Helping Your Child Embrace Challenges

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

As parents, we all want our kids to be successful learners and to feel confident and supported in school. But doing well in school isn't just about getting good grades. In the long term, the most successful students will be the ones who learn to overcome adversity and face challenges with resilience.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor of psychology, has done extensive research on how to help kids (and adults) understand the importance of putting forth effort to accomplish goals and effectively manage setbacks. In her research, she finds that kids who learn easily and excel in school are often the ones who struggle the most when faced with a challenge.

Fortunately, parents can help their kids persevere better by changing the way they praise them. Here are a few tips from Dweck:

Don't praise easy accomplishments. Celebrating quick successes teaches kids that your approval depends on them doing things easily - and it may make them afraid to do harder tasks. Instead, focus on praising their effort and improvement.

Help your child find the joy in challenges. When your child is tackling a difficult task, say things like, "This is going to take a lot of effort. What fun!" or "Oh, well, our first attempt didn't work. Now we can think about the problem in a new way." Talk to them about the value of sticking with an assignment, even when it is hard.

Focus on the process, not the outcome. Many kids worry about disappointing their parents if they don't reach their goals. It's important for them to know it is OK to make mistakes and fail occasionally. Use your praise to show your kids that you value their efforts and their struggles as much as their achievements.

It's natural to want to shield your child from hardships, but remember that everyone must face challenges at some point. Learning to embrace difficult tasks and manage setbacks will not only help your children to be more successful in school, but also happier and more resilient throughout their lifetimes.

-Kathleen Hayes is Editor of Highlights High FiveTM and Highlights HelloTM magazines. To learn more about Highlights products, please