Last week I promised to suggest a few starter ideas on how to teach children patience and perseverance. I have been writing about dyslexia for the past few weeks, and so this was intended to be especially helpful for parents of children with dyslexia (I’ll explain one reason why below). However, these are great qualities for any child to develop, so apply and expand and adapt these ideas freely if you find they might benefit your child.
Patience and the ability to work hard are two priceless qualities for a dyslexic child to develop. Because sight reading and word recognition never becomes automatic, dyslexic people must in a sense “sound out” every word they read for the rest of their lives. As you can imagine, this takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. These qualities do not come easily to any of us, but they can be nurtured in children by their parents.
One thing parents can do is to be sure to watch for occasions when their children show patience or work hard at something and to commend them for doing this. It may be even more beneficial to carefully watch for opportunities to genuinely commend children for showing these qualities in situations that have nothing to do with reading or writing. This may help children come to value these qualities in a big-picture/life-context setting, not just a “reading is hard” setting.
When you talk with your children, let them see that you admire accomplishments that require lots of patience and hard work. There is so much emphasis in society on immediate gratification – having what you want when you want it, but there’s not nearly as much emphasis on the hard work and time it can take to get what you want. So help your children notice and appreciate the things that take more time to accomplish. Let them see that you value these things so that they can do the same.
Learning to be patient with other people is a whole different ballgame from learning to be patient with yourself. Parents, you can help your children learn to be patient with themselves by your example. Do they see you working hard at something and being patient and persistent as you get frustrated with something? Or do they see you giving up or reacting very negatively when you are in this situation? They will model themselves on your example, and if your children are dyslexic, it is an absolutely vital life skill for them to learn to be persistent in a difficult situation and to be patient with themselves. Do your best to show them how it is done, and you will be giving them a valuable gift.
Children with dyslexia are almost forced to learn these habits of patience and perseverance because of the extra effort they have to put forth in their lives. Helping them to learn these things early in life will be a big help to them. And they will end up having an advantage because of this. Most kids don’t like the idea of working hard at things they don’t like to do. I know it’s hard for many adults as well. But a child with dyslexia (or any child, really) who learns to work hard and to be patient will have a distinct advantage in life over someone who hasn’t learned these things.