When Your Child... Doesn't Try Hard

2-min. video | Open Door For Parents with Dr. Eileen

(136 sec. Video transcript at bottom)

Few things are more aggravating to a parent than a kid who doesn’t try. But sermons on the importance of effort rarely help. This week’s 2-min. video talks about what can get in the way of the motivation to work hard. Let me know what you think.

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Video Transcript

Hi! Welcome to Open Door for Parents where I share ways to support your child's feelings, friendships and mental health.

I'm Dr. Eileen. Today I want to talk about when your child doesn’t try hard.

We adults love the story of the Little Engine That Could, that huffs and puffs up the mountainside, chanting, “I think I can! I think I can!” and finally makes it to the top. We want our children to try hard and stick with it when things get tough. And we feel frustrated when they don’t

But for kids, it’s a leap of faith to believe that struggling now will pay off later. The relationship between effort and success has to be  learned.

Children who have never had the experience of effort leading to success are not going to try hard. Without the hope that comes from actually having seen their efforts pay off, it’s just too scary and too hard to try.

Kids who are afraid of trying need two things from us: They need our help to break down effort into tolerable doses, so they don’t feel overwhelmed. They also need to learn effective work strategies.

More than a few times, I’ve heard kids tell me “I studied for hours, and it didn’t work!” Well, I don’t know what they were doing for hours, but clearly their strategy wasn’t effective. Kids aren’t born knowing how to study, or how to write a paper, or even how to figure out what the teacher is looking for.

Using effective work strategies makes sure that children’s efforts pay off.

Instead of sermons about trying hard, what children need is many, many experiences of a little bit of strategic effort leading to a little bit of success. Over time, they can build on that. They’ll become brave enough to put in a little more effort and get a little more success.