Rohit, a five-year-old, does not play with his vast collection of blocks, jigsaws and construction sets for more than 10 minutes. Medha, a nine-year-old, begs for ballet classes; her parents give in but she wants to quit after a few weeks. Rekha, a teenager, wants to be ‘rid of Maths’ after Grade 10.
The variety of playthings and after-school activities is mind boggling and choices of courses in higher secondary education are expanding by the day. While this abundance of choice encourages exploration, are today’s children jumping from one thing to another too easily, too soon? And giving up too fast, at the slightest whiff of a difficulty, obstacle or set back? Long before they have mastered any particular skill? Why is it important to teach our children to ‘stay the course’ or ‘stick it out’?
What is persistence and why it is a must-have for children
The story of Thomas Alva Edison is a famous one. He had to try about a 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb. What was it that made him try 999 times, yet not wring his hands in frustration and give up? It could have been innate curiosity or interest. It could have been motivation. Or it could have been a mixture of the two. We call this persistence — the ability, or the strength, to keep at something even when there’s a steep climb ahead. Pressing on, despite failures, setbacks or any form of adversity or stress is a valuable skill that your child needs to learn early on. “Persistence is an absolute requirement for an interest to be explored well; it allows the individual to remain focused, prioritise things, and keep away from distractions. If a child is persistent, she also learns discipline, builds character and develops time management as a survival skill!” says Dr. Smita Desai, an educational psychologist and special educator.
Preparation for life: As your child grows up, she will enter increasingly complex environments with competition, pressure from peers and parents, or even high self-made expectations. Life will also increasingly become a mix of the boring and interesting, tough and easy, unpleasant and good, it is important not to quit when the going gets tough.
Building competence takes time and effort: Mastery at anything needs endless hours of practice, so your child needs to learn patience and the means to keep herself motivated. Only if an interest is pursued consistently can the child get results; talent is but one side of the coin. This is as true for artistic and sporting pursuits, as it is for academic achievement. “Every time you play, you learn something new; whether it is a new trick to get past a player or a way to pass with more accuracy. The phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ fits perfectly here because the more you practice the better you become,” says Ushain Satta, an eighteen-year-old who pursues basketball, football and swimming.