We’ve all seen it.

Seven-year-old Johnny runs across the back yard in a game of touch football, shouting, “I’m open, I’m open!” The quarterback dad throws the ball to him, strong enough to reach him, yet soft enough for him to be able to catch. Johnny excitedly looks at the ball coming his way and his mind fast forwards to the open end zone where he will soon score a touchdown for his team.

Thud. The ball bounces off Johnny’s chest and lands in the grass.

His face falls and he hears the collective “Ohhhhh!” from his teammates.

He feels like giving up.

Susie has been working hard at gymnastics, four days a week. Recently, she has been struggling with the execution of a particular technique, despite receiving extra attention from her coach. She is starting to get frustrated with herself. To make matters worse, several of the gymnasts in her age-group have moved past this technique on to a more advanced one.

She feels like giving up.

All kids will face situations like this from time to time. After all, they are trying new things, not all of which they will naturally or quickly take to. Whether it is a board game, a video game, a sport, an instrument, school work, or some other skill-based activity, your kids will run into a skill demand that is higher than their current skill level.

That is when giving up can seem like the best option. Or at least the easiest.

Here are a few ideas for responding when your kids feel like giving up:

1) Have realistic expectations. Remind yourself that your kids will not excel at everything and it is OK to for them to discontinue an activity they don’t really enjoy. All of us do this and it is part of how we hone in on what we really do enjoy and are good at.

2) Listen to their discouragement. When you are feeling beat, it is comforting to know that someone understands how you feel. A bit of reflective listening (e.g., “Susie, I can hear how frustrating this is for you. The other girls have already learned that technique and you feel like you are getting behind.”) can go a long way.

3) Help your kids see past the immediate. This is a big lesson that may take some practice to learn. Depending on the activity your child is struggling with, here are a few questions you can ask your kids that will help them shift their perspective and energy in a more positive direction:

-What will happen if you keep on trying?
-Do you know anyone who has run into this problem before?
-If so, how did he/she handle it?
-Is there any way to get better at ___________?
-Who can you/we talk to about this? (e.g., a coach, teacher)
-Do you want to try something else?
-Do you want to take a short break? (if applicable)

4) Think of good ideas. Finally, view the problem as a medium-sized rock that is blocking your child’s path. There is a way around it; your child just needs some help finding the right approach. There can be several positive ideas; see if you can find one that you both think is a good one to try.

How have you helped your kids handle moments when they felt like giving up?

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