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‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear;
Try, try again.

The road to accomplishing good things is often a difficult one. Those who choose to travel it possess a pivotal ingredient that enables them to succeed– determination. This firmness of purpose is a worthy quality for any parent to teach their child.

Angela Duckworth, Ph.D, is a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has spent the last fourteen years studying determination (or what she calls “grit”) in child development. She found that “grit matters more to a child’s ability to reach his full potential than intelligence, skill, or even grades.”

But how do parents teach their child something as intangible and abstract as determination? While there is no perfect checklist, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get started.

  1. Provide honest, but gentle, feedback. This helps your child realize there is more to learn outside his current skill level. Feedback requires a delicate balancing act between kindling a desire for self improvement and squashing a child’s enthusiasm. However, this can be achieved by coupling appreciation for your child’s efforts with teaching him how to improve his skills
  2. Encourage your child to go outside his comfort zone. In the article 7 Steps Parents Can Take to Teach Kids to Have More Grit, psychotherapist Jill Cedar writes,  “Encouraging kids to try new things gives them a chance to prove that they can do anything.” 
  3. Use effort-based praise when your child does something difficult. This type of reinforcement focuses more on how you child performs a task rather than the end product. According to author and teacher Amanda Morin, “Effort-based praise lets you tell your child you value not only him, but also his willingness to take risks and his determination to work toward his goals.”
  4. Foster your child’s interests and provide opportunity for further development. Passion fuels many a person through hardships and young ones are no exception. The determination developed in the pursuit of a cherished interest translates into the determination needed to get unpleasant, but necessary, work done.
  5. Allow your child to develop at least one skill that doesn’t come naturally. If tone deaf, then teach your child how to sing on key; if dyslexic, hold family Shakespeare readings. Your child will realize that his efforts are not in vain and that self improvement, though difficult and uncomfortable, yields satisfying fruit.
  6. Let your kid make mistakes and fail. Then help him get back on the horse. For centuries, the sharp pangs of failure have inspired many people through difficulty and into greatness. When your child fails, provide an opportunity for him to improve. For example, if he botches making pancakes, teach him how to follow a recipe and then let him try again.
  7. Don’t save your child from “desirable difficulties.” Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, told Huffpost: To benefit from desirable difficulties, kids have to be able to get frustrated, redirect themselves, take a breath, reread the instructions and stick with it long enough that they can overcome that frustration and actually feel that sense of competence when they actually work it out.
  8. Set the example with your own actions. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do thunders so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” If you want your child to have determination, you need to possess it yourself.

William Bennett sums it up best in The Book of Virtues. He says: 

How do we encourage our children to persevere, to persist in their efforts to improve themselves, their own lot, and the lot of others? By standing by them, and with them and behind them; by being coaches and cheerleaders, and by the witness of our own example” (pg. 528).


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