At the risk of this question being overly vague in its title; I'll provide a little more detail on a specific issue. I taught my son to ride a bike last summer after he had just turned 4 years old. It took a lot of encouragement and reassurance that the risk he was taking was safe and worthwhile. I convinced him that if he fell I would likely catch him, and if not his helmet and large assortment of pads would protect his body from the fall. His older sister is a natural born risk taker, she is 7 years old and learned to ride a bike last summer as well, in about 15 minutes. Eventually he learned as well, and it really didn't take him long once he decided to really try.

Currently, we are working on learning to fly RC helicopters that they received as gifts during the holidays. I've worked out a "flight school" curriculum consisting of 10 lessons which increase gradually in difficulty. Both children have made it to the final lesson, my daughter completed it, but my son is getting frustrated with how many times he has failed and wants to quit.

This exemplifies a tendency in him to quit. I try to remind him of how proud I am of all the effort he has put into developing this skill, and how far he has come. We seem to have hit a wall, and it has been several days since he has given it any effort. Again, the larger issue here is perseverance in general. More alarming examples of this are creative projects which he almost never attempts. Activities like:

  • Drawing pictures
  • building with lego blocks
  • playing with play dough

are difficult to even get off the ground. I try to avoid comparisons between him and his sister, instead emphasizing the fun of doing the activity together. How do I encourage him to take (safe) risks and to never give up?

  • Welcome to Parenting.se. This is a great question. I'm looking forward to some interesting answers! Feb 22, 2015 at 0:23
  • This is a very good Question. I also have a child who gives up if he's not instantly perfect, and the concept of "lots of practice" is difficult to convey!
    – Acire
    Feb 23, 2015 at 12:35

2 Answers 2


My wife actually sent me this link on raising smart kids. I think the principles here translate very well into your situation.

The focus of the article is on training yourself not to tell your kids they're smart. Instead, it focuses on teaching them a method to figure out how to accomplish things and seek greater challenges. Things like this for praise:

“Wow … that's a really good score. You must be smart at this.” We commended others for their process: “Wow … that's a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”

I read this article daily to remind myself how to be a better parent.

  • 2
    This article was by Dr. Dweck. She's been researching this field for a long time. It seems that we've been raising our children to be less resilient over time by focusing on what they "are" instead of what they "do". Ironically it's often because we want them to have high self esteem, and in the process we cripple them emotionally by telling them "You're good at that." We need to be especially careful with competitive situations. With the wrong input from an authority figure, children can focus on how "bad" they are when they're learning a new skill rather than what they've learned.
    – Calphool
    Feb 23, 2015 at 21:35

Sounds like your son gets intimidated and discouraged when he compares himself to his older siblings.

Try to find an activity that only he would be involved in - a particular kind of sport, a musical instrument, a chore, etc. Make sure this is "his thing" that other siblings do not even attempt. This way he can enjoy small steps forward without feeling like he is already 2 laps behind his sister. He will build confidence that will transfer into other areas.

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