Saturday, June 25, 2011

Encouraging persistence in our children

This months theme for the Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival is Persistence.  Persistence is defined as tenacity, or continued effort or existence.  To me, persistence simply means not giving up.

Persistence relates to how long a child will stick to a task, so a child with little persistence will give up very easily while a child that has learnt to persist at something will stick at it until successful (or at least give it their best effort).

To be honest this theme has got me thinking, because I never really associated this with children's learning or play.  Persistence, however, is an essential life quality that children would benefit from greatly if it was identified and encouraged.  And it goes without saying that different children have different temperaments and attention spans, which directly affect their level of persistence at a task or activity.

So, thinking practically and using my own real life subjects (my sons) here are some of my thoughts and real life examples:

1. This short video shows perfectly a toddler exhibiting very low levels of patience and persistence (that is my youngest son who has a remarkably short attention span, is perhaps slightly hyperactive, and has a temper to go with it... don't you love the bit where he even bites the block!).  It has honestly been a long hard road encouraging him to be persistent at just about any task (perhaps you can tell from the video?), but that is his personality and you have to work with what you have.

2.  Persistence is easier to encourage when your child is working on something they love.  Actually, thinking about it, its very easy to get them to persist when doing something they love, the challenge begins when you want them to persist with a task they don't want to do.

3. Swimming lessons are a great example of continued persistence at a task.  It takes many lessons and a lot of effort to become even a little proficient.  The same goes for musical lessons and other sports.

4. When strongly encouraging your child to be persistent at a task, you usually end up with a face like this.  But don't let it daunt you, your child is learning persistence and building resilience.

To encourage persistence, we as parents and teachers need to be the leaders and cheering team for our children.  Using positive phrases such as "I just know you can finish that", "I am so proud of you finishing that even though it was hard", "Congratulations on working so hard at that project", and "Just take one step at a time and you will get there in the end" will positively nudge children in the right direction.  Encouragement, a rewards system, making something seem fun, a positive supportive environment, and awareness of the end goal, are all tools you can use to promote persistence.

Have you thought about persistence (or lack of) in your children's play and learning?  Do you agree it is one of the most important life skills?

This month our theme for Teach/Learn was Persistence, something that is needed to string all the pieces together and achieve something big.
'Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race' Calvin Coolidge, US President.


CatWay said...

Your post makes me think about how persistence and patience is necessary for parents too.
I think it is because you talked about swimming lessons, and my experience with swimming lessons for my kids has required a lot of persistence. Sometimes they don't seem to be getting anywhere for ages and ages, but we persist and suddenly they will leap ahead very quickly. I need persistence to stick it through even though I'm seeing no progress and spending money. And I need patience to not nag my child to try harder, hoping that might work to help them acheive more.

Cath said...

I have discovered that persistence and determination are two ENTIRELY different personality traits.

Funnily enough, we also had to work through the initial reluctance to persist with swimming lessons, even though he loved the water, and I deliberately delayed him starting until the ripe old age of 4 1/2. It seems that anything the munchkin can't master in an instant is not worth bothering with.

That said, he will happily pursue an activity for forever if he is fully engaged. The fun bit is picking what activity will engage him today.

Some great suggestins, that are definitely useful in the context of our lives. Thank you.

Deb Chitwood said...

I love watching children develop persistence through doing activities they love! Sports are great for that, too! My kids were figure skaters, and they definitely learned persistence through the years it took to become truly accomplished skaters. Deb @