Experts warn kids learn to ‘give up’ from watching parents
It may not seem like a big deal to bail on a simple task, but it could be affecting your kids.
Leaving half the folding for later or ditching a pan in the sink to soak might seem inconsequential at the time, but studies suggest these small acts of ‘giving up’ could have a bigger impact – on our kids.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered during a series of trials that babies as young as 15 months were paying acute attention to their parents’ behaviour – including their parents’ propensity to abandon a challenging task.
Whether a kid hangs in there or gives up depends on the adults around them.
The study, published in the journal Science, involved dividing babies into three groups. Each group watched developmental psychologist, Julia Leonard, try and pull a toy from a container, and remove colourful keys from a ring. The first group watched the her struggle with the task, but eventually succeed despite facing a clear challenge. The second group watched as she completed the tasks easily and quickly. And the third group acted as a control, and weren’t shown anything.
The babies were then given a toy music box that they had to try and activate – not knowing that the obvious button had been intentionally disabled.
Researchers witnessed that the babies who watched the adult succeed with ease gave up sooner than the babies who watched the adult persevere despite the difficulty of the task at hand.
The results confirmed what had already been seen in studies with school age children and adults, says Professor Lucas Butlers, expert on human development at the University of Maryland.
‘Persistence even in infancy is not simply a personality trait, but rather may be fundamentally rooted in the social context,’ he said.
Studies already exist which show that the level of ‘grit’ a person has is directly related to their ability to succeed in later life, and this study suggests that this skill can be encouraged in children from a very young age.
Setting a good example of ‘grit’ could help kids succeed later in life.
‘The infants made a much broader, more general inference about the intrinsic value of payoff of hard work,’ said Professor Butler.
If you needed motivation to finally get the baked on grease off the frypan this might be it – your little ones are watching.