Perseverance, persistence and grit in the ELC

Perseverance, persistence and grit – what do these words mean to you? What scenarios or stories could you tell about yourself in relation to these attributes? How do you support and encourage your child to persevere and show grit? Do you talk about the challenges of persistence? Of failing and getting back up, literally or figurately, and having another go?

As we have begun in society and in education to value and understand more about learner attributes, like resilience, we have realised that they can be taught explicitly at a very young age. Personal and learning attributes are not just required at secondary level or beyond, but are essential tools from early childhood.

But, as with any attribute, some people have a natural predisposition and others need help, encouragement and teaching to recognise and develop the attribute, as is the case with perseverance, persistence and grit.

From the very littlest ones in childcare to the biggest children in their year before school, we, as educators, are mindful to support, encourage and set challenges for all children. We make sure to recognise their strengths and then develop and extend them while at the same time challenging and supporting their persistence and perseverance. Some children set their own goals to achieve, naturally stretching themselves; others might feel uncomfortable or avoid a challenge and need to be stretched by the educators. The best learning happens though making mistakes and being able to bounce back, have resilience and work out what needs to be different the next time. Having adults who support them, help them to problem solve and inspire them to have another go is essential.

The photos tell a couple of stories. Freya was determined to jump to the peppercorn tree and touch the leaves. It took her many attempts, much determination, some failure, a few ‘nearly but not quites’. The support, encouragement and reflection allowed her to persist, and the look of joy and determination on her face is clear.

Xavier also persevered in climbing the peppercorn tree, using the ropes and focussing on getting footholds. The concentration and persistence can be seen in his whole body.

There are babies and toddlers who persevere to get to the toy or stand to walk or are feed themselves, despite the challenge of manoeuvring the spoon with food to their mouth. Noticing these challenges daily and supporting the children to persevere is important work. The message is critical in terms of resilience – the capacity to sustain effort and bounce back when experiencing setback. As tempting as it is as a parent to make things right for your child, this becomes a disservice in the long run.

It is important to identify the opportunities with the children to discuss strategies to face challenges or teach skills that will support their learning. It is also encouraging for them when they feel validated and can learn to contain and appropriately channel their frustration or disappointment when they haven’t succeeded. By promoting perseverance, persistence and grit in our children, we can change their mindset: to go from ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘I can’t do it – YET’.

Wendy Seidler
Director of ELC Kew