By Bev and Phil Haas
Our son gets frustrated when faced with difficult tasks. Whether it’s sports or school, if he can’t do something the first time or it doesn’t come easily, he wants to quit. What can we do to help him stick it out when stuff gets tough?
There have been many inspirational stories of Olympic athletes sticking it out. Consider the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. On the morning of August 9 during the preliminary round of the 4×400 meter relay, team USA recorded the fastest time ever run in the first round at the Olympic games. But what happened halfway through the race was more remarkable than the record time.
Manteo Mitchell from North Carolina was running the opening leg for the U.S. when he felt a pop and knew it wasn’t good. “It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half,” he said. Manteo had a decision to make: keep running or stop and lose the race. To him it was never much of a choice. He kept running, finished the lap, and limped to the side to watch his team finish the race and qualify for the final. A few hours later, doctors confirmed what he suspected: Manteo had run the last half lap with a broken left fibula. He credited something more than simple adrenaline for pushing him the rest of the way around the track. “Faith, focus, finish. Faith, focus, finish. That’s the only thing I could say to myself,” he said.
Finish he did with a more than respectable 46.1 for his heat. Although we don’t know the back story of Manteo’s early years, our guess is that if you looked in to it you would find a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, or some influential adult in his life who taught him the value of perseverance. Yes, perseverance can be taught!
The Value of Perseverance
When people are determined to stick it out, they will continue trying even in the face of adversity. Frequently perseverance alone is the difference between failure and success.
A growing body of research suggests that perseverance may even surpass innate ability in predicting how successful kids will be in life. Children who persevere believe they are competent, know they can handle challenges, see themselves as focused and determined, are trustworthy because they do what they say they will do, set goals and work toward achieving them, and are more willing to try new and difficult situations. These are traits we all want to instill in our kids.
How to Challenge Your Kids
Hebrews 12:1 challenges readers to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This passage draws its imagery from the footraces of ancient Greece and the amphitheaters of Rome. It was written to encourage believers to persevere in their faith, especially in the midst of trials and persecution. As a parent you have daily opportunities to challenge your child to persevere. Here are some suggestions to do just that:
• Model perseverance. As with most values you hope to instill in your kids, what you do means more than what you say. You can lecture all day about being persistent, but nothing is more powerful than showing a child what it truly means. Take time to show your son how you don’t give up on a task even when things get difficult. Modeling is always the number one teaching method. But sometimes use words. Share some instances when you’ve needed resolve and grit to accomplish a difficult task. We don’t often talk about our failures, so children sometimes think that adult successes all come with ease so let him see you struggle as well as succeed.
• Point out perseverance. Point it out when your child works at something, regardless of the result. When your son sticks to a task, say: “There’s perseverance for you. You hung in there even though it was hard.” Cheer when he doesn’t give up, and even point out when he won’t give up his argument with you.
• Encourage new efforts. Try something new with your child, like roller skating or a new video game. No one is perfect at anything when they start, and this is a great way to show your child that falling down or not winning isn’t the end of the world. Reframe difficult tasks as positive challenges worth mastering.
All your efforts will be worth it when you begin seeing your son stretch his faith, keep his focus on a difficult task, and resolve to finish what he started.
Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and four grandkids. Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (firstname.lastname@example.org). We regret that personal replies are not always possible.