How many times have you heard your child say:
“This is too hard.”
“I can’t do it.”
“I don’t know how this works.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
“Can you do this for me?”
Chances are, you hear your child say these things fairly frequently. It’s normal. Even as adults, we tend to shy away from things that don’t come easily to us. While we should be developing new skills as adults, giving up too early as a child can be even more problematic, since they haven’t yet developed their strengths. As a result, most things will probably feel challenging and a lack of perseverance could mean that your child misses out on participating in activities that may bring them lots of joy in the future.
So, how do we help our children develop the perseverance required to stick with activities long enough to figure out if they really do hate it or if they just need to learn the basic skills necessary to enjoy it? As an Instructional Resource Teacher, I see lots of kids come through my door who need extra support. I can plan the best games and activities in world, but the student’s perseverance is key to my interventions being successful. Here are some ways that you, as a parent, can help your child develop a growth mindset:
Give your child space to fail. Whether it’s at a family game night or a soccer tournament, let your child know that trying your hardest and not getting the result that you wanted is okay. Remind them that it means that they’re stretching themself and attempting feats that are out of their comfort zone. That’s how they’ll grow!
Practice scaffolding. Scaffolding is when we help students complete a task that is just past their ability level, encouraging them to see that soon they will be able to do it by themself. For example, perhaps your child is struggling with their fine motor skills. Holding the paper while they cut would be an example of scaffolding. They may not yet have the skills to be able to hold the paper with one hand and cut with the other yet, but that will come with time. When you feel that they’ve conquered the cutting piece, you can have them try both tasks by themselves. The important thing, is that they see themselves being able to complete the task without help eventually.
Model perseverance. Talk to you kids about things that you’re finding hard right now. Let them know that adults find things difficult, too. Share with them about times in your life when sticking with a tough project paid off.
Celebrate progress over perfection. Did your child run further today than they did yesterday? Great. Celebrate that. It doesn’t matter if they weren’t the fastest. They’re moving forward. They’re improving. Your child got a 70% on the math test? If the last test result was less than that, celebrate the fact that they’re heading in the right direction. The practice of feeling good about progress will help your child develop the confidence needed to keep trying, even if they’re not the winner every time.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you force your child to keep participating in an activity that is making them miserable. The important thing is to have open communication to figure out why they aren’t enjoying it. Does she hate hockey because she doesn’t have strong enough skating skills or does she really just not like putting on on the equipment and trying to chase after a puck? If it’s the former, let’s try some extra skating practive in a reduced-stress environment (on a pond or at a family skate). If it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to try another activity.
Above all else, resist the urge to swoop in and do everything for your child. While you may feel like you’re helping them in the moment, you’re quietly sending your child the message that they can’t do it. In order to develop a growth mindset, your child needs to believe that they are capable of learning new things and making progress. Let them know that YOU believe they can by giving them the chance to try.
Mme Michelle is an Instructional Resource Teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is passionate about helping students with diverse needs thrive at school and in the real world. She started French For Life in 2012 with the goal of helping French Immersion students get the support they need to become bilingual, despite academic challenges. Interested in learning more about French For Life virtual or in-person tutoring? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.