When developing Functional Parenting I really wanted to place an emphasis on family values. It’s something that we don’t discuss enough yet is so important and informative when it comes to describing the type of parents we are or the kind of children we want to raise.

I’ve discussed some values over the past couple of weeks, but one that I really wanted to touch upon is the concept of persistence. Persistence is a quality that drives you to continue or to do something even though it’s difficult or opposed by others. It is synonymous with determination and people that hold this value tend to be consistent, patient, responsible and disciplined. They work hard to achieve whatever it is they are striving to reach.

Trying Your Best vs. Succeeding

So, you probably didn’t know it, but there is a national ‘holiday’ called Reach as High as You Can Day. The purpose of this holiday is to remind us all that if we try hard enough, anything is possible. This is a sentiment that I truly believe in and find myself telling not only my clients, but also my children on a frequent basis.

Which brings me to the question that I think many of us consider…is it more important to try your best or is it more important to succeed? Some believe that if you’re not successful in accomplishing a task then what’s the point? Others believe that as long as you’re trying your best that’s all we can ask for. What are we teaching our children about this debate?

Trying Your Best

When I was growing up, I was a pretty well rounded kid; good student, athlete, social. I had a great group of friends, was a part of a very distinguished and elite music program and played sports at a high level. I loved everything I participated in and typically succeeded in most of the things I did. When I didn’t get that part in the school play it was upsetting, but I quickly learned that I can’t always get everything that I thought I deserved.

It wasn’t until I got to college that the concept of trying your best and taking what you’ve learned as enough was brought to light. My freshman year, I received the first ‘C’ of my academic career. I was devastated. I had taught the information to all of my friends, and they had all done better in the class then I had. How is that possible?

Is the Pressure Worth It?

As I was crying to my mom after I learned I had earned my first ‘C’ she said to me “Lisa, are you learning? Do you understand what is being taught? Are you enjoying yourself?

Then it’s ok that you got a ‘C’. No one is going to judge you in life because you got a ‘C’ in this class. I’m not upset or disappointed in you. As long as you are learning and trying your best that’s all that matters.”

It was a game changing moment for me and one where I realized that the ‘pressure’ that I felt to succeed was a pressure that I was putting on myself. Suddenly I had the thought of “is the pressure I am placing on myself worth the stress?” I am the one placing all of these expectations on myself…and yes, they are often resulting in success, but they also cause a lot of grief and anxiety.

Trying Your Best

Trying your best really is all in your attitude. If you attack a problem, situation, task with your best effort and fail, that’s ok. You know that you’ve tried your best and sometimes you can’t always do everything perfectly. Persistence isn’t always about success…it’s about continuing on even in times of failure or disappointment.

Now, we need to teach this to our kids. How can we teach them that it’s not always about winning, succeeding, getting the prize or being the best? How can we let them know that they can be just as proud of themselves for trying their best?

5 Ways to Encourage Kids to be Persistent

Here are some things that you can say to your kids to encourage them to try their best: (click here for your own copy)

1. Give it 100% of your effort

An important rule in trying your best is to make sure that you are really giving your all. If you’re not putting 100% into what you are doing, are you really trying your best? If you fail or fall short of your goal, but you have given 100% of your effort, at least you know that you didn’t fail for lack of trying.

2. Try, try again

You know the old adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This could not be truer with trying your best and being persistent. If you try once and fail, do not give up. Try again. Think about what you did the first time and see if you can do it a slightly different way the second time. Did that work? No? What if we change something else? There is never only one way to solve a problem. The way I do it may be different than how you do it. And that’s ok.

3. Ask for Help

This is something that I know I have always had a hard time with. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it. The important thing to remember is when you need it. If you’ve tried your best multiple times and you are still not successful, go ahead and ask for assistance. Someone else may be able to give you a bit of advice to look at the problem in a different way. That little bit of help may be just what you need to complete your task.

4. If you don’t succeed, that’s ok

I’ll say it again…it’s OK if you fail. As long as you tried your best. Not everyone can be excellent at everything. The world would be such a boring place if we could all play basketball like Lebron or develop technology like Bill Gates. We can’t all be great all the time. Sometimes we fail or fall short, and we have to learn to be ok with that. If you’ve tried your best, that’s the best we can ask for.

5. Everything is a learning experience

Learning doesn’t only happen at school or practice. Life itself it a learning experience. If you tried your best but didn’t succeed, learn from it. Why weren’t you successful? Was there something you could have done differently? Did you not solve the problem because you didn’t understand the question? Did you not complete the puzzle because you weren’t sure how to put the pieces together? Try to learn from every situation you encounter. You never know how something you learn while playing soccer may help you solve a math problem in the future.

Persistence is learned

Let’s lead by example. It’s just as important for us to try our best, fail and continue on as it is for our children.  And as I’ve said before, our kids learn so much from observing us and seeing how we handle situations. So go ahead and let them see you get frustrated. Let them see you deal with it.

Then, try to take a brief moment and watch your child engage in a challenging activity. Did they succeed? If not, did they give up right away or did they keep trying to do it until they finally asked for help, gave up or succeeded? Can you tell they are trying their best?

Go ahead and tell them what you’ve noticed. You’d be surprised at how much you can encourage positive social emotional development and persistence with a few simple words such as ‘just try your best’. 🙂


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