Why Encouraging Struggle Helps Your Child​

Sometimes, parents and teachers see a shift in students when they hit middle school. Suddenly, the work isn't as easy, there is less direction, and expectations increase.


Students who have done well with little effort in elementary school can find this transition especially difficult. As this Scientific American article notes, these students often believe intelligence is inborn and static, which leads them to believe that struggling to learn means that they are not smart.


As the article says, this “overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves [students] vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges, and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.”


This can appear in several different ways: refusing or not asking for help, getting behind, and falling grades. These students also start to believe that if they make mistakes or have to make an extra effort to understand a concept, something is fundamentally wrong with them. They then lose confidence and motivation.


So what can a parent do when this starts happening with their child?


Focus more on personal effort and strategies to overcome obstacles and less on reassuring your child that he or she is smart. This can foster an ability to problem solve and increase their resilience, which may actually help turn them into high achievers.


I strive for this kind of interaction in my lessons with students. For instance, if a student asks me how to spell something, I first encourage them to hear the sounds in the word. Putting it back on them to puzzle through the spelling often leads to a correct or nearly correct spelling. If there are mistakes, I can point them out and help them learn the rules they haven't yet mastered.


Encouraging your student to struggle, with healthy support from you, can help them overcome difficult transitions and succeed in school and in life.


Tags: stress resilience struggle