Many historians feel that one of Winston Churchill’s greatest speeches was given at a graduation ceremony at Oxford University. He had worked on the speech for hours. When the moment finally came, Churchill stood up to the cheering crowd, and in a strong, clear voice shouted just three words, “Never give up!” He paused a few seconds and shouted the words again, “Never give up!” He then reached for his hat and slowly walked off the podium, satisfied that he had told the graduates the messages they needed to succeed.
We need to make sure we pass on Churchill’s message to our own children. Only when children realize that success comes from hard work and diligence will they be the best they can be.
The following techniques, from my latest book, Parents Do Make A Difference: How to Raise Kids With Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts, are designed to help your child understand how critical perseverance is to achieving success in every arena of life.
- Define “perseverance.”
Take time to explain that perseverance means “not giving up” or “hanging in there until you complete the task you started.” When your child sticks to a task, point it out: “There’s perseverance for you. You hung in there with your work even though it was hard.”
- Teach “don’t give up” words.
Help your child tune in to the language of persevering individuals so that he can learn to use the terms in his own life. Ask, “What are the kinds of things you heard people who ‘don’t give up’ say?” Write a list of phrases, such as “I can do it!” “I’ll try again,” “Don’t give up!” “I don’t quit!” and “I’ll give it the best I have.” Add the heading “Don’t Give Up Words” and hang up the poster; encourage everyone to say at least one phrase a day.
- Model effort.
Take a pledge, especially this month, to show your child how you don’t give up on a task even when things get difficult. Before starting a new task, make sure your child overhears you say, “I’m going to persevere until I am successful.” Modeling the trait is always the number one teaching method.
- Start a family “Never give up!” motto.
Begin using the family motto “Don’t quit until you succeed.” A father once told me that conveying this life message was so important that they spent an afternoon together brainstorming family anthems about perseverance, such as “Try, try, and try again and then you will win,” “In this family, we finish what we start,” and “Quitters never win.” They wrote them on index cards, and his kids taped them on their bedroom walls. Develop your own family anthem as a reminder that your family code of behavior is to never give up.
- Create a “Stick to It” award.
Ask your child to help you find a stick at least the length of a ruler to acknowledge “stick-to-itiveness. A family in Seattle uses an old broomstick; another mother said her family uses a yardstick. Print “Stick to It Award” across the stick or dowel with a black marking pen. Now tell everyone to be on alert for family members showing special persistence for the next month. Each night have a family gathering to announce the names of family members who didn’t give up, and print their initials on the stick with a marking pen. Make sure to tell the recipients exactly what they did to deserve the award. Make it a content to see how long it takes to fill the stick with family members’ initials. Child love to count how often their initials appear on the stick!
Children learn best through repetition, so why not make perseverance your family theme of the month? Print the word “Perseverance” on a large poster and hang it on your refrigerator as a reminder and then everyday take a few minutes to point out to your kids why it is such an important trait of success. And above all remember: parents do make a difference!
Michele Borba, Ed.D. is an internationally-recognized consultant on increasing children’s self-esteem and achievement and is the author of 24 publications including Parents Do Make A Difference: How to Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts. A former classroom teacher and parent of three sons, she has presented keynotes and workshops to over half a million participants worldwide and is a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows.
© 1999 by Michele Borba. Adapted from Parents Do Make A Difference: How to Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104. 1999. $18.00 paperback, 320 pages. ISBN 0-7879-4605-2. Please contact for permission to reprint.