So next time you are struggling with a task in front of your children don’t make it look too easy. By trying and repeatedly failing at a task you are helping children understand the value and importance of persistence.
“Many cultures emphasise the value of effort and perseverance. This emphasis is substantiated by scientific research: individual differences in conscientiousness, self-control and ‘grit’ correlate with academic outcomes independent of IQ” wrote scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
They wondered if persistence and quitting could be learnt. “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?”
In an experiment they ran at MIT, reported in the journal Science, 250 15-month old children watched adults perform a task getting a keychain attached to a carabiner out of a box.
Half the time the adults easily removed the keychain but half the time struggled before they accomplished the task.
The toddlers were then given their own task – a music box with a big button to press (which didn’t make the music play no matter how many times they pushed it). The idea was to see if the number of times they pushed the button depended on whether or not they had seen adults persevering.
The experiment was stopped after two minutes or after the toddler threw the box on the floor three times in frustration.
The results seemed to support the scientists’ hypothesis. Those children who had seen adults persevere, albeit in an unrelated task, kept pushing the button for longer.
While they are not suggesting this is the only way for children to learn the value of perseverance – they might also learn by just observing adults completing tasks or by being told about the importance of hard work – the study did suggest “the potential value in letting children “see you sweat”. Showing children that hard work works might encourage them to work hard too”
It’s good to be reminded that we are role models for our children in everything we do!