Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How we teach kids to quit when it's hard.

For a large majority of kids, hard equals quit. I don't know why this is. For some kids, uncomfortable equals quit. I don't know why this is.

When I was a kid, hard meant work harder.

It seems that a certain percentage of kids now think that things which are hard are those that need avoiding, not overcoming. And I am wondering where they learned that. Where did they learn that shrinking away from 'hardness' was was the preferred path even to the detriment of necessary education.

It seems that we are living in a 'can't' society. If I cannot immediately find success, I can't do it.

This make me wonder how kids today ever learned to walk. What's harder than learning to walk?  What are the steps?

First, you have to be motivated. "There are all these people around me that are using only two appendages to move around this great big world. Maybe I should try it." So, what baby have you EVER seen stand and walk on their maiden effort? I know there is someone in the bloggosphere who will say, "My cousins niece did it. It was on the news." I don't believe it. What happens to all soon-to-be walkers? They fall. I've never seen a baby who is making the effort to walk fall and remain on the ground convinced this walking thing is just not for them. They try again.

What's the next step? They have to learn from their mistakes. A baby modifies their strategy along the way. They learn that maybe they need a coffee table, or a chair, or a parents pant leg to help them achieve uprightness. They do different things with their arms to help achieve balance.

What do babies do when they have learned to walk? They continue to practice. And whats more? They push away the moniker of 'baby.' They become toddlers. The learning changes how they see themselves, but, more, the world around that newly licensed toddler see the difference and consequently starts reacting to them differently.

So, with a relatively low number of 34 year olds crawling around our fair streets, all of our kids have the capacity to learn even when it's hard. My question is: How do we teach this out of them? What is it that we do as an educational system and as a society that teaches our students that causes the avoidance of things that are hard?

Leave your answer as a comment.

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner


  1. It's all about what's happening between the ears. When babies don't get it right the first time, we don't label them as failures. When kids in school don't get it right the first time, we do (via our grading practices). If that happens often enough, that gets internalized and the motivation to continue decreases because they know they're failures so why bother?

    1. Spot on, Scott. How can we break that? If I could teach just one thing it would be the fact that failure is not the destination, an ending place. It's just a step towards getting it right.

  2. Um, we can break it by not continuing our harmful grading practices?