Contributed By:

Amslee Institute on January 7, 2020

American educator Thomas H. Palmer is credited with the saying: “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Most of us have heard the beginning, but how many know the rest of the saying? It ends with: “Don’t give up too easily; persistence pays off in the end”.

 

Perseverance is the “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”. As human beings, we are all born with perseverance. We demonstrate this daily, even when we are babies. Human babies are not born with the ability to walk – they must try and fail over and over again until they master the skill. As caregivers, we encourage infants to rock, then crawl, then walk and we celebrate their victories as well as their defeats. We have 100% confidence that they will master the feat if they persevere.

 

Few of us excel the first time we try something new. Perseverance comes into play when we are determined to learn and when we keep trying even after multiple failures. As children grow, they sometimes let frustration override their attempts to learn new things. Parents and caregivers may unintentionally erode a child’s sense of perseverance by jumping in too quickly to help and not letting the child experience failure.

 

So how do we help a child develop a sense of perseverance? As caregivers, we must model perseverance. Remember that our charges are constantly watching us and learning from our actions. Don’t let the children in your care see you attempt something once, fail, and quit. Explain to the child that quitting is not an acceptable solution to a problem.

 

Let children see you struggle with new tasks. Use the opportunity to reiterate that it’s perfectly normal not to excel at everything and that learning may take multiple tries. This can be incorporated into daily activities. For example, if a child is watching a new dancing video, you can begin to mimic the movements. Go through the video with the child and do as many of the dance steps as you can. Then replay the video a few more times until you have mastered the routine. Laugh at your mistakes the first few attempts and celebrate when you get the routine right. Encourage the child to learn along with you and praise their improvement after repeated attempts.

 

We must also encourage perseverance. When a child succeeds, resist the urge to praise the accomplishment and instead – praise the efforts that led to success. If a child has been practicing regularly and scores a soccer goal in the game, you might say “Wow – all that practice paid off! Congratulations!” Perseverance isn’t just needed for physical development. Children in school may have difficulty with a particular subject. If a child has been having difficulty with spelling and you have been working every day to prepare for his weekly spelling test, don’t focus on the grade itself, but praise the child for the progress made as a result of his/her hard work.

 

Children will often get frustrated when things don’t go well. As caregivers, we must help the child learn to manage their frustrations and not quit because of them. This can be accomplished by setting expectations. Just as we all don’t succeed the first time, neither will children. Set age-appropriate expectations for the child. If a preschool child is having trouble learning to recognize letters, don’t expect him/her to learn them all in one sitting. The first step is to determine the optimal amount of time for the child to practice each day. Make sure the time is not too long or too short; it should be age-appropriate and within the child’s attention span. Flashcards may help. Show them the letter and if they miss – simply correct them and move on to the next one. Setting a specified time period and moving on after a miss should decrease the child’s frustration.

 

Many times, creating short- and long-term goals can help defuse the frustration that comes from these failures. Children may not be able to comprehend that practice today will help the, reach a goal two or three months down the line. However, if there are intermediate or short-term goals along the way, they will be encouraged to keep working toward the ultimate goal.

 

As caregivers, we must make sure the children understand the benefits of perseverance and continue to try new things and hone their expertise. This isn’t to say that all children will develop equally and become professional athletes or academic geniuses. However, perseverance is seen as one of the keys to success and is a tribute that is desired in adulthood.

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