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Stubbornness is Perseverance in Disguise

Can you remember a time your child insisted on continue to build something, or play or read – when you needed to go somewhere? Perseverance can be frustrating and inconvenient! When your child is sticking to something they want to do – even though you want/need to do something else it is challenging. Yet, the ability and desire to persist in the face of adversity (your request to do something else) is an important life skill which will benefit them in the future. Some children seem to be born with this kind of focus and determination, while others need more practice to develop it. Here are some ideas for growing your child’s perseverance:

  • Avoid rescuing. Most of us have the urge to rescue our children when they feel frustrated or challenged. Resist this urge! Allow your children to experience their feelings, listen to how they feel. “Wow! This is really challenging for you.” Then encourage them to keep trying.
  • Share your own feelings. As adults we get frustrated and sometimes want to quit what we are doing. Share stories from your day, including how you managed your frustration.
  • Use media. There are lots of characters in movies and books who face adversity. (it is part of what makes a good story!) Be curious together about what the character did that helped them keep going.
  • Push – but not too hard. Invite your children to set doable goals – and to keep trying. Remember that they are your children’s goals not yours. Sometimes not meeting a goal is a learning opportunity too. Pushing too hard is can be hurtful and get in the way of the learning opportunity.
  • “Too much” perseverance? Do you have a child who has a laser focus? Who “stubbornly” insists on going their own way. Pause to remember that this young person has a skill that will be valued as an adult. Spend time problem solving how to navigate those times when you want to go in different directions. Stay calm and respectful. Make a plan for avoiding a power struggle. Sometimes advance notice (planning the day together or warning signals) works.
  • Shift your internal language. Words are powerful and change how we see others and ourselves. “Stubborn” often leaves us (and them) with a negative feeling. Think or say, determined, persistent, or tenacious; words that bring out the sense that commitment to a task and the ability to follow through are a strength.