‘Tis a lesson you should heed -
Try, try again;
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try again.
Then your courage should appear;
For, if you will persevere
You will conquer, never fear
Try, try again.
Persistence or mastery motivation - as most early childhood researchers call it - is an essential trait that children require to succeed in life. From zipping their jackets to making new friends or mastering the monkey bars – young children are faced with various social, emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges every day and to varying degrees. While some persist and master the challenges that set them back, some give up all too easily, losing faith in their abilities.
In this article, we look at some of the ways parents and teachers can support young children to build their mental muscle for persistence and encourage them to persevere when faced with adversities.
8 Ways to Teach Persistence to Preschoolers
Give them freedom
Micromanaging your children when they are solving a challenge is counterproductive. For one, they will be dependent on you to solve most of their issues. For another, their interest will waver since they had no input in choosing the task. To counter this, resist the temptation to pick an activity or task for them. Instead, allow them the freedom to choose whatever challenge they want without interference from you.
Be lavish with your praise
When a child attempts a seemingly tricky task for the umpteenth time and succeeds, don't hold back your praise. Let the child know in so many words that you are aware of his success and are appreciative of it. Try not to stop yourself from giving compliments like "I knew you could do that," "You are so smart," and "You did absolutely fine." When you praise children for their ability to solve a problem, it encourages them to try harder at any other challenges they might face.
Turn it into an open discourse
One of the ways in which you can teach preschoolers about mastery motivation is by talking about it. When you constantly have an open discussion about persistence with the kids, they are more inclined to understand the lessons. Let the kids know about how to solve problems and the different ways they can apply their skills. Children love stories, and you can marry that love for stories with lessons about persistence. Tell the kids stories about people who were persistent in spite of the difficulties, and how they came out victorious. Go further by teaching the kids about positive mantras like "It gets easier after the first try," "I can do this," and "I am not a quitter."
Avoid fixing the issue
It might be tempting to just solve the problem on your own, but this action can easily backfire. It is proven that humans learn through trial and error, and children are no different. So when you rescue your kids anytime they face challenges, you only affirm to them that they are unable to tackle their issues without outside help.
To prevent this, stay away whenever you feel tempted to swoop in and save the day. Instead, seize the opportunity to nurture your kids' problem-solving skills. You can do this by sitting down with them and asking them to think of possible solutions to a particularly frustrating task. Apart from dousing the tension, this approach is invaluable because it teaches kids how to tackle challenges head-on.
Encourage their hobbies
Nurturing a hobby requires endless time, dedication, and practice. And kids who have hobbies they enjoy think nothing about doing all it takes to master it. They even appreciate all the sacrifice and dedication the process requires. So why not use this as an advantage to nurture your preschooler’s persistence? Encourage your kids' passions. Get them books and other resources that further refines their hobbies. Apart from being an avenue to teach perseverance, hobbies are a great way for your kids to master a skill.
Be conscious of the negative triggers
If you pay close attention to your kids, you will notice that they quickly give up when they are hungry, sleepy, or tired. These negative triggers could also be common at certain times of the day. To avoid this, watch out for those triggers and eliminate them. Do ensure that the kids are given adequate sleep, food, and rest before you provide them with a task. This will help them be persistent and keep at whatever challenge they have at hand.
There will be times when no matter what you do, nothing seems to work. When it gets to that point, use the subtle guidance method to give just a little push. Offer to help your preschoolers with a simple aspect of the task. For instance, if your child is having issues with homework, you could always solve a solution. Ensure that you explain how you solved and arrived at your answer before leaving your kid to work out the rest.
Don’t set the bar too high
In a bid to push kids out of their comfort zone, many parents tend to set their expectations far above the children’s abilities. Even though the intentions are well placed, it often results in children failing more than they usually do. And of course, the high rate of failure could put a dampener on the children’s enthusiasm. So, to avoid this scenario, you only need to lower the bar to fit the children’s capabilities. Are your kids’ vocal abilities subpar even though you would love to enter them in the local singing competition? Is little Johnny baseball’s skills nonexistent even if his parents will like him to try out for the Little league? Then make sure you adjust expectations accordingly.
Learning persistence is not something that preschoolers will adopt overnight. There will be tearful moments for both you and your kids, as they grow to face more difficult challenges. So, remember to hang in there and encourage your little ones when they give up.
As Einstein said, ‘ It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer’.