“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Perseverance. We all want to see our children conquer an obstacle, clear a hurdle, and stick to it, even if it's hard. While there is much written on how to encourage perseverance in academics, fostering grit in early childhood is often overlooked. It is fairly common to overhear a parent say, "He can't do that" or "She's not ready for that" in regards to a hard transition such as starting preschool, staying with a babysitter, or going on playdate. But children CAN do these things successfully, even anxious children. They just need someone to believe they can.
Here are some ways to be your child's cheerleader:
*Slow and steady. Assure your child that some things take practice. It is absolutely A-OK to be worried about (ex.) staying with the new babysitter for the first time but we will make a plan for it to be fun (perhaps a schedule filled with fun things for the babysitter to do with your child) and then Mom and Dad will only be gone for one hour (show your child on the clock or with a timer). It is absolutely fine to start slow when a transition is hard. Each time your child stays with the sitter is practice for the next time.
*Assure your child that everyone thinks some things are hard. Share a time that you thought about quitting but didn't, and how that made you feel.
*Let your child know that you believe in him or her. Sometimes we are trying so hard to protect our children from anxiety or fear that we unknowingly send the signal that we don't think they are capable. "I believe you can do this" is a very powerful statement and one that will follow you into adulthood with your child.
*Remind your child of his or her strengths. "You are so great at building with Legos. Maybe you can help a friend build with Legos at preschool today".
*Big deal vs. little deal. When something doesn't work out, it can be helpful to make a list of big deals and little deals. An example of a big deal might be getting hurt feelings because of an unkind friend. A little deal might be a block structure falling over. Both deals can elicit big feelings but one might need more adult intervention. Let your child try to solve the little deals independently and feel free to intervene on the big deals.
*It is OK to make mistakes. Do not expect perfection from your child. Mistakes are for learning and they are good. As a whole, our culture expects far too much perfection from children. Don't get caught up in that. Talk to your child about how mistakes are part of the learning process.
*Teach your child to ask for help but balance that with encouraging independence. Learning to ask for help can cut down on frustration. Even very young children can say "Help, please".
Assertiveness. Courage. Patience. Determination. Perseverance. These are all skills that your child will need in adulthood. It is not too early to start teaching them. Young children CAN do hard things. If you believe it, they will too.
Let Them Fly!