Five ways to improve mental toughness in children

Blog courtesy of David Paton, Head at Radnor House

It’s a trendy topic to discuss toughness in education but having spent the weekend finishing off “Clever Lands” by Lucy Crehan it was obvious to me that a huge amount of success in education, mirrored time and again across the world, is down to how hard and how effectively children work throughout their school career.

The following is my five point guide to improving your child’s mental toughness:

1) Praise effort NOT output – this one is so important. The subtle language you use around children has an enormous impact on their learning behaviours. Saying, “you are so clever” instead of “well done for working so hard” after a good test result could seriously impede their willingness to try hard next time around, when the stakes are even higher.

2) Tell stories about people working hard and overcoming adversity – perhaps family members or friends spring to mind that have done amazing things against the odds with just their sheer grit and determination, kids thrive on stories like these.

3) Set high expectations – work should be done to a good standard and if it is not then ask them to repeat it, life is not easy and will be all the harder if children are given too easy a ride through their formative years.

4) Model the features of tenacity and determination – children are great at mimicking so when they see you struggling with something make sure you make it very apparent to them that you keep on going despite finding it hard and wanting to quit.

5) Do not be afraid of pointing out failures to children – in China if a child gets a Maths problem wrong they are told clearly they have done it wrong and to have another go, in Western cultures we tend to call them “creative learners”!

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