Teaching Persistence

As a former high school band director, I often told my students that sometimes the last thing I taught them was music.  Life skills like teamwork and Persistence helped develop skills in them that they would use for the rest of their lives.  The school year started with the marching band in the late summer and most of the fall season.  It is a long haul to get a competitive marching show put together. It would take several months of preparation before they see the final product.  In short, it took Persistence to have the show peak just at the state competition in early November each year.

The upperclassmen could see it because they had been there; they had the vision of a complete show and had experienced the joy of placing in the competition.  That vision took some work to plant in the mind’s eye of the younger students.  I think this is an essential skill to teach kids and to follow through with them.

Too often, kids are allowed to start something that takes a long-term commitment, like playing a musical instrument.  It’s excellent at first, then drudgery sets begin.  Suddenly, practicing night after night isn’t so much fun, and the progress is slow.  It is just then that parents have a teachable moment to help kids to understand Persistence.  But how does this work?  How do you get someone to stick with something even when the going is tough?

I believe the first step is to help them set their vision.  What does the child hope to do with this goal?  Encourage them to daydream, step back, and challenge themselves to create something.  So you think of an idea in your subconscious mind, and then you start to some mental tryout.  The idea then moves into your subconscious mind, where it sees a new picture.  It compares it to your programming, and if it doesn’t match, it begins to sabotage it.

Thoughts like, “You can’t do that.”  “Who do you think you are?”  “No one in your family has those kinds of skills.”  “If you do that, you will push your family members away with your success.”  So we lay it aside and think, well, maybe so, it was a long shot.

That’s when you want to make a little war with your subconscious mind.  You can say something like, “Well, I know, but what if it did happen?  What would it look like?”  What would it feel like to be successful in that area?”  Your subconscious mind wants to keep things in the usual vein of thinking, but when we explain to kids that this type of thinking will not bring them forward in life, they begin to understand.  Help them to work to keep the idea alive.

As a high school band director, I would show kids videos performing at high levels.  I would show them a computerized video of the drill that they were about to spend weeks learning and perfecting.  Often, before we even started teaching the show, they would already have a good idea of how the formations unfolded.  This vision set something new in their subconscious mind so that when it went to compare what they were learning with our goal, there was already a format laid down.

Here’s what I know, Persistence is one of the life skills that kids need to learn.  There are no shortcuts to learning it, and it takes perseverance and determination to make something happen.  But when you do, when you’re successful, the incredible sense of accomplishment is unparalleled.

Closely related to Persistence is perseverance; read a post on that here Parenting on Purpose: Perseverance – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

Essential Life Skills has an excellent post here on The Power of Persistence, The Power of Persistence (essentiallifeskills.net)


Yours for Better Parenting,