Help your child stick-to-it with these 4 strategies


Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

When you try something new, such as riding a bike, Common Core math problems (say wha??), or how to craft a dinosaur dioramas, the really crucial, and incredibly difficult, part comes just after the initial burst of enthusiasm wears off.

That’s when you have to do the hard work of climbing up the learning curve. Boy is it ever tempting to just give up. But we can’t. One of our central jobs as parents is to help our children adopt a stick-to-it mindset from an early age.

Ah, it’s amazing the philosophical insights one has while pulling out hair out over second grade homework in the home stretch of the school year.

1. Understand your child may assume he lacks the ability.
It’s natural for your child to think “I stink and this,” or “I just can’t do x,y,z”. But the real issue is she hasn’t had enough practice. It’s useful to have some phrases like, “Everybody stinks at this when they first try it. But if you practice, magic happens.”

I’ve found that when my 7YO encounters a new learning roadblock and dissolves in frustration it’s really effective to gently remind him of something he now does effortless now but that was once a struggle for him. I typically ask, “Can you remember when you used to think this easy peasy thing was so hard it made you cry? What did you do so that it’s super easy now?” The answer is always: PRACTICE!

2. Anticipate that your child will want to go from zero to hero in one step.
Change is a process, not a snap-your-fingers and it’s done kind of thing. It comes in fits and starts – by taking baby steps. It’s normal to feel frustrated because of what’s not working — but remind your child that it is actually a sign that she is making progress! Every time she thinks she’s failing remind her that she’s learning what’s not working, which, if you reflect on it & learn from it, will bring her one step closer to what will work.

3. Find community mentors
Sometimes the best teachers for your children are…other children. Does your local library have a reading buddies or homework buddies program? Ours does and on some afternoons I have to admit it’s much more productive to pile everyone in the car, head to the library and let peers mentor my son.

4. Break It Down
This last one is so obvious, but it’s hard to remember when the whining is at full volume. A great way to do this is to play the 7-up game. Basically you break down a big task your child is trying to master into smaller bite-sized pieces. Then, once you do that, get him to practice the first step 7 times. When he does the task 7 times well, he “wins” 5 extra minutes of playtime before bed. After he’s done that, have him move on to the next concept in the ladder. The small rewards for successfully completing small steps are totally and completely trans formative.

Now if someone could just teach me how to make a dinosaur diorama!

What works for you when your child is feeling frustrated and wanting to give up?

Leave a comment