It’s something every parent dreads hearing. Your child stares up at you and says, “It’s too hard. I can’t do it.” What you do and say next will determine whether your child learns to persist and continue even when frustrated, or feels justified in giving up. These are the messages every child needs to hear when school work gets difficult.
These messages will help your child realize that sometimes learning IS tough! Not everything that’s taught in school is easy for every student. And of course, every child has a different set of strengths and weaknesses (as do the rest of us).
While that’s natural, it’s also frustrating for a child who is encountering a topic, subject, or skill that is hard for them. All of us want to be competent and no one likes admitting that they struggle. This is when it feels easier to give up than to put your nose to the grindstone and push on through.
Of course, some kids have other coping mechanisms when they’re struggling in school. It’s not unusual to discover that the class clown (or even the bully) is behind academically. It’s an unfortunate reality in schools that often kids would rather give the appearance that they don’t care than to admit that they don’t understand. Being a clown is cool – asking questions till you understand something generally is not.
How you can help
When the going gets tough, here are the basic messages your child needs to hear. Fortunately, these messages, once internalized, will help your child deal with other difficulties as well. That’s a good thing since life will be full of tough times.
“I know this is hard sometimes but I know you can learn it. I have confidence in you”
“Learning this is like packing for a long journey. You never know when it will come in handy and you’ll need it.”
“You won’t learn anything if I do it for you. And you’ll feel great when you prove to yourself that you’re capable of doing it.”
“Everyone has things that come easily and things they have to work harder at. It doesn’t make you stupid, dumb, or lazy. It makes you normal.”
“The people who are successful in the adult world aren’t necessarily the ones who made the best grades. The successful ones are those who learned how to keep working and not give up.”
“Everything that you can do now was hard for you in the beginning.”
“I still have things I struggle with as an adult.”
“I’m proud of your effort. It’s easier to give up when things are hard than to keep on trying. You’ve earned the right to be proud of yourself.”
It can be hard to sit by and watch your child struggle. Our natural urge is to make things easier and more comfortable. So to tell your child that they need to continue even though they’re struggling is a definite test for us as parents. But in order for our kids to grow up into adults who don’t crumble and quit at the first sign of difficulty requires that we teach them the skill of perseverance. They’ll be grateful one day that you did.
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