In a culture of instant gratification, one of the best gifts that we can share with young children is to teach them the ability to persevere when faced with challenges. For children to develop these skills, they must have opportunities to take on challenges, problem-solve, and pick themselves up to try again. Perseverance is also sometimes called grit, referring to a person’s ability to push forward towards his or her goals regardless of any potential obstacles.
An Indicator of Later Success
While there are many qualities that influence children’s learning and academic potential, grit is especially important for young learners, because research has found that it can be a key indicator of later success. A study conducted by Angela Lee Duckworth, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team, measured how grit relates to measures of success. The team studied public school students in Chicago using a self-reported questionnaire called The Grit Scale and found that students who self-reported the most grit were more likely to graduate high school when compared to students who rated themselves lower on the Grit Scale.
While the children studied in Duckworth’s research were older, the building blocks for grit emerge in infancy. An article from Tinkergarten reminds us that young children are constantly taking on new challenges, and “without persistence and true tolerance for setbacks, they would never walk, talk, climb, run, or even learn to nurture close relationships. Small humans are designed to try, fail, revise, repeat—all in order to learn…So, the early years are a perfect time to hold back our reactions, let them push themselves, and promote grit in our kids.”
See Angela Duckworth’s TED talk below.
Tips for Educators and Caregivers
Every day, early childhood professionals watch children take on new challenges, often failing during their first few attempts. Psychologist, author, and parent coach, Dr. Laura Markham, notes that, while failing is part of the process, the ability to persevere comes from the experience of learning that you can pick yourself up, try again, and ultimately be successful. This learning comes from experiences of success along with a lot of emotional support and reinforcement from adult care providers.
To help support children in their learning, Dr. Markham recommends the following: