The other day, I was at the ice skating rink dropping off my daughter for her figure skating lesson and I saw a young girl – about eight years old – come off the ice in tears. the ice in tears. “I can’t do it!” she cried to her mother, who was watching closely from the sidelines, holding an infant. “I’ve tried and tried, and I keep falling!”
“I’ve been watching, and you have been trying hard,” replied the mother, wiping away her daughter’s tears. “But if you give up now – just before you get it – you’ll never learn to skate! Even the best skaters in the world fall. In fact, the only way you learn anything is by making mistakes and continuing to try and try! So now, go back out on the ice and try again. I’m going to watch you, and I bet this time you will fall even less than you did before.”
As the little girl went back out onto the ice, waving to her mom and baby brother, I felt like jumping up and cheering for that mother!
She had just taught her child one of life’s most important lessons: Don’t give up on yourself!
There are many opportunities to teach your child this lesson, but it is possible that you will miss them, if you don’t look for them.
Places to look for opportunities to teach your child not give up on themselves include:
• Sports with peers that may be better athletes or with a strict coach
• Difficult homework assignments
• Learning to play a new game or when they are losing round after round
• Learning any new skill like tying laces, throwing a ball, braiding or making a sandwich
Of course, at times it can be difficult to encourage your child not to give up - especially when the going gets tough. Some kids give up easily - crying, having temper tantrums or refusing to continue with the activity.
Nonetheless, it is especially important to help a child exhibiting these behaviors by encouraging them to try to succeed a little more each time. If you give in to your child’s crying or tantrum, thereby allowing them to give up, you give them the clear message that you don’t think they can succeed. If they think you don’t believe in them, they are much less likely to believe in their own success! However, if you show your child that you won’t give in to their negative response and that you will continue to encourage them, despite the possibility of (further) failure, you teach them the powerful lesson that not only do you believe they will ultimately succeed, but that they need to believe in their own success as well.
With each situation in which your child pushes past the point of frustration and achieves a new accomplishment or learns a new skill, they will feel a great sense of pride, recognizing that each temporary defeat brings them one step closer to success… I won’t give up on myself!
Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest parenting book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at drsusanbartell.com
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