Q:

How can I help my third-grade son who just gives up at the first sign of difficulty? What can I do to help him stop being a quitter? -- Cheerleader Mom

A:

Children usually start giving up after experiencing a cycle of failures at school. Your son is only in the third grade; he more than likely wants to do well in school. Very sadly, not all bright children succeed in school. Some 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, low frustration level 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 every step along the way, parents can help their children learn how to tackle difficult assignments. They will need to teach them:

  • -Effective problem-solving strategies
  • -To look for more than one approach when solving a problem
  • -To retrace their steps to find errors
  • -To use self-talk as a guide for solving problems.