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Perseverance Prompts Potential

By Jay M. Greenfeld, Ph.D., C. Psych.,

Winter is upon us and one quality that many outside of Winnipeg find so impressive about most coming from Manitoba is their ability to persevere through the frigid winter months. Many people outside of this province do not even have thermometers that reach such low numbers to even compare to the cold temperatures that we are able to endure. However, despite our abilities to survive and often embrace winter in Winnipeg, one quality that remains crucial for our children is to embrace the ability to persevere through challenge. We live in a world that has drastically changed in a few short years, but one thing that remains crucial to your children's success, is their ability to persevere through difficult experiences, tasks, school work, and such a like, regardless of age.

Naturally when many parents think about perseverance or overcoming challenges with their children, the emphasis tends to surround itself within the school day. However, challenges emerge on a daily basis in multiple environments and it is crucial that your children see by example. They need to see that those around them experience challenges all the time. Seeing real examples from others (especially authority figures they look up to, siblings or even celebrities). One of the most powerful experiences at our clinic is when children attend our group sessions that focus on various psychological skills. They are given the opportunity to see that others are experiencing similar challenges. Thus, it is not just individuals who are older than them or at different life stages, often the most validating and relatable experiences are when they see others just like themselves working through a challenge. Nevertheless, by seeing others work through challenges and overcome mistakes, your children will believe more in themselves as opposed to relying on a default of hopelessness. Have them watch Famous Failures, a short 3-minute clip on YouTube. When faced with challenges (emotionally, physically, or psychologically), we can often learn the most from our mistakes and challenging or negative experiences specifically when we see how others cope, especially those closest to us.

The negativity that has become more pronounced in our world within the recent years, can usurp the potential for positive self-talk that we need to equip our children with. Constantly focusing on the negative or what needs to be corrected, creates missed opportunities for you to highlight the strengths that your children have. Yes, they need to be told when they are not doing something right or putting themselves or others in danger. However, there also needs to be a time where you teach them how to praise themselves for their efforts on various tasks. The concept of praising efforts rather than outcome can and will help them go a long way.

Our children need to see that outcome is important as it helps highlight results, however, what is more valuable is praising their efforts. The key is to not highlight something that is subjective ìyou are so strong"; ìyou are so fast"; or ìyou are so good at Math." Instead, praise their efforts ìyou tried so hard at your swimming competition"; ìyou were so focused at running club yesterday morning"; you tried so hard when figuring out those Math questions." The more we can praise their efforts rather than their specific outcome, will help lead to healthier goal setting. Even if they do not reach their desired goal, they can appreciate the smaller goals they accomplished along the way. Without being able to highlight the process, it is too easy to overemphasize the negative and minimize the positive in their lives following any challenge.

To ensure that persistence and perseverance are initiated early and consistently in life, help your children explore tasks that require both skill and challenge that is slightly above what they think they can do. Of course, it varies with age, but match the developmental stage with a challenge that requires slightly more skill than your children think they can do. For example, the child learning to ride their bike, let them feel nervous, let them feel slightly scared of you letting go of the seat, let them feel they are in more control than they think they are on their own. As your children age, the same applies to other aspects of life as they prepare for their first job interview. Let them recognize that there are others competing for the same job and they need to highlight the skills they have and that they are ready for a challenge that is slightly more than what they have handled in the past. By helping your children reach just slightly higher than the previous bar will lead them to set and accomplish greater goals than what they have already proven to themselves in the past.

Finally, ensure that you are giving your children the opportunity to experience all of the emotions affiliated with struggling. Embrace frustration, annoyance, anger and such alike because when they can persevere, the other side of those emotions are elation, excitement, pride, motivation, and a sense of empowerment and strength. If we do everything for our children (especially the tasks that they are more than capable of doing on their own), they will not learn, they will not persevere, and they will be placing a lower ceiling on their ultimate success in various aspects of life. If they are not given the opportunity to learn from their frustrating moments, they will fall back on the divine default of being dependent on you. So, if it is not the winter that prompts our perseverance then help empower your children to have it emerge from within to help foster their true potential.

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Perseverance Prompts Potential

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Why Parents Must Keep Kids Cyber Safe

Pediatrician-Approved Tips to Conquer Winter Travel with Little Ones

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