Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers in 2001, to research the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research in what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.

This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s wellbeing and quality of life across the globe.

Strength #6 Perseverance

We’ve all heard the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again…” It certainly encapsulates part of the characteristics of the strength of perseverance. People with perseverance:
  • Work hard to complete what they've started - even if it's difficult
  • Refuse to quit, until they’re done with the task
  • Turn down parties and social events when they have a deadline
  • Enjoy when they complete an assignment
Tips on promoting perseverance:
  • It’s always best to teach by example, of course. If you are open with your child and let them see you struggle and still keep going. If they see that failure doesn’t faze you, doesn’t embarrass you or stop you. If you show that things didn’t go great the first time, but you thought about it, found out how to do it, and then succeeded, that’s perseverance right there!
  • All children get impatient and frustrated at times. Even very young children can get upset if they can’t build a tower out of blocks, or can’t put the shape in the right hole. It’s tempting to remove that frustration, to avoid the 'bad' feelings. Instead, acknowledge their feelings, “It’s OK, it’s tricky, isn’t it? It’s OK to feel frustrated. But let’s see if we can try again. Won’t that be fun?!” Encouraging children to keep trying, but acknowledging that it’s not always easy, is a great learning experience.
  • Sharing age-appropriate stories of times when you didn't reach your own goal the first time, but then tried again (maybe again and again and again). This can be done from a very early age. I used to talk to my own children about jobs I was going for, talking about how to set small goals, which would help me reach a bigger goal. And if I didn’t get that job, I’d show them how I would then try for another. It’s a huge part of learning how to be resilient, facing failure and pushing on.
  • Read stories together of people who have persevered and achieved. There are many great books around. I particularly like the ‘Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls’ series.
  • Don’t over-protect and give your children activities that they can easily do. Part of learning perseverance is being given challenges – activities not so easily achieved. This gives children the opportunity to strive, problem solve, overcome, and achieve. However, if the challenges are too difficult or impossible, you will be giving children a negative experience and will be teaching them that trying is a waste of time! Get the balance right and don’t set them up to fail.
  • Get your child to choose their own challenges – it makes everything more personal to them. It could be something like reading a story, finishing a creative project, or getting into the netball team. When children succeed and achieve a goal of their own, it is such a positive, affirming experience – and they will want more!
  • Teach them how to find out things and problem solve. Show them how to look for information in books, on the internet … If they can find the help they need to achieve a goal, it reinforces the process.
  • Always acknowledge effort. Any praise and encouragement for real effort is so affirming for your child. Don’t just give praise for an ‘end product’, instead praise the process of making or doing, e.g. a painting, a model, climbing … Remember also that we tend to praise our children for being smart, but remember to offer encouragement for completing goals, for trying hard, and for being determined. So instead of saying, "Wow! Ten out of ten for your spelling test! You are so clever!” say “I know you found some of the words really difficult, but you kept on learning them and didn’t give up. Great job!”
  • Along with all of this, it’s also important to get your child to recognise that there are times when it is actually OK to quit. That it doesn’t mean we are a failure. We did our best, we tried. Time to move on. Leave it as a positive.
It can be hard for us as parents to see our children struggle, but remember that children learn from the struggle. They learn from that process. Perseverance is such an important strength for them to have for their future achievement and is a huge skill for well-being and happiness.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published