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Monday, January 23, 2012

The Value of Frustration

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” - Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the US)

I love this quote - but I wonder if many people believe it. I seem to find a lot of kids (and parents) that believe that if you are “smart” then learning will come easily. Hard work and persistence are not usually part of the equation. (Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers touches on this brilliantly.) So many kids sell themselves short because they believe they can’t be good at any subject that doesn’t come easily.

Ellen Galinsky considers "taking on challenges" one of the seven essential life skills every child needs in Mind in the Making.  So, how do I teach my toddler that anything new is hard, and that it can be frustrating, but that working through it pays off?

Brie getting frustrated with Mrs. Pumpkinhead

I need to give my child appropriate challenges, let her feel frustrated, and be patient as she works through it.

It might seem like a small thing, but for awhile my daughter refused to go down stairs. Up, yes. Down, no way, not even our front doorstep. The stairs she climbs at home are steep, wood steps, and a little scary, so I get it, but when I found 4, shallow, carpeted steps in a hotel lobby, I saw an opportunity. She made one timid attempt to go down, lost her balance, and refused to try again. Then the tears started.

Public meltdowns are usually code for “give up mommy, it’s over”, but not this time. Instead I gave her my hand to try again. I knew she was frustrated but I didn’t want to let her give up so easily. Twenty minutes later she finally made it down those four steps, on her own. After that, the full flight of wood steps at home wasn’t so scary after all. Victory.

Outside a friend's house - afraid no more!

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