Are we raising a generation of quitters?
It's something every parent worries about from time to time. How do you raise kids to have perseverance? And how do you know when it's time to let them quit something?
Educational psychologist Michele Borba visited TODAY to talk about the issue, and she offers the following tips.
First of all, half the battle is picking the right activities for your child -- or letting them choose what's right for them. Dr. Borba advises:
Parents who want their kids to stick with a task set the right expectations. Here are five factors to consider:
1. Kid factor. Is what I’m expecting something my child is interested in or shows a talent for, or is it something I want more for myself? Who is pushing whom?
2. Time factor. Does my child have enough time to devote to practicing? Don’t overload! Beware, many tweens want to quit if there isn’t enough time for friends. A University of Maryland study found that over the past 20 years the amount of time children ages nine to 12 spend participating in structured sports has increased by 35 percent.
3. Challenge factor. Is my child developmentally ready for the tasks I’m expecting or am I pushing him beyond his internal timetable? The best expectations are realistic but also gently stretch your child “one step more.”
4. Teacher or coach factor. Is the coach or teacher skilled and tuned into kids? Benjamin Bloom’s study of 120 immensely talented (and successful) individuals (in such fields as science, swimming, art and music) found that the first teacher was critical.
5. Worth it factor. Is this activity commitment worth the time, finances and energy for both my child and our family?
So, you did your due diligence but your kid still wants to quit. Borba suggests the following ways to cope:
Might there be a simple way to get him over the slump? Talk to the teacher or coach to get their take. Watch from the sidelines to see if your kid’s complaints of unfair treatment are legit. Your goal is to figure out what’s really going on, and whether there is something you can do to help your child hang in there and get over the slump. Here are four common problems, and solutions:
1. Task or placement too advanced is too difficult; too much pressure to perform. Solution: Take your expectations down a notch; switch the class or team to one that is not quite as accelerated.
2. Over-scheduled; no down time or time to relax or be with friends. Solution: Free up time, drop one thing in that schedule.
3. Environment or teacher isn’t supportive; too harsh or punitive. Solution: Change the teacher or mentor; switch the team if needed.
4. Hasn’t experienced success yet, but it’s only been a short while. Solution: Get some help. Get a tutor to help him with the math class. Hire a high school student to throw him extra pitches.
Finally, you and your child have tried to make it work; when do you throw in the towel? Borba says:
You’ll need to weigh which lesson is more important: Helping your child learn to stick it out, or the realization that some activities just aren’t the right match. Here are five factors to help you decide:
1. Stress. Is it stressful enough to cause concerning behavioral changes in your child?
2. Joylessness. Is it mostly cheerless for the child? Has he stuck with the task for the required amount of time and just lost interest? Then it’s time to move on.
3. Beyond abilities. Despite his efforts, the activity is too difficult for his current abilities.
4. Poor coach or mentor. Not a good match for your child, yells too much, far too competitive, turns your kid off to the task, pushes “win at any cost,” unfair, not knowledgeable or offers poor advice, overall more harmful than helpful.
5. Gave it his best shot. Your child tried his hardest but things aren’t improving.
What do you think? How have you dealt with a child's urge to quit -- and how do you try to teach perseverance?