Does Your Child Give Up Easily?

It could be that your child gives up easily when faced with a challenge. It could be that your child wants to quit piano or a sport halfway through the season. Or maybe your child is afraid of “failing” or looking “dumb.” Or perhaps your perfectionist child won’t even try a new challenge for fear of not measuring up.

There can be lots of reasons that kids give up rather than persevering until a job is done. The question is how to handle those situations so your child comes out stronger. To figure that out, let’s examine common reasons that kids want to quit and how best to respond.

1. Your child may be embarrassed. When struggling with a problem that the child can’t figure out, the child may feel “dumb” and embarrassed not to know the answer. You can break the problem down into smaller chunks and find a skill that your child does know reminding your child of past success. Then build up one step at a time so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming to your child.

2. Your expectations may be too high. Check with others to see if the task you’re asking your child to do is age-appropriate. Sometimes the child really isn’t capable of what you’re requiring and a shift in your expectation will help build the child’s confidence.

3. Debunk ads. Your child is exposed to over one million ads each year that contain the message that life is easy, there’s a product to solve every problem, that we’re imperfect and always need more stuff and it all should happen right now. To counteract this tidal wave of messages you need to ridicule advertisements pointing out the blatant ways they try to twist our thoughts. Start laughing at the ads and limit your child’s exposure to ads as much as possible.

4. Win. Win. Win. Does your child’s team emphasize fun or winning? When too much emphasis is placed on winning, your child will feel like a “loser” unless the team is undefeated. Check your own attitude, too, and readjust if you need to. Choose teams that teach cooperation, team spirit and skill-building fundamentals, in a positive learning environment.

5. Listen to self-talk. If you hear your child saying, “I’m dumb” or “I’m a loser” or other negative comments, teach your child the skill of using positive self-talk. The messages that kids say to themselves matter. Use stick figures and thought bubbles and show how thoughts influence our actions. Have your child pick a mantra such as “I can do anything I put my mind to” to replace negative thoughts.

6. Redefine “mistakes.” Create a family motto about “mistakes” that emphasizes that mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow. “Stick to it. You can do it” is an easy motto to remember or think of singing the “Mistake” song:

    “Oops! I made a mistake, that’s all.

    Making mistakes are not fun but,

    Oops! I made a mistake,

    Mistakes can happen to anyone.”

7.  Praise effort and hard work. Several studies have shown that parents should shift praise from the final outcome to the effort a child puts forth. So instead of saying, “Congrats on the A in spelling,” you could say, “I noticed how you practiced your spelling words every day this week writing each word three times. Your hard work really paid off for you. Congrats!”

8.  Emphasize learning not grades. Ask your child each day to share something s/he has learned and do the same yourself to create an environment of curiosity and growth.

9.  Give the feeling a name. If you sense that your child is feeling overwhelmed name the feeling for your child and acknowledge that we all feel that way sometimes. Recognizing the emotion will help your child feel understood. Often times, you can shift to solving the problem after the child's feelings are validated.

10. Quash perfectionism. Making your own mistakes transparent is one way of fending off perfectionism (as well as recognizing it in yourself if that’s the case.) Every night at dinner have people share a mistake made and brainstorm solutions as a family. By doing so, you’re demonstrating that mistakes are no big deal and you can work together to solve anything. Also, remove the word "perfect" from your vocabulary.

11. Create a stick-to-it award. Give daily or weekly awards for stick-to-it-iveness when you see a child persevering through a tough challenge. You could put post-it notes with the accomplishment on a special “we try hard to succeed” bulletin board recognizing extra effort when you see it.


Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach with 18 years' experience helping parents find solutions that work. Get the complimentary Quick Start Report, "3 Essential Strategies for Getting Your Kids to Listen the First Time" here: