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Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament

1. Persistence: How persistent is your child?

easily lets go of an idea or stops an activity

willing to accept no for an answer

easily goes along with your plans

stops working on a puzzle if a piece doesn't fit

accepts your first answer to his question

      finds it difficult to let go of an idea or activity that he has chosen

refuses to accept no for an answer

wakes up with plans of his own

continues working on a puzzle until she figures out how a piece fits

asks the same question over and over if she doesn't like your answer

1 2 3 4 5
low persistence, quickly stops       high persistence, pushes to continue

High Persistence
Even at a very young age, highly persistent kids wake up with plans for things they want to accomplish. That's why it's essential that you ask them what their plans are. Was your child expecting to have Cheerios or Special K for breakfast? Find out, and you may avoid a power struggle at the breakfast table. Persistent children also need to finish the things that are important to them. Telling them they have three more minutes doesn't work. You have to ask them, "What do you need to complete before you're ready to stop?" If it is not humanly possible to accomplish what they want to do in the time available, work with them, explaining that there isn't enough time to read ten more pages, then help them find a stopping point by saying something like, "I know you'd like to read ten more pages, but there isn't enough time right now. You're a good problem solver. Where could you stop now, and how could you finish later?" If necessary, offer suggestions like, "Let's stop at the end of the page, mark it, and then finish the rest of it in the car." Persistence is a great asset and is a key indicator of future success. But in the "raw" it also leads to kids who refuse to stop and "lock in." That's why you'll want to teach your persistent child to problem solve with you and to focus on what you can let them do.

In order to understand and affirm the emotions they are experiencing, highly persistent kids need to hear words and phrases like:

  • It's frustrating when you have to stop working before you're finished or someone tells you no.
  • What are your plans for the day? weekend? holiday?
  • This is what Mom needs you to do today; please include it in your plans.
  • You are a good problem solver. We can work together.
  • I'm trying to understand what is important to you.
  • We will save it, and you can finish later.
  • How many more before you can stop?
Low Persistence
Kids who are low in persistence are easy to distract from the task a hand. This is great when they are doing something you don't want then to do. It's challenging when you want them to finish something.

Research shows that kids who are low in persistence will preserve when working in groups, near the teacher, or with a friend or tutor. The interaction motivates them and helps them to keep going. As a result they tend to seek the help and support of others and learn to be great team players. Because they often rely on their parents for that help and support, they may experience significant separation anxiety when Mom or Dad isn't available.

Kids who are low in persistence need you to teach them strategies to soothe and calm themselves when they get frustrated. They also need help creating timelines that allow them the breaks they need to manage their frustration and complete a project.

If you've got a low-persistence child, support him with your presence, but don't be too quick to take over for him. Instead, point out something small that he can accomplish and let the joy of that achievement spur him on.

Kids who are low in persistence need to hear words and phrases like:

  • It's exhausting when you have to work on a difficult task by yourself.
  • It's frustrating when you can't finish something easily or quickly.
  • Take a break and come back to the task in fifteen minutes.
  • When you need help, you can say, "Please help me."

Next: Page 3 >>

From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.

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