Use positive words, celebrate success, encourage kids to try new things; there are so many things parents can say and do to instill perseverance in their kids. But a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that one of the most effective ways parents can teach persistence is allowing children to watch others being persistent.
Perseverance is necessary for discovering new ideas. It enables us to take risks, and learn from failures and then try again. Research even suggests it is a valuable skill for babies, since it may help academically later in life. But how can parents teach this trait to their kids?
Developmental psychologists at MIT recruited 102 babies between the ages of 13 to 18 months. As babies watched, researchers tried to retrieve a toy from a container, and detach a key chain from a carabiner. In front of some babies, they completed the task easily and quickly, while they struggled to complete the tasks in front of other babies. Then all the babies were given a toy with a button that didn’t work. The babies who had seen the researchers struggling with their own objects pushed the button twice as many times as those who had seen the researchers succeed effortlessly. So key lesson: if adults don’t quit, it may help their kids build grit.
The researchers performed the experiment again on 80 babies and got the exact same results suggesting that babies are keen observers and can learn even persistence by watching other people.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.