Teaching Children the Value of Struggle
By Anne Broderius, West Elementary Principal
Teaching children to move from thinking “this is too hard and I just can’t do it” to “this took time and effort, but I did it” is important. Perseverance and enduring through struggles are crucial to learning and being successful in life. People of all ages need to develop these skills. Perseverance is a character trait that allows a person to continue trying even when things are difficult or seem impossible. Perseverance is actually a skill that can be taught and practiced. Even though many learn it on their own through experiences of trial and error, and success and disappointment, the coaching and support children receive from the adults in their world can make a huge impact.
Parents and adult mentors should have frequent discussions with children about hard work and perseverance where they teach and model how to react to life’s disappointments or setbacks. In addition, we can reinforce successes for children by naming the perseverance as a quality that truly matters. So instead of saying, “You are so smart” consider saying, “I noticed how hard you worked on that and stuck with it until the end”. This will help to foster a positive attitude about hard work, life experiences, and determination.
Here are some tips for fostering perseverance in children.
- Create an environment where it’s ok to make mistakes. When children live in a supportive environment where they trust the adults, they are more willing to take risks. When given the opportunity to build skills, meet new challenges, and see the results of their efforts, the value of hard work is instilled.
- Encourage children to try new things and model trying something new yourself. No one is perfect at anything new to them, but with continued practice, even when things get hard, they will see the value of hard work and the rewards of perseverance.
- Share personal experiences of facing situations that require perseverance. Children need to hear about others failures and life experiences to be willing to take risks themselves.
- Start small and create the conditions for children to experience small successes. Encourage their own inner courage and strength along the way. Warn them they may experience the need for perseverance and keep supporting and coaching as needed.
- Be there for them when they do struggle or fail. Provide support and help them evaluate how to adjust and try again. Work to instill a ”never give up” attitude.
Recognize the effort and avoid using rewards when they experience success. Instead, use encouraging words that recognize effort, hard work, and perseverance instead.
- It should be our goal to help all children maintain positive attitudes that will enable them to
keep trying, and to feel proud of each success they experience along the way. We teach children to read, write, and do math, but teaching children how to persevere may be the greatest lesson of all.