A new MIT study claims that children as young as 15 months old can learn a lot from simply watching their parents struggle to reach goals
As a parent, you work hard to make sure your child is given every possible comfort and advantage in life. You most likely want to shield them from life’s difficulties as much as possible. But a new study is claiming that this isn’t always a good thing.
The study, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says letting them see you struggle once in a while helps them become more resilient as they grow up. Showing your kid that not all things come easily allows them to see the value of working hard to achieve goals, to press on when things get tough.
The study found that children as young as 15 months old can learn a lot from seeing their parents struggle.
By conducting two sets of experiments, MIT researchers wanted to find out whether seeing an adults who display resilience can have a positive effect on toddlers when faced with an age-appropriate task.
The children were first made to watch adults demonstrating a difficult task, such as opening a container, which they only accomplish after purposely struggling with it for 30 seconds. In another round of the experiment, adults demonstrated no effort in finishing a task.
After that, the toddlers were given their own task, which involved finding a toy’s hidden switch. Researchers observed how long they would keep at it before giving up and hitting the decoy switch or looking to an adult for help.
Sure enough, those who had seen adults struggling, worked harder at finding the toy’s hidden switch, despite the challenge.
“There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy and not get frustrated in front of their children,” Laura Schulz, an MIT professor who teaches cognitive science, told Inc. magazine. “There’s nothing you can learn from a laboratory study that directly applies to parenting, but this does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals.”
So how can parents apply this study’s findings?
Letting your kids see you struggle and letting them struggle builds resilience. Remember that empowering your kids is important. Here are ways you can build your kid’s confidence and encourage them not to give up so easily.
- Give them tasks that are age and developmentally appropriate.
- Teach them the skills they need to complete a task.
- Listen to them. Show them you care and understand before solving the problem for them.
- Converse with them in a way that exercises their own problem solving and critical thinking skills.
- Use difficulties as an opportunity for you to work together and collaborate.
- Emphasize the importance of the process over results.
- Let them have “do-overs” or a chance to repeat failed tasks.
- Don’t intervene immediately. Watch how they deal with frustration and work from there.
- Most of all, praise and acknowledge their efforts as well as their successes!