“It’s too hard!” “I can’t do it!” “I’ll never be good at it!” “I give up!” Every parent has heard words like these, as your child gives up far too easily. You wince, because you don’t want your child to be a “quitter.” You want your child to learn to persevere, to face life with grit and resilience. To do hard things.
Kids can feel like giving up for a variety of reasons, so it’s important to understand where they’re coming from.
- Maybe your child’s personality leans toward the perfectionist side. It’s hard to accept a less than perfect outcome, so they give up as soon as they start to see imperfection.Or maybe they just don’t care (and what’s to say they should?).
- Maybe other kids are mocking your child and your child doesn’t want to risk that vulnerability again.
- Or your child feels your perfectionist tendency and is afraid of not measuring up to your expectations.
- Or your child doesn’t have the vocabulary to process all the overwhelming negative feelings they experience when they face a challenge.
- Or perhaps your little one has never seen overcoming adversity modeled as a good or pleasurable process.
If any of this feels familiar, take a deep breath. Don’t label your child who gives up easily as a quitter. Instead, dive into what it takes to raise a child with the grit needed to tackle life’s twists and turns.
A camping story
Lying in the tent, I (Lynne) was angry. Yet again our dream wilderness canoe trip had turned into a week of horrible weather.
Because of pervasive bad weather throughout each of our previous four trips, we had intentionally picked the “statistically best weather week” of the summer: the last week in July. Ha.
This time we were pummelled by a ferocious, relentless, and cold wind that threatened to blow away our tents and kept us trapped for four days on the same little island.
But the kids had been quite resilient through all of this, working hard and creating fun where there seemed to be none. They each knew that choosing this attitude was a blessing to all. But I was still frustrated.
I almost gave up too easily
Like many of the writers of the psalms, I freely expressed my frustration to God. Really? It’s been hot, sunny, and calm most of the summer and we get rotten weather! Again. Why?
At that moment, I remembered earlier in the trip watching the collaborative effort of our kids, and our friends’ kids. Together, they heroically wrestled the wind to canoe to the centre of the little cove to get clear drinking water for the group. With that image God helped me answer my own question, Because I’m raising overcomers!
Was that God speaking to me? You never quite know, but I answered meekly, Oh… good plan. Really good plan. I shared this insight with the whole group later around the campfire, sipping hot coffee from the water they’d fetched. It was a holy moment as the kids seemed to embrace God’s good purposes to go through hard things for the benefit of others, and building endurance “muscles” in the process.
Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, explains that people motivated by altruism score higher on grit scales, than those motivated by personal pleasure.
So why a camping story? Because it is a graphic illustration of an important principle: Only in adversity with a purpose can our children learn to be resilient “overcomers.”
Give your kids a better “why” for giving their effort
When people give gritty and resilient effort to something, they might do it because they want the self-satisfaction of completing it. This is a good thing, but very few people come by this naturally. Of course, we want our kids to be a blessing to others, but we also want them to learn to complete a task because it feels good to finish a job well done. Of course, if this becomes the primary motivator we can start to see our kids develop an inflated view of themselves.
If they don’t really value the task, they might do it just to impress someone or get them off their back. If this is the goal, the “perseverance” may not be all that helpful if it leads to people-pleasing insecurity. For example high-achieving kids often exhibit great diligence in their studies but are more susceptible to anxiety and depression.
What the Bible says about diligence and perseverance
What if we, as parents, follow the example that Christ set for us? We can point our kids to an even better reason for diligence and perseverance by teaching them: You are called to be a blessing to others and to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth.
The Apostle Paul is the epitome of a biblical character that suffered and persevered, and he speaks strongly of the value of suffering, “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Most of us would probably state that we desire to raise resilient, gritty, faith-filled kids that can overcome difficulty and challenges. At the end of the day, when we help kids learn the value of participating in God’s kingdom work, we give them a deeper gift of resilience than the world gives. We give them the gift of learning, like the Apostle Paul, to “go through various trials,” “run the race to get the prize,” and “do all things through Christ who gives them strength!” That’s why we persist.
Teaching resilience to our kids is a high calling as a parent. There are many thoughtful ways we can grow the values and skills that equip kids to be overcomers. Kids who live a life of faith-filled perseverance.
But it all starts with us, as the parents, modeling resilience as we overcome our own personal challenges. As we model this for our kids, they will begin to see adversity as an opportunity for them to learn resilience themselves.
And thankfully, when we put resilience into the perspective of Jesus’ life, it’s not about accomplishing things or outward success. It’s more often about resting in the Truth, and carrying on.
Jesus as an example of resilience
Consider Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4. He faced adversity that many of us could never imagine.
Hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Face-to-face with the very embodiment of evil.
And he persisted, but his persistence didn’t come in the form of action. In fact, Satan wanted Jesus to survive via action —action devoid of the will of his Father.
But Jesus leaned into Truth. When he could have moved mountains and turned stones into the bread he hungered for, Jesus simply spoke the Truth and kept on.
As followers of Jesus, it will never be our responsibility to single-handedly save any situation or overcome any tragedy. Instead, we lean into Christ.
Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”
That’s it. Our deepest resilience lies in an unruffled confidence in that Truth.
So consider how you model this and talk about it with your kids. Letting our children watch us lean into the comforting, encouraging, empowering presence of Jesus when things are difficult points them toward the Source of a lifetime of resilience.