The Power of Parenting with Persistence

Written by Tera Michelson

I am directionally challenged. I’ve been losing my car in parking lots and cruising past my freeway exits for decades. My inclination for getting lost doesn’t squelch my zeal for road trips. One of the loops in the soundtrack of my life is the electronic voice from a GPS or map app, feeding me directions, turn by turn. With Siri’s help, I get to my destination…eventually.

When Siri is rerouting from my latest wrong turn, she announces, “Recalculating,” or “Please make a U-turn.” These words are very familiar to my kiddos. This rang true for me the day I overheard my son in the backseat, comforting a friend. In his most soothing tone he said, “Don’t worry. We’re not lost. We’re just finding a different way there.”

Little did I know that my traveling experiences would prepare me in a unique way for parenthood. I spend most of my time as a parent feeling lost, going down unmarked, one-way streets, not knowing what kind of roadblocks or detours to anticipate. Let’s be real here—parenthood is 95% persistence and 5% persuasion (trying to make your idea feel like their idea). We correct, redirect, then repeat, repeat and repeat.  Your young one doesn’t want to eat those carrots? What if we cut them into “Veggie Coins?” Offer a dip? Stir in some maple syrup? Parental persistence reroutes us. We get to the end goal…eventually.

As parents, we get to reframe failure with persistence. We aren’t failing, we are simply navigating roadblocks that are keeping us from our destination. Decisions come fast and hard for children. For toddlers through teenagers, making choices can be very intense, immediate and loaded with consequences. Most life events can’t be avoided. You can’t skip over, dive under or dodge around them. Sometimes, life requires that the only way is through. We role model persistence when we try, fail, pick ourselves up and try again. Jesus is all about fresh starts and do-overs. God never gives up on us.

Three Tips for Teaching Tenacity:

  • Make your family a safe place to fail. What could be better than falling flat in a support system of love, patience and grace? Home is where we kiss boo-boos, bandage wounds and pick each other up to get back on course. Your child will never have a safer place to fail than with you to guide him to persist through it.
  • When you make mistakes, don’t hide them; embrace them, instead. Talk to your kids about how it feels to fail—powerless, hopeless, helpless. Discuss your options and plan for what to do next. Be transparent about the steps you will take to try again.
  • When your children make mistakes, help them identify their emotions: anger, fear, frustration, sadness, worry. Accept these feelings and work together to find healthy ways to process and cope: laugh, take deep breaths, count backwards from 10, rate the strength of your emotion on a scale of 1-5.

Failure is a learning tool that turns into positive persistence. Together, we can do hard things. Remember, don’t worry; you aren’t lost, you are just finding a new route. “Recalculating…”

TERA MICHELSON is a writer, photographer, teacher, super-volunteer, mama and wife—not necessarily in that order. When she is not driving a carpool, you will find her baking cupcakes, walking a scruffy dog named Otto or attending a meeting at church or the local school. Tera enjoys thinking and sharing about family faith-building in a complicated world. She lives in a hilly suburb of Cincinnati, OH, with her pastor
husband and three teenaged children.

The Values Project is a year-long initiative designed to equip families to raise children who thrive emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Get inspiration, practical ideas, family activities, and parenting tips from our network of seasoned parents and faith leaders, because it takes a village to raise a good human. Each month we’ll explore a different value–like honesty, loyalty, creativity, kindness, and more.

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