Why we need to encourage perseverance in children

When I used to teach, my students often got fed up with me, I will add here that it wasn’t because I was a terrible teacher, but because I refused to listen to the words ‘I can’t’.

‘I can’t do it’

The words I wouldn’t abide by.

I wasn’t being mean…

The thing is, I said it because I knew that they COULD do it – I just needed to show them a different way.

That was my job as far as I was concerned. If they weren’t getting it then I needed to explain it or demonstrate it in a different way so that they COULD get it and they COULD do their work and that they COULD achieve. After all, those achievements add up, and when we learn to persevere we learn do find new ways to do things. New routes to our goals, and new journeys to our destination. It might not have been the conventional route, but I was going to ensure that they went down their route.

It’s too easy to demonstrate to children that it’s ok to give up.

When we are short of time it is too easy to ‘do it for them’.

When it is hard and we see them struggling it is easy to take over.

When we can see them struggling with something it is easy to step in and change the situation.

Not because we want to change their path, just because we want to make it easier for them.

So what happens when we are adults?

How do we learn to persevere and push through as a grown up if we were never given an opportunity to as a child?

How do we learn to step up in the face of fear if when we were younger we had someone step in for us?

How do we learn to change our approach to a problem rather than quit on it if we were never shown those skills?

I don’t just mean our little ones, I mean our teenagers, our young people, even our young adults – sometimes even us adults need our inner child given a little bit of a push.

Perseverance is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills we can teach our children. I thank my parents every day for the fact that they taught me to keep going even when I wanted to quit. It got me through university whilst working full time, it got me through the hardest situations of my life, it got me through trials and tribulations at work and it helped me recover from heartache and disappointment. Every time I want to quit, my mind is still looking for a solution.

Benefits of perseverance

Developing perseverance boosts self-esteem, which can look like:

  • Being able to recognise our strengths
  • Being able to recognise our achievements
  • Feeling positive about life and the opportunities around us
  • Taking chances and opportunities
  • Seeking out things that they enjoy
  • Being honest about self
  • Can spend time alone
  • Ability to say no
  • Being excited about new opportunities
  • Talking about their successes
  • Having realistic expectations
  • Being able to bounce back from adversity, learning the lessons from it
  • Being authentic
  • Having healthy boundaries
  • Take responsibility for actions

So how can we teach our children to work at it? 

#1 – Let them make decisions which affect them

Start with little decisions, like how they wish to spend their pocket money and increase them as they grasp them. Understanding their own actions have consequences is a huge lesson for a child which will support them through life.

#2 – Let them finish things

Even if you have to come back to it later. The sense of accomplishment followed by a ‘well done’ will sit with them for all future successes and that sense of ‘I did it’ will serve them through all life skills.

#3 – Teach them to ask for help, but let them guide you

Whilst we sometimes want to jump in and save the day, encouraging and supporting children to problem solve and make decisions builds their confidence in resolving similar issues in the future.When they are struggling teach them it is ok to ask for help, but let them SHOW YOU what they need help with, do not take over.

#4 – Help them find solutions

If your child is stuck and getting stressed teach them how to break things down into manageable pieces so that they can find new solutions and ways to resolve them and make small achievements on their path to the bigger one.

#5 – Role model perseverance

Children watch our reaction and mimic them. If we role model perseverance, and communicate the steps that we take to overcome obstacles we can show children how to tackle challenges and strategies to finding solutions. For instance, seeking help, looking at alternative solutions or researching answers.


As our children’s teachers it is imperative that we teach them solutions and let them learn, these stored patterns will then sit ready for action at the next problem. So when they are older and a problem arises they can cope by seeking out patterns that they have previously used. This avoids a development of stress and anxiety in every day situations like exams, interviews and new situations as they have methods to revert to making life happier and more peaceful for both of you.


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Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – HERE 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – HERE

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit – HERE

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