“You know what Mommy? Grandma cooks, Papa works in the garden, and I try!” ~ A comment made by my 4 year old granddaughter who has learned about trying!
Here’s what I believe led to the comment: She asked if we could do a puzzle together, and it was challenging for her. It became an opportunity to teach her strategies that would help her not give up, or decide, “let’s play something else!” I wanted her to receive two messages as things started to get a bit tough: 1st, she was capable; 2nd, accomplishing small sections mattered; two ingredients for her to persist!
I said, “This is a challenge so let’s use your Action Star helpers”, characters she had been introduced that help children work at difficult tasks. They have become part of her tool kit of strategies – HOW to work at “hard stuff!”
“You can’t just tell a child to try hard without giving them strategies and supporting their efforts.” ~ Carol Dweck, Psychologist, Stanford University. “‘Growth Mindset’ Gaining Traction as School Improvement Strategy”, edweek.org, September 10, 2013.
“FOCUS”, who reminds children to look and listen; “PUZZLE”, teaches them to work at small pieces – very appropriate for this task; and “ERASOAR”, who tells kids to ERASE a mistake and keep trying – so they will SOAR!
My role was important. I needed to:
stay aware of how I reacted to her attempts because my tone of voice and body language speaks volumes;
congratulate her with a very upbeat, energetic voice when small accomplishments were achieved AND…
making sure I mentioned the Action Star strategy she was using. For example:
“Wow, you just found 2 pieces of the face – you used FOCUS to find the right match!”
If she tried a piece that didn’t fit and then tried another:
“You made a mistake and used ERASOAR! You didn’t give up!”
As she persisted and found another:
“PUZZLE is happy and says, “YES! You found more pieces!”
This type of praise is more than just saying, “Good job” or “I’m glad you’re trying.” She was learning tools that help her stick to it.
Teaching kids to HOW to persist – to not give up or divert themselves as soon as reading, math, or anything becomes difficult – helps them develop learning traits they will have for a lifetime, especially when learned as young as 4 years old!