When we see our children’s energy and resolve start to fade but the finish line is just up ahead, we can draw upon this key growth-mindset concept to help our kids keep trying, learning, and growing. Perseverance is not a fixed trait but one that can be learned and strengthened by practicing it.
Different Types of Stress
It can be stressful to dig deep and keep going when we want to give up, but not all stress is the same. While we should not encourage our kids or anyone to stay in situations that are dangerous or harmful to mental, emotional, or physical safety, there are times when encouraging our kids to dig deep and keep going is appropriate.
In general, anytime our kids are involved in a task or experience that is meaningful and beneficial to them and their community, we love to encourage them to stick with it and keep trying. All kids are different, but here are some examples of good stress versus bad stress:
An 8-month-old is working really hard on standing and balancing. She keeps falling on her bottom after wobbling for a few seconds and is getting frustrated. (good stress)
A 3-year-old is across the room looking around frantically for a familiar face and is starting to panic when he doesn’t see or hear anyone he recognizes. (bad stress)
A 9-year-old is practicing her saxophone for that challenging solo she signed up for at the school concert. She’s stuck on one part and is starting to doubt herself. (good stress)
In general, good stress helps kids widen their window of stress tolerance by challenging them to tap into their internal and external resources to meet a goal that is just out of reach. Bad stress pushes kids beyond their window of stress tolerance, can overwhelm them, and doesn’t yield any kind of positive outcome. While there’s no playbook for differentiating good stress from bad stress, we believe parents learn over time to know the difference and when to get their kids out of a bad situation and when to support them to stick with it.
What Helps Kids Keep Trying
Some of what helps kids tap into their perseverance comes from inside of them, and some of what helps them comes from people like you and the environment around them.
Internal resources that can help kids be resilient include practicing awareness about how they’re feeling physically and emotionally. Naming the feelings and discomfort can actually help them push forward, and we can narrate that for them until they learn to internalize that process: Wow, you are catching your breath right now and are ready to be done. You’re almost there! You can do it! Through this process, we are teaching them that they can be aware of and welcome their feelings and also keep going. In addition to modeling that awareness and resilience for them, we instill in them a belief in themselves that they can do hard things. This positive self talk will stay with them over their lifespan and serve them well in all areas of their lives.
Additionally, remembering their end goal—how exciting it is or how much they want it—can give them the extra energy to keep going. This is also something we can narrate for our kids, which will help their self talk develop with a hopeful and supportive tone.
As parents, we can also offer them some help to complete a task or mission, like Manta Ray does for Bigfoot. Sometimes a little assistance and partnership from a parent, teacher, or friend is just what a kid needs to keep going: I see how tired you are and you’re ready for bed, but you have three more math problems to solve. I’ll help you finish these up so you’re all set for tomorrow.
Whether we’re encouraging our baby to keep practicing his balance, helping our toddler with a challenging puzzle, or assisting our adolescent to dig deep as she hones her math skills, we can tap into this important growth mindset concept to support our kids in their journeys big and small.
We hope you’ll join us for Camp Slumberkins to get some inspiring tools, resources, and ideas for teaching your children how to be resilient!