Perseverance. Persistence. Endurance. Grit. Whatever you call it, life throws us curve balls and we need to know how to swing when they come.

Perseverance is the key to a thriving and successful life. The trouble is, perseverance is rare these days.

As a family therapist and sports coach, I’ve noticed many kids haven’t learned how to respond to normal childhood emotions like boredom, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, failure or loss. As parents, we don’t help when we shield kids from those things.

At a recent elementary school track meet, the announcer declared, “Everyone is a winner!” and later, “All finishers get a ribbon.” This is the kind of attitude that keeps counselors like me in business.

The key to perseverance is looking through a new lens

Interestingly, some kids will naturally thrive in a competition, no matter what their outcome, while others interpret loss as a complete failure.

This is not just true for sporting events, but in all areas of life—academics, relationships, job performance, etc. The point is, persevering through hardships is a learned process—one that takes training and practice from an early age.

Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, attributes his tenacity and hard work ethic to the adversity he experienced at boarding school. When getting his restaurant business off the ground, he put sales and business skills to work, but it was the perseverance he learned early in life that helped him work through fear and disappointment and remain focused on his goal.

Ancient writings tell us that adversity produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope.  Who wouldn’t want that?

Three mindsets to developing persistence

Truett Cathy and others who have successfully faced adversity were able to filter circumstances through a lens that kids can develop at any age. 

1. Adversity is an opportunity for growth and bounce

When your child fails, acknowledge the hurt, but quickly move him toward helpful thoughts. It’s great to recognize your child’s talents, but let him know talent requires refinement—the process of working through the ups and downs. Winners first learn how to lose well, so that they don’t panic when things go unexpectedly wrong. Like a rubber ball, teach them how to bounce back.

2. Adversity is an opportunity for creative problem solving

Help your child come up with multiple ways to see the same situation or problem. Remember, everything has a solution, you just have to find it. Maybe you can encourage your child to talk to a few trusted adults in their life to see how differing opinions and perspectives can lead to a strong resolution.  

3. Adversity can build humility

If your child experiences only perfection and praise, he’ll expect perfection and praise. Imperfection keeps us interdependent on others. It’s what allows us to experience the excitement of growing. Helping our children to overcome adversity by allowing them to work through failures helps to give them a sense of control. Remember Asset #37: Personal Power. We need to help our children navigate live in such a way that will help them to feel that he or she has control over “things that happen to them.”

As parents, we get the privilege of teaching kids how to respond to that which they cannot control by teaching them to control what they can—their thoughts.