Perseverance helps athletes grow strong, scientists make discoveries, artists perfect techniques and entrepreneurs pursue dreams. It’s also an important quality for students. Faced with unprecedented circumstances during the past few months, kids and their families have tapped into their abilities to persevere.
Digging deep to overcome obstacles or adjust to new situations requires a growth mindset over a fixed mindset. People who have a growth mindset believe improvement and change is possible through hard work and help from others. A fixed mindset thinks that talents and intelligence remain the same regardless of the amount of effort.
Students become better learners when they have a growth mindset, because they see difficulties as normal parts of life and opportunities to improve, according to Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychology professor who developed the concept.
Extensive remote learning and “stay at home” orders tested families’ perseverance this spring as students and parents learned to manage different online platforms, establish new routines and set up home work spaces.
Encouraging a growth mindset can take place as part of your normal routine as well. Here are five ideas to help your child turn into a lifelong learner who sees challenges as opportunities.
- Try coding: Coding games and activities are great because they teach kids to learn from mistakes. Programmers learn to be problem solvers, testing new ideas and solutions when initial coding commands go awry. Through sites such as Code Monkey, Kodable and Scratch, Corbett Prep students complete online challenges at different ability levels that increase in difficulty in a fun way.
- Read all about it: You can find great stories of perseverance in fiction and nonfiction. The “Who Was” biography series introduces young readers to inspiring true stories of historical figures, sports legends, musicians and more. A Goodreads list of popular perseverance books offers thousands of suggestions, including “The Little Engine That Could,” “Flight School” and “Rosie Revere, Engineer” for younger readers as well as “Wonder,” “A Long Walk to Water” and “Esperanza Rising” for older ones.
- Be like Batman: A 2016 study published in Child Development showed that 4 and 6-year-olds stuck with repetitive tasks longer when they pretended to be a character such as Batman, asking themselves during the process “Is Batman working hard?” Give it a try, challenging your child to channel Paw Patrol, Optimus Prime, Rey or other hard workers the next time the going gets tough.
- Set goals: Working toward big or small goals helps children think about what they want to achieve and the steps to make it happen. Help your child pick something realistic and walk them through a course of action, educational psychologist Michele Borba wrote in a 2017 article in U.S. News & World Report. Whether they want to save money, improve their mile run time or bring up their math grade, you can help them track their progress so they can witness how their dedication begins to pay off.
- Try something hard together: Angela Duckworth, author and psychologist, popularized the “hard thing rule” as a way to develop grit. Everyone in the family picks their own “hard thing” to try. It has to be something that requires practice, and you must see it through. By tackling tough tasks separately but together, family members can learn from each other how to persevere and provide both support and celebrations.
Mindsets can always change, and cultivating a growth mindset is ongoing. Corbett Prep teachers establish an environment that celebrates the learning process, modeling it for their own students by praising progress along with achievement and regularly participating in professional development. The ability to reframe our thinking when difficult times arise allows us to see the learning gems hidden in the obstacles and that’s a gift for all of us, adults and children.