “I can’t do this. It’s too hard” to find a creative answer to a problem. Odyssey of the Mind has lots of practice problems online which encourage creative thinking. Logic problems for children also encourage children to go beyond the “stuck” point to success. I have lots of ideas pinned on my Pinterest boards with links to instructions. Once again, the problems should be difficult enough to require your child to stretch a little, but not so difficult she becomes permanently discouraged. If your child is naturally creative, maybe she is the next inventor. Give her a work area and have plenty of “raw” materials on hand for her to experiment with in her “lab”. Who knows, you may be raising the next Thomas Edison!
4. Working together towards a goal is a great way to walk beside a child who is struggling with follow-through. Maybe you decide to train together to run a long race, climb a specific mountain or re-decorate her bedroom, including painting. Your child should decide what the goal is to make sure he is excited and fully invested in accomplishing your goal. Let her encourage you at times as you both struggle to reach the goal (sometimes those physical goals are harder for parents than they are for the kids!).
5. Celebrate! When your child reaches a goal or perseveres through a tough spot to success, make sure to celebrate. Don’t focus on the “well, next time’s” or the “I hope you learned” talks. You can use them as examples in later discussions. At the moment of success, cheer, high five, get an ice cream or have a special dinner. Life has enough tough moments, make sure you celebrate the good ones with your children.
What other creative ways have you used to increase your child’s perseverance? Leave a comment below, to help other parents. If this is a struggle in your house, are there other questions you have? Leave a comment and hopefully someone will have an idea to help you. Then, go have some fun teaching your child to persevere!