By Stephanie Newitt
Do your kids ever give up before their task is complete? Do they ever have a meltdown over an assignment they perceive as difficult? Among the gifts our kids have, do we ever wish we could give them the gift of persistence so they can work through difficulties and obtain the rewards they seek.
This past week we hosted a STEM camp for our kids and their cousins at our home. The children were divided into teams and were to build their own Rube Goldberg contraptions to meet a specific goal. On the last day, about an hour before the end of class, my youngest son left the project room, ran to his bedroom and locked the door. He was frustrated with his project and felt like giving up. I went to his room. With coaxing he unlocked the door. In a very neutral tone I called him down from his bunk bed and asked him to stand in front of me. He had no idea why I was asking him to do this and so while he complied, he wore a perplexed look on his face. As soon as he was in position, I scooped him up, and held him upside down, while I jumped and wiggled around the room. By this time he was laughing!
“Mom! What are you doing??”
“Remember the movie ‘Big Hero 6’? You need to use your great thinking brain to look at the problem from a different angle! You can do this.”
“OK! OK!” Amidst more of his laughter, I set him upright on the floor.
He returned to the project room and continued to work on their Rube Goldberg with a more positive attitude until the “Show and Tell” moment with parents at the end of class.
This experience reminded me of the article by Dr. Dan Peters, “Coping 101: Building Persistence and Resilience in Gifted Children.”
You are invited to read this short article by Dr. Peters, where he uses his down to earth approach to introduce a few steps that will help us build persistence and resilience in our gifted children. The steps he expands on are:
1. Improve frustration tolerance (lengthen the fuse)
2. Teach them to use their great “thinking brain”
3. Help them form a realistic view of self and their abilities
4. Scaffold and support weaknesses
5. Set up opportunities for success
Throughout these steps I would add to share family stories when family members have dealt with adversity and then persevered. These family stories can be powerful if shared in the right way. What strategies of persistence did Dad use when he was looking for a job while a high school student? What motivators did Aunt Cathy use when she was a kid and the cookies didn’t turn out like she wanted? Kids can come away from a family story thinking, “Well, if they can do it, and we are related, then I can do it too.”
So whether it’s sharing stories about how grandpa worked to make new friends when he moved to a new school, or how mom didn’t give up on her scholarship applications, you may also want to flip your kid upside down or just tap her on the shoulder and say, “Tag! You’re it!” Including family stories of perseverance and creating moments of uplifting humor can be a part of your scaffolding strategy and little by little you will be able to help your child build persistence and resilience.
Do you want to know how to effectively use family stories in your parenting scaffolding? Then check out this article from the New York Times – The Stories that Bind Us
Big Hero 6 – “Look for a new angle” 15 second video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpUPv4B-pxQ