How to Stop Children from Being Quitters

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Some students want to throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty. Not all bright children succeed in school, and children usually start giving up after experiencing a cycle of failures at school.

Some children begin tasks very halfheartedly and give up at the first sign of difficulty. Psychiatrists call this “learned helplessness.” It can happen in the early grades because of emotional immaturity, a low tolerance for frustration or over-dependency on adults. It also can happen when children start fourth or sixth grades, because these are points when learning requires more effort, and some bright children have no strategies for handling difficult assignments and give up too quickly.

It’s not easy for these children to overcome the tendency to give up when the going gets tough, but they can with continued help from teachers and parents.

By modeling how to approach a problem and giving specific instructions at each step along the way, parents can help their children learn how to tackle difficult assignments. Helpful ways to stop “quitters” in their tracks include teaching them effective problem-solving strategies, how to look for more than one approach when solving a problem, how to retrace their steps to find errors and to use self-talk as a guide for solving problems.

By empowering students with tools to find solutions even when the answer doesn’t come easily, you help them develop beneficial problem-solving skills that are useful in class and everyday life.

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have taught all ages and co-authored more than 100 books.