When Your Child Wants to Quit


What parent hasn't struggled with knowing what to do or say as they watched their child feeling frustrated and wanting to quit? Research shows that kids who persist and excel recognize that success comes from hard work and practice, not luck or money or genetics. In fact, if kids believe that performance is due to effort, they will be less likely to give up and will work harder when the going gets tough.

  1. Let them see you struggle a little. Take up a new sport, language or instrument and practice where you are noticeable. Your instinct may be to shield your kids from watching you struggle but do the opposite. Nothing can be as powerful as showing them what it truly means to persist.

  2. Remind your kid of past success. The next time your child wants to raise the white flag, bring up his previous victories. The confidence a child gains from mastering one thing tends to carry over to other areas.

  3. Read books that reinforce not quitting. A great book for little ones is the "Little Engine that Could." For older children, reading books about people who preserved like Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, and Serena Williams can be very inspiring.

  4. Take a break. Sometimes it is helpful to take a short break from the frustrating situation and come back to it later. Taking a break re-energizes children and helps them to see things from a fresh perspective.

  5. Help them develop a mantra. We win or lose the battle in our minds by what we tell ourselves. If we think we can't, we probably can't. Teach your child about the importance of self-talk and help him create a mantra that works for him. My daughter's mantra was, "I can, I will, and I won't stop!"

  6. Play win-lose games. Sometimes children want to quit when they feel they won't be able to win. Playing games where they sometimes win and they sometimes lose is an great preparation for life. It is not the winning or losing that counts. What counts is our attitude about it.

  7. Break it down. Children become most overwhelmed when the task feels to big to handle. Help them conquer their feelings of being overwhelmed by breaking down the task into smaller, manageable chunks or goals.

  8. Re-frame your cheer leading. Children who are praised for their results ("Good work! You got an A!") or ability ("You're so good at math!") tend to fall apart when things don't come as easily as they grow older. However, kids who are commended for their effort ("You must have worked hard at that!") are much more likely to persevere, because they equate achievement with hard work.

  9. Perseverance is a life skill. If you take a few moments every week to teach this skill, your child will be able to use his unique talents more confidently in the world.

Note: There may be times in a child's life where it might be appropriate to quit such as when your child has stuck with the task with full effort but it no longer brings him joy. If a coach or teacher is abusive or uninspiring. strongly consider allowing your child to quit or get another mentor. In general, perseverance is a good habit to establish.

Parenting Practice: This week, try using one of the above methods

Click here for handout

"11 Things to Say When Your Child Wants to Quit"

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Parenting can be quite the challenge. It is always good to have new tools in your "parenting tool box." Want personal coaching and problem solving solutions? Sign up for a FREE 15 Minute Strategy Session. We will pinpoint an irksome behavior and plan a strategy for resolving this issue.

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Kathryn Kvols

Author, Lecturer, Parenting Coach

(352) 494-1581

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Kathryn Kvols | Redirecting Children's Behavior

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