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4 min read

Being a kid really is hard work. It means learning constantly.

From how to walk, talk, and eat - to learning how to socialize, how the world works, how to take care of yourself, and a million other small and large skills in between.

And that's on top of all the academic subjects - reading, writing, math, science...

The constant trial and error, mistakes and failures can feel exhausting some days.  

But this is part of life. Mistakes are a necessary part of learning.

That's why it's so helpful to model persistence and the ability to learn from mistakes at an early age.

It prevents our children from becoming too overwhelmed, frustrated or fixated on perfectionism.

Here's four strategies to model perseverance and acceptance of mistakes:

1. Modelling

To our children, we often seem like experts in everything - swimming, reading, cooking, or using scissors :)

And we are their biggest role models.

So when they see us always modelling perfection, it can be frustrating for them to struggle with the same activities they watch us maneuver flawlessly. And when we do struggle or fail, we work through the problem in our heads.

Our children need to see us struggle, fail, practice and make progress to understand that it's normal.

Modelling growth and perseverance means they need to hear us narrate these processes by using sentences like:

  • "Oops that's not how I wanted that to go. It's ok, I'll just try again"
  • "I worked really hard on that and I've gotten so much better"
  • "I didn't mean to spill that glass but it's ok, I can just grab a paper towel and clean it up"
  • "I coloured the elephant red instead of grey but that's ok, I still like it"

2. Give Them Time and Space to Practice

This is where the Montessori classroom shines - but you can easily replicate it at home.

In the classroom, children are give the freedom to choose their work and then work on mastery through repetition.

At home, we can create a space where children can easily choose activities that interest them and then work on them for as long as they're interested.

Rather than worry that they've been spending too much time focused on one activity or area of work (art, building, gross motor skills), trust that your child knows what they need, in terms of interests and challenge.

Repetition is so good for children. It teaches them that practice makes us better at something - in a hands on way they can easily understand.

It can also be tempting to offer your child new activities because you're bored.

This is a great article from last year about how we, as adults, can project boredom onto our children: https://themontessoriroom.com/blogs/montessori-tips/are-you-projecting-boredom-onto-your-child

3. Focus on Progress

Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist, wrote an excellent book that's well-aligned with Montessori - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

It's about developing what she refers to as "The Growth Mindset" - when people believe their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others.

This is different than a "Fixed Mindset" - those who believe their talents are innate gifts you are born with and cannot be changed.

In her research, Dr. Dweck found that students who believed they could get smarter through work put in extra time and effort, leading to higher achievements.

Here's three of her strategies to help children develop a growth mindset:

  • Talk about your child's progress after practicing for a period of time - "Last year you couldn't swim at all and now you're floating by yourself and going underwater."
  • Help them understand how it's common for new activities to be hard when you first try them - "I was terrible at skating when I first started but after I spent all winter practicing, I got so much better and started to have a lot of fun." or "It makes sense that your first piano lesson was hard. It's your first time. It'll get easier with practice"
  • Praise effort, not outcome - try "You worked really hard on that" instead of "You're so smart"

4. Pause Before Correcting

It can be tempting to make small corrections or adjustments after our child completes a task but try to resist.

Children often notice these small adjustments - refolding the washcloth they just put in the pile or repositioning the sticker they added to a page - and understand them as corrections.

They see our perfectionism as something to work towards.

Allowing our children the freedom to make mistakes without judgement is key in building their confidence around trying new things.

Bonus Book List

Here are some books that we also love to help children build their resilience: