Kids and Effort: When Will It “Kick In”?

kidWe are huge here at Study Smart System on praising kids for effort instead of results. The research is in – and focusing on effort instead of outcome results in kids getting better results over time. The reason: kids can control their effort.

Still, lots of parents see their kids still not really pushing the effort window, especially when the kids are younger.

This is a situation I’ve seen in literally dozens of kids over the years. I have coached hockey, baseball, and now soccer for the last 8 years. One of the more striking differences between kids at a young age is how much drive they have to be a success in sports. You will see kids at the age of 8 or 9 just really sweating and trying very hard on the field, while others will seem to be not paying attention at all.

However, what I have also found is around the age of 13, nearly all of the kids involved in sports will be putting forth much higher levels of effort. It’s like a switch turns on in their minds and they begin to understand the link between their effort and results.

We saw much the same results with our kids and their effort on homework. We have been praising the kids for their effort for years, and thought the results were really going well. However, they were certainly not really focusing as much as some of the other kids seemed to focus.

Our oldest son had been playing sports and music for many years, but hadn’t really “gotten it” either with sports. He was a decent athlete, and even excellent in the drills and during practices. But during the games, he wasn’t really trying to score goals in hockey, or even get near the puck. His guitar work was ok, but he certainly wasn’t going after it in a focused manner. He wasn’t trying to stretch himself on the guitar and get better.

Then, something changed entirely. Our son who is now 12 ½ years old is really, really putting forth huge amounts of effort. This is a dramatic change – he’s really putting in far more effort than he did 1 or 2 years ago.

We are certain it’s a combination of his age and a few new techniques we have been using for the last year. Around the same time his effort in school started picking up, he started scoring many more goals in hockey and soccer, and getting more serious about guitar.

I had seen this happen for the kids in hockey and soccer as they grew older. As the kids grew older, they just started “getting it” about sports. So, I was prepared for this change to happen in sports.

But I did not really expect to see such a large change across all of his life all at one time. I did no think these changes were going to be something which also happened in school and music too. Yet, this is exactly what happened.

Quite suddenly, he made a strong link in his mind between the amount of effort he was putting in and the success he was having in that area. When this happened in one area of his life, he was able to generalize that it could happen in other areas as well.

So why had some kids understood this right away, well before our son did? And why did some kids never seem to get it at all, even years later?

Some of the kids were organized completely and doing homework even in 2nd grade. They understood this naturally without their parents doing really much of anything. Other kids really never get it, and end up working dead end jobs with little hope of advancement.

Most people will not naturally get how to see the strong link between effort and good results until much later in life, and boys seem to have a harder time at this than girls.

So why did our son understand it when he did? We strongly suspect it was a combination of his growing  maturity and exposure to the right kinds of feedback from us. We worked at it for years with him. Then, we were able to combine methods of habit forming, proper feedback, and talent development that cemented the link between effort and success in his mind.

These methods have been shown to be very successful for adults, but we wanted to create something parents could specifically do to help their kids with school.

Still, even with the help of parents, the kids may not understand the link between hard work and success right away. It may take time before the kids fully understand how effort means “more fun”. This is part of the reason we talk about “Practicing Practice”, because these skills require practice. Reinforcing the link in a positive way, over and over again, gives them the chance to find it at the earliest possible moment for individual kids.

Most parents want the best for their kids, but are baffled at how to provide the a parenting environment where kids become hard working and self-sufficient because the kids themselves want to be hard working and self-sufficient.

To get to this point, kids need to recognize the link between hard work and success, between effort and improvement. Much of the writing on this site was created to help parents create daily situations where kids will see the link between their effort and successful outcomes.

This moment of understanding will happen at different times for different kids, so continue to practice the habits and techniques to develop the link between effort and success. They will get it!.

This is the information we all wish we had when we were growing up. We want to give our kids a successful, happy, and useful school experience – but how? Well, it turns out there are ways to help your kids make a strong and lasting link between effort and getting what they want out of life.

Get the report on Effort and Results by clicking here.