Teaching a child persistence

Here’s a pop quiz for you:

Your child begs you to take piano lessons.  You aren’t so sure it’s worth the time and commitment.  After all, no one in your family has an ounce of musical ability and it’s a big expense. She is persistent though so you decide to give it a try. Three months in, the newness has worn off and she wants to quit.  You:

  1. Remind her that she made a commitment and require her to stick it out for a year.
  2. After saying, “I told you so,”  you let her quit; who wants to be the piano practice police?
  3. Ask her to give it a little longer and see if she learns to like it.  You negotiate with her to go another three months.
  4. Talk with her to  discover what has changed and see if she can push through the resistance.  Did she have expectations that are unmet?  Did she not understand the effort involved?  Is she frustrated with a lack of progress or expertise?

It’s a common dilemma isn’t it?  Will you make her hate the piano forever if you require her to stick it out?  Or will she learn that persistence is the foundation for learning any new skill because she didn’t give up?

The Right Answer

This isn’t one of those questions that has an easy  or right answer.  Problems like this don’t just plague parents either.  As an educator, do you require a student to keep trying when an assignment is hard?  At what point do you modify it or even change it altogether?  As a coach, do you require someone who can’t perform to practice more or do you move them to a different position?

The answer of course is… it depends.  Some of the things to consider are:

  • What is the age and ability of the child?
  • Do they have a pattern of starting new things and not following through?
  • What is a reasonable expectation for success and improvement?
  • What have they learned from the experience?
  • Have they given it a fair try?
  • Whether they quit or continue, what is their mindset moving forward?  Have they gained confidence or do they feel like a failure?

One of the most important things that we can teach children is that the opposite of success in any situation isn’t failure but learning.  Sometimes we learn that we need to approach a challenge differently.  Sometimes we learn that we need to practice more or stick with it longer.  And sometimes we learn that certain pursuits just don’t fit us.  Either way, we have learned some valuable information that will serve us well in the next challenge we face.

Related Posts:

Why failing first leads to success

Focusing on joyful parenting

How to raise responsible self-reliant children

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