In our book, The Baseball Story, Little Honey dreams of hitting a homerun and is willing to work hard to make her dream come true. She also dreams of joining the Orioles baseball team someday. As parents we see our children choose goals – some of which are achievable and some of which are not.
The challenge comes in as we try to guide children in making the best decisions including when to persevere and when to abandon a goal. Watching our children repeatedly try to achieve a goal without success is stressful for us and we understand and empathize with their frustration.
Yet, the ability to overcome obstacles to achieve a goal can help develop self-confidence and improve the likelihood of success well into adulthood. The development of perseverance and grit in children may be a stronger predictor of academic success than inherent intelligence.
We assume that children, like adults, are motivated by praise. But children have very different needs than adults and praise that focuses on things that children can’t control – such as their appearances or their intelligence – can ironically cause erosion in their sense of self-confidence. Instead we should praise children on the things they can control such as the amount of effort and time they put into a task.
Other ways we can help our children in pursuing goals is providing a role model for meeting challenges. We can also ensure that children have small, achievable victories so that they can experience success. Finally we can provide emotional support as it becomes clear that a goal is insurmountable.
Children’s literature is yet another way one way to reinforce persistence and hard work in young children. The plot of one of our favorite childhood books, The Little Engine That Could has often been used as an example for young children of working hard to attain a challenging objective. We would like to believe that the lessons in The Baseball Story may be useful to parents in much the same way. If you have some life experiences or tips to help young children in developing grit and perseverance please share in the comments.