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How to Help Your Teen Develop Perseverance

May 18, 2020, 15:49 PM by Sara Trautman

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, I just stay with problems longer.”

That’s a bold claim for the power of perseverance, especially considering this is the formulator of the theory of relativity talking.  

Humans don’t just show up in the world knowing how to persevere; it’s a muscle that needs to be developed. We draw on perseverance to push us through frustrating tasks, thwarted goals and difficult seasons.

teen girl looks upset

Some of the first big challenges in life surface during the teenage years.

With that in mind, how can parents help their teens develop the ability to persevere as they transition into adulthood? Here are a few tips to help your teenager — with no nagging required! 

Responsibility And Modeling

teen boy takes out recycling

These two go hand-in-hand as children are entering the teen years. Encouraging kids to take responsibility for their own homework, chores and pets helps develop their ability to follow through, even on days that they don’t feel like it. Prompt, consistent consequences are vital.

Equally as important, talk with your teens as you are making decisions in your own life — both when ending one commitment and when making a new one. Sharing your thought process will help model how to responsibly commit to something and push through it, or how to end a commitment. 

Committing With Intention

Help your teen develop a well-thought-out system for making commitments in their life. Encourage them to consciously consider all of the costs and responsibilities and clearly establish why they want to take on this new commitment. This will go a long way in helping them persist when things get tough.

Some questions for your teen to think through are: 

  • Specifically, why am I considering this commitment?
  • What are the costs in time, money and energy?
  • Will I have to sacrifice other conflicting activities?
  • Who will be counting on me to follow through?
  • What are my parents’ expectations, and what kind of time, effort and financial investments they will need to make?

When They Want To Quit

Even after careful consideration, it’s likely there will come a day when your teen will want to abandon a commitment they have made.

Uncovering the reason behind their desire to quit is important.

It could be that they have become bored, frustrated or overwhelmed. Maybe they found that this activity wasn’t what they anticipated or that it’s just not worth the effort for the amount of enjoyment. There might be bullying or personal conflict involved. Grab hold of this opportunity to equip them with tools that help them deal with conflict.

Lastly, revisit the questions from above that were answered prior to making the commitment. With this information, you can decide together if it makes sense to push through or back out of the commitment. 

Life Can Be Tough

President Obama had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office that read, "Hard Things Are Hard." Seems obvious. But whether you are the president or a teenager who is struggling with virtual learning during a pandemic, it's powerful to acknowledge and embrace the challenges that come with difficult moments in life.

Hard work will be required to do great things (or even kinda good things). Remind your teenager that it's OK to get frustrated, but don't let that frustration deter them from continuing on. 

Would It Help To Get Help?

teen talking with teacher

Depending on the situation, a tutor, personal coach or extra practice could be the perfect tool to help your teen persevere, while not becoming overwhelmed or overly frustrated.

If it’s a challenging class in school, encourage your teen to start by communicating with the teacher. Most teachers genuinely want their students to succeed and will help devise a plan to help their students get the extra support they need. Help your teen think through what resources are available to them.

When It’s Time To Throw In The Towel

There are times when the “never give up” mantra does not apply. In some situations, sticking it out can be unhealthy. Whether it's continuing to participate in a sport despite chronic injuries, sacrificing sleep for endless studying or enduring an abusive boss at work, sometimes it's best to move on. Talk with your teen about what they can take away from the situation and how to process any feelings of failure they may be experiencing. 

Ironically, developing perseverance requires, in itself, perseverance. And teenagers have a lot on their plates while making the transition from child to adult. Your support, consistency and guidance are key ingredients for equipping them with a healthy dose of perseverance.  

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