Teaching Your Child Determination

Teaching Your Child Determination

That’s Too Heavy!

“It’s too heavy for me!” my two year old cried.  In reality, she meant the task was too difficult.  In this case, it was putting on her sneakers.  We’ve been learning all about determination this month during our midweek Children’s Ministry program, so it seemed like the ideal time to teach a little determination in our own home.  Want a few ideas?  Read on, my friend.

Definition of Determination:

In our Children’s Ministry curriculum (252Basics), determination is defined as “Decided it’s worth it to finish what you’ve started”.

The operational definition by Bill Gothard states Determination is: “Purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time regardless of the opposition(II Timothy 4:7–8).  I prefer combining the two and defining determination as “Finishing what you start, with God’s help, regardless of the obstacles.”

Determination is a great character quality to exhibit.  Not only does determination allow us to exceed our own expectations at times, it helps us to become a reliable and trust-worthy person.

So how do we cultivate determination in our children?

Activities to Try

The key to determination-developing activities is a little bit of challenge.  Kids need to be able to eventually complete the activity, but they should have to work a little at it first.


Has your four year old mastered the 24 piece puzzle?  Move onto a 48 piece puzzle, but be sure to sit nearby and offer encouragement along the way.

Enlist Their Help

Kids love helping (check out these 10 jobs for toddlers) and working on a tough task together is a great way to build some determination.  Do some groceries need put away?  Allow your child to take things out of the bags and carry them to the appropriate place (maybe not the eggs).   If something is too heavy, encourage them to set it down and then try again.  Once they’ve completed the task comment on how determined they were to get the job done.  Be sure to praise their hard work.

Building Something

There is such satisfaction associated with creating something with your own two hands.  Give your kids an opportunity to practice determination with an age-appropriate building project.  For younger kids, encourage them to build a tower with blocks that is taller then they are.   Be sure to finish the tower, even if it topples a few times.  For elementary kids, look for those wood kids at Michael’s.  Often, they are only $1 in the clearance bins and the kids will love making their own birdhouse or race car.  For older elementary kids, build a piece of furniture together.

Run the Race

Kids of all ages love to walk and run.  Use this enjoyable activity to build some determination.   If you have a regular walking path, encourage kids to walk “just a bit further” next time you go out.  Each time you walk together, increase the distance by a little bit.  Practice Philippians 4:13 as you walk together and talk about how finishing a tough task takes determination.  For an inspirational story about running, check out the children’s book, “Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman“.  For older kids, you could even compete in a 5K together!

Demonstrate Determination Yourself!

Recently, I climbed into the car with my {almost} three year old to take a meal to a friend.  My friend just had a baby and we wanted to visit and bring some dinner while we were at it.   Somewhere along the line I had gotten some incorrect directions and ended up driving up and down what I thought was the right street (of course, it was NOT the right street) for over half an hour.   I couldn’t find my cell phone (it had fallen under the car seat) and resorted to knocking on doors asking if anyone knew my friend.   From the back seat, Abigail kept chanting phrases from Go! Diego! Go! like “Which path should we take?”   It was dark, getting later by the minute, and I decided to head back home.   Just before we turned off the road, we prayed that God would help us find our friends house.  About 2 blocks later, THERE IT WAS!  We found the street, then the house, and FINALLY made it.   As we pulled in the driveway, I exclaimed “We found it!  We’re here, Abigail!”  Graciously, she replied, “I’m so proud of you, Mom.  I knew you could do it!”   Together, we thanked God for his kindness and headed inside with the now-cold Lasagna!

Important to Remember

Remember to keep your home a safe place — somewhere where the kids can make mistakes without fear.  Part of determination is picking yourself back up after you’ve fallen and trying again.   Kids won’t want to try something new and difficult if they are afraid of the consequences of failure.   Remind your kids that we can do all things through Christ’s strength (Phil 4:13), even if it takes a few tries to get there.

Bible Stories to Read:

  • Noah (he was determined to obey God despite what his neighbors said) (Genesis 6-8)
  • Ruth and Naomi (Ruth was determined to stick by Naomi even though she was a stranger in the land)  (Ruth)
  • Daniel (he was determined to pray to God despite the king’s new rule) (Daniel  6)

Books to Read:

  • The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
  • Wilma Unlimited
  • Little Engine that Could
  • Thank You Sarah

More Resources:

What About You?

How do you teach your kids determination?


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  1. Great list of ideas! I never would have thought to use puzzles to teach this, but you are right – they make a great tool!
    maryanne @ mama smiles recently posted..Easy DIY Patchwork Doll Quilt Tutorial

  2. I LOVE this article! I so agree that it is important to teach children determination. We teach our 4 year old to say “I am a diligent son of God who is strong and faithful.” He knows that diligent means to work hard and not give up. The way we use it, diligent basically means the same thing as determination. I cannot say how much it helps when my son is frustrated, to simply remind him that he is diligent. He gets all proud of himself and tries harder. Determination is such an important trait! If you are interested, here is a link to a printable of the quote we have our son say. http://www.momshavequestionstoo.com/i-am-a-beautiful-daughter-of-god/
    Kirstylee recently posted..Toddler Discipline Tips Part 1 of 3

  3. Maryanne, Thanks so much for stopping by! We do a lot of puzzles in our house, so I’ve seen determination at work for sure. If there is a puzzle gene, my husband has it!! Can’t wait to take a look at your easy DIY doll quilt!

  4. What a great verse! We’re just starting to work on verses with my three year old. January’s memory verse is Phil 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ). It’s a great reminder for us as parents too!

  5. This was a great post!! Thanks for sharing.
    Judith at WholeHearted Home recently posted..WholeHearted Faves Bonanza!!

  6. Great tips for really teaching determination. It’s so much easier to grasp the idea with concrete learning activities. My little girl could definitely use a little more of this. She gets frustrated quickly when she can’t accomplish a task, like fitting shapes into their little shape-specific holes. Thanks for sharing! P.S. Your 10 jobs for toddlers link isn’t actually linked….I’d love to read it though!

  7. Thanks for stopping by Judith — I’m glad you liked it!

  8. Thanks so much for visiting Jelli. I’ve been finding lots of great blogging friends through your weekly link up! The shape sorting sounds like a great idea for determination. Thanks for the heads up on the toddler jobs — I’ll fix the link now!

  9. This is a great article with such practical tips! My older boys are 2 and 5, and I will definitely be using your tips to help them learn determination. My 2 year old loves to do 24 piece puzzles but can’t quite do it on his own yet. Its adorable when he asks his big brother for help. (They also pretend to be Diego and Backpack and go around the house saving our baby stuffed animals..)
    Becky Marie recently posted..Protein – Nuts and Seeds