When kids get frustrated or bored with an activity, they may be tempted to quit. But when the going gets tough, you can help your child learn to “stick with it.” As school and social challenges can build up in middle school, it’s an important skill for kids. It can help boost their self-esteem and motivate them to keep trying. Here are six tips to help your middle-schooler stick with it.
1. Become a model.
Kids may not stick with something because they don’t understand it or don’t remember how to do it. A good way to teach them to stick with a task is to practice it several times together. For example, walk him through each step of making the bed. Show him how to smooth out and tuck in the sheets, put on the blankets and arrange the pillows. You can even take a picture of the end result. He can refer to the picture later when making the bed on his own.
Learn why chores are good for kids.
2. Don’t give empty praise.
It’s important to give your child positive feedback, but it needs to be accurate. If his art project doesn’t look so great, don’t tell him it’s a masterpiece. Empty praise can make kids feel like you don’t understand what quality work is. Or it can make it seem like you don’t think they can do any better. Instead, emphasize how much work he put into an activity and ask questions about his process. Your honest feedback can build his self-esteem and give him the courage to try another project.
Learn more about what to say and why it helps to give honest praise.
3. Focus on the means to an end.
Some kids may view a project as an insurmountable challenge. They can have trouble looking closely at what it takes to complete it. When this happens, help your child figure out how far he is from the finish line. One way to do this is chunking, or breaking down the tasks of the project into manageable chunks. This shows your child there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. This roadmap can make the whole project seem more doable.
Learn how to break big jobs into smaller tasks.
4. Build in exit strategies.
Kids can have a difficult time figuring out if an activity is a good fit. So if your child wants to try something new, build in an exit strategy. Agree to a trial period of one month or longer. Make clear that after that, you’ll sit down and see how it’s going. If he doesn’t like it at the end of the trial period, give him an opportunity to do something else. This way he won’t feel like he’s signing up for an endless commitment.
5. Discourage making comparisons.
When kids compare themselves to their friends and siblings, it can take a toll on their self-esteem. Try to discourage your child from comparing his performance with that of other students or even siblings. If possible, select activities that friends aren’t currently doing or that siblings haven’t done in the past. And if comparisons are unavoidable, give honest feedback. This lets your child know it’s his effort that counts.
6. Aim for empathy.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that some tasks are difficult for your child. But kids don’t need pity. Instead, they need validation and to feel understood. Try talking to your child about something you struggled with at his age. If math was hard for you, it’s important for him to hear how frustrated you felt. When you share tough experiences with your child, he feels accepted. And this can help motivate him to keep trying.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.