Practice makes perfect. But is perfection really important?
Not as important as the practice. Practice builds the type of confidence that helps children develop a more persistent approach to difficult tasks. Once a child sees that she can succeed in completing hard tasks she is more likely to take on new challenges. Knowing about other people who have persisted in the face of failure and ultimately succeeded can help children develop the persistence to keep working at a task. In this edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series we suggest strategies to build the skills necessary for building persistence across all areas of children’s lives.
Team with teacher. Talk to your child’s teacher about cooperatively tackling her persistence issue. Discuss shortening or reducing the number of long-term projects and ask for weekly updates on her progress. Coordinated efforts to break down your child’s larger school tasks may be necessary through high school, and a child may need to be allowed additional time to complete projects. She could also benefit from the use of technologies such as a web-based or word processing template for a book report to reduce difficulty in completing projects.
Pump pop culture. Watch movies, videos, or commercials about individuals who have worked hard to excel, choosing topics that fit a child’s interests. Take this old Michael Jordan commercial available on YouTube, for example, in which the basketball star describes how many (potentially) game winning shots he missed, rather than made. You might need to find a more contemporary role model. People like Stephen Hawking and Temple Grandin have fascinating life stories that illustrate for your child the ways people can overcome perceived disabilities with effort and persistence.
Work smarter, not harder. There can be great variation in what is most effective for an individual child based upon the content area and a child’s capabilities and ability to study for an amount of time. One of the most effective ways of studying for a test is to study smaller chunks of information repeatedly over an extended period of time. Strategies such as making and studying note cards may take far longer than simply reviewing one’s notes but may be more effective for a particular child. Help your child analyze the methods of studying that work best for her and to determine a sense of how long it will take her to study for particular tests.
Divide and conquer. Tasks such as cleaning one’s room can be so overwhelming as to prevent a child from even starting. Dividing the task into individual parts – picking up clothes, putting away books and papers, dusting, and vacuuming – can help her see that the job is achievable. Start a chore along with her, for example, helping to clear her desk of clutter and then handing her a duster to clean it, providing ongoing instruction and attention throughout. Help her understand that most long-term projects are actually a series of smaller completed tasks.
Reasonable responsibility. Identify tasks that a child already displays the capacity to complete and then gradually add additional or more complex components to that task. One common observation in younger children is how many of them develop a sense of accomplishment when they begin to read books with chapters and see themselves as ready for all types of reading. Similarly, graduating your child to more responsibilities around the home encourages self-confidence and growth. A child who is able to help put the clean silverware away could earn the responsibility of putting the dishes away, as well. Assembling a toy or piece of furniture requiring the use of hand tools could give children experience in using the same tools in other settings and soon the use of basic power tools. Ask a child to describe her capacities for using tools or other particular skills to bolster the self-confidence required to persist and complete tasks.
Complementing these core strategies with the use of apps, websites, and other technologies often leads to the best solutions to improve a child’s ability to identify practice and models of persistence. Some of the best tech tools to help a child identify practice and models of persistence include:
Triple Town is a one-stop shop for exercising some of the key executive function skills necessary for persisting. An attractive puzzle game for Android and iOS devices, Triple Town challenges users’ planning, organization, flexibility, and self-control in an engaging and exciting way.
A good way for your child to practice persistence is in doing something he or she enjoys (and not just video gaming). Makr is an app that will appeal to the visual artist in your child, allowing them to see design and print projects from start to finish, specifically exercising their goal-directed persistence.
Time management skills are necessary in order to build persistence. Understanding how long things take and planning accordingly is necessary. Timer+ is an app that can help kids get a better grasp of time spent and time needed, which can often be beneficial in helping them hang in there and see a task through to the end.
Featured image: Flickr user Jem Yoshioka