In Parenting Help

Instilling Determination in Your Kids’ Lives


There are many values worth teaching your children to prepare them for adulthood. Determination is perhaps one of the most important. Some children are naturally persistent – they enjoy going after challenges and conquering them one by one. Other children need to be constantly encouraged to not give up. With proper training, children can learn the value of determination in overcoming obstacles and accomplishing their goals.

Define Determination

One of the best ways to define determined is ‘not giving up until you accomplish your goal.’ A person who is determined to succeed will keep going until the job is done. Being resolute, persistent and tenacious would be good synonyms for being determined.

Although many psychologists believe that persistence is a trait that’s inherited from generation to generation, parents can help their children cultivate this trait through personal experience. By encouraging your kids to persevere in learning new tasks, you strengthen their resolve to overcome obstacles to accomplish their goals. Here are some ways to develop this trait in your kids’ lives.

Reward Your Child for Trying

When children undertake a difficult task, they need encouragement and support to not give up. Your praise and encouragement will go a long way toward helping your children stick to the task at hand. Even if a child “fails”, such as losing a competition, you can applaud the valor in trying. The goal is not “winning” per se, but teaching kids to persist in their efforts and do the best they can. Your children may feel they’ve failed if they don’t get the results they desire. However, if they’ve persevered and done their best, you can recognize the progress made and celebrate it as an achievement.

Work Together to Accomplish Objectives

A child who’s determined to get something done may see nothing else but the task at hand. This may become a problem if he or she has additional responsibilities at home or school. You may need to help your child create a balance in his or her agenda to accommodate both your needs.

On the flip side, if your child is lacking determination and making excuses for not pursuing his goal, you may want to prioritize his objective to encourage him or her not to give up. Every situation needs to be judged on its own merits. Teaching your kids persistence empowers them for the future. Your efforts in encouraging them to develop this trait will have long lasting positive effects in their lives.

Look for Open Doors

There may be times you need to help your child determine whether a task is worth undertaking or not. Children may be gung ho on learning something that’s not the best due to their age, time constraints, health or home or school responsibilities, etc. Encourage your children to set their sights on doable objectives and seek open doors, rather than wasting their time on poor choice goals. Try to guide your child to alternative choices without dampening his or her enthusiasm. In the course of learning this trait, your child will also learn the value of patience and making wise choices.

If At First You Don’t Succeed….

Most children will not succeed in their efforts the first time around. That’s why they need to develop perseverance. Older children who set difficult goals should be prepared to endure for the long haul to accomplish their objectives. By breaking their goal into smaller steps, they can accomplish it one step at a time, celebrating each victory along the way.

Don’t be alarmed if at some point your child has a change of heart in his or her objectives. Your 9-year old girl who begged you to join a ballet class at the beginning of school may discover she has a flair for soccer over the summer and opt to quit the former to join the latter. It’s important you give your kids room to experiment in order to discover their passions.

A child who is constantly quitting tasks, however, may have a problem with fear. Fear of failure can easily squelch your child’s desire for learning. By helping your children overcome their fears and develop a can-do spirit, you set them on the path of accomplishment.

Model Perseverance in Your Own Life

You can also teach your kids perseverance by your own example. Your example of determination in completing certain tasks or reaching certain goals, despite setbacks, will encourage them to do the same.

Goal Setting Strategies that Encourage Determination

It can be very frustrating for a parent to see their kids giving up so easily when they have the ability to accomplish a task. Teaching your kids how to set goals and then meet them can help in this area. Learning goal setting strategies can help older kids, tweens and teens achieve their personal and academic objectives. In the process, they’ll gain confidence in their abilities and grow in self-esteem.

Children who have a good image of themselves are happier and better capable of handling difficulties in their lives. Traits such as determination, confidence and good self-esteem can help kids overcome obstacles in their home life such as separation or divorce. Kids who develop these traits are also more capable of handling negative peer pressure or bullying in school.

The following strategies can teach your older children how to set realistic goals for what they want to achieve.

  • Start with small goals and work your way up to more difficult objectives. According to leadership training instructor Jim Wiltens, “Little goals are the best way to get kids moving toward big goals.”
  • Be selective in your goals. Choose goals that interest and motivate you to action. Then develop a plan to achieve these goals. (Naturally, there will be times kids need to complete tasks they don’t necessarily like, such as learning certain subjects in school or keeping up with home responsibilities. Developing a plan to get this work done will make these “unpleasant” tasks easier to accomplish).
  • Be realistic in your objectives. Consider the obstacles and challenges of your goal and make sure your goal is within your capabilities and circumstances. By waiting a few years, you may be in a better position for that particular objective.
  • Celebrate progress and give yourself credit for your efforts. Mastering a skill takes time. By acknowledging the progress that has been made, you will be more determined to keep going.

Using Stories to Teach Determination

If your kids like to read, introducing them to character building books that portray examples of courage and perseverance can encourage them to adopt these traits in their own lives. Here are a few titles to help them get started:

  • Wilma Unlimited – determination in sports
  • Apples to Oregon – perseverance as pioneers
  • Thank you, Mr. Falker – determination to read
  • Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen – determination to learn to ride a bike
  • Amazing Grace – success despite opposition

Posting quotes on perseverance in your child’s bedroom can also help him or her keep the vision when things get tough. Here are a few determination quotes your kids may like:

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
–William Feather

“When someone tells me “no,” it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.”– Karen E. Quinones Miller

“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.”– Robert Strauss

“Fall. Stand. Learn. Adapt.”– Mike Norton

Self Determination Definition

Self determination is the belief that people can control their own destiny by setting goals that align with their mindsets, abilities and skills. Through self determination, people take charge of their lives by making their own choices, solving their own problems and taking responsibility for their decisions. In like manner, they also accept the consequences of their decisions.

Before practicing this trait, children need to learn self-awareness, assertiveness and problem solving skills. Greater awareness of their capabilities and skills will help your children make wise decisions; assertiveness will enable them to follow through with the decisions they make. Creativity and problem solving skills will help kids evaluate their options, set goals and develop a plan for achieving those goals.

Self determination skills are best developed through practice. A child’s home, school and personal life offer plenty of opportunities for him or her to hone these skills. This requires that parents give their children greater freedom to make decisions for themselves, along with taking responsibility for their mistakes.

As a parent, you may to wait until your children are mature enough to take greater control of their lives. As kids transition into teens, they will be making more personal, social and academic decisions that will affect their future. The more practice they have in this area, the better, as it will help them grow into more capable, responsible adults.

If taught properly, determination and self determination are concepts that will strengthen children and prepare them for facing challenges in their future.

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