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How Do Children Learn Persistence? From Their Fathers

Being a good father means more than teaching your child how to ride a bike. Fathers can help their teens learn how to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

Father’s Day is more than a celebration of the things that dads teach their children directly, like riding a bike or throwing a ball. A new study shows that fathers help their teenagers develop persistence, a skill that will keep them going long after their first bike ride is forgotten.

For several years, researchers from Brigham Young University followed 325 two-parent families, with children ranging from 11 to 14 years old. Certain fathers, it turns out, were raising children more likely to be self-motivated and to keep going even when faced with obstacles or setbacks.

Children with this type of persistence were more engaged in school, which is related to better grades, higher standardized test scores, and overall better achievements. These tenacious children also showed lower levels of delinquency, such as drinking, smoking and lying.

How do children learn persistence? According to the study, which was published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, the 52 percent of fathers with persistent children tended to have an authoritative fathering style (not to be confused with authoritarian), which includes:

  • Children feel love and warmth from their father
  • Accountability and the reasons behind rules are emphasized
  • Children are allowed some amount of autonomy

Persistence is not some vague trait only seen in movie heroes. It prepares teenagers to become successful adults. Other studies have also linked persistence to better academic achievement, as well as fewer career changes over a lifetime.

For fathers, teaching your child persistence means staying involved with your child.

"Fathers should continue to try and be involved in their children's lives and engage in high quality interactions, even if the quantity of those interactions might be lower than is desirable," study author Laura Padilla-Walker said in a news release.

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