Break Down Goals
If you want your kids to stick with a difficult task (such as learning to ice-skate or cleaning their room), give them a game plan. "When you show a child how to do something step by step, it's a lot less intimidating for him," says Jim Taylor, Ph.D., author of Your Children Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear From You. If he's melting down over a tricky puzzle, you might say, "Let's find all the corners," followed by, "Okay, now we can pick out all the edges," and then, "If we can sort the pieces by color, we can fill in from the sides."
Amy Anderson, of Loomis, California, employs a similar strategy -- albeit with a twist -- with her daughters, Natalie, 9, and Delaney, 7, whom she homeschools. "I draw a game board and fill in the squares with different ways to practice a new skill," she says. One recent contest led her girls through all the steps required to master jumping rope (such as "watch Mom jump," "jump in slow motion," and "practice for three minutes"). Natalie and Delaney took turns moving one space at a time and following the commands until they reached the finish line (which read, "I can jump rope now!"). Anderson has used the same approach to teach her girls about everything from counting ("Hop on one foot ten times") to the ABCs ("Draw a picture of something that starts with the letter A") and has found it especially helpful for her older daughter. "Natalie has a tendency to get very frustrated," Anderson explains, "but when I make each part look manageable, she's much more relaxed."