I often see anxiety skyrocket in my students and kids within the first few minutes of struggling. Whether it’s a new concept, or homework, or friendship trouble, or tying shoes, or a new sport, I’ve come to a conclusion: kids need more practice with perseverance. They need to learn that mistakes are opportunities to learn. How do you learn to endure without a chance to use endurance?
Part of my job as a parent and teacher is to push, nudge, and challenge… then wait, step back, and not interfere too quickly. That’s hard to do, but it’s in that struggle that growth happens.
My own children have needed reminders recently that the struggle they feel isn’t a bad thing, it’s a growing thing. They need practice failing, and still finishing. They need to work on trying through the crying.
Life is hard at times, but we can work hard right back at it.
To teach perseverance, I try to build a classroom and home environment where my kids feel safe to try and safe to make mistakes. We celebrate mistakes as a chance to persevere and flex our struggle muscles. Some of our favorite positive sayings include:
FAIL =First Attempt In Learning.
I can’t do it yet.
Practice makes progress!
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”–Albert Einstein
Giving kids the right amount of space and encouragement while keeping the ownership of the problem with them is crucial too.
Pausing is an art, not a one size fits all strategy. You know your kids best and what level of guidance they need depending on their age, needs, personality, and the situation. Don’t rush to fix problems for them. Teach them how to fix problems for themselves and watch their confidence grow.
I teach kids about inventions that began as mistakes like potato chips and post-it notes.
We practice different problem solving strategies and reflection.
I notice and point out when I see kids showing virtues that go hand and hand with perseverance like determination, patience, bravery, hard work, and resiliency.
I point out in books when characters show perseverance or when they make mistakes and keep on going. One of my favorites is “Beautiful Oops” by Barney Saltzberg.
And finally, I share my mistakes with the kids and model reflection. I show them how to stick with it, solve a problem, push through, ask for help or try harder the next time.
As we’re teaching our students and children a vast curriculum of learning let’s help them build early habits to learn from mistakes and persevere through problems too.
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