Are you try­ing to help chil­dren suc­ceed in your child care pro­gram or as a par­ent? In order to learn and devel­op, chil­dren need oppor­tu­ni­ties to expe­ri­ence suc­cess. This week’s blog comes from our Care Course Child Devel­op­ment and Guid­ance and has infor­ma­tion that will help you help your chil­dren succeed. 

Chil­dren feel suc­cess­ful when they do things on their own, in their own way. Chil­dren need the free­dom to meet chal­lenges and suc­ceed on their own. This is essen­tial for children’s learn­ing and devel­op­ment. How­ev­er, it is some­times dif­fi­cult for adults to allow chil­dren the free­dom to suc­ceed on their own.

One way for children to experience success is through experimentation.

By def­i­n­i­tion, the process of exper­i­ment­ing involves peri­ods of frus­tra­tion and fail­ure. An under­stand­ing of the func­tion of frus­tra­tion and fail­ure in children’s learn­ing process will help you give chil­dren the free­dom they must have in order to learn and feel successful.

Frus­tra­tion and fail­ure are not always neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences. While too much frus­tra­tion can indeed be over­whelm­ing, some frus­tra­tion is essen­tial on the path­way to suc­cess. Expe­ri­ences of fail­ure are also essen­tial before chil­dren can expe­ri­ence the joy of suc­cess. When fac­ing a chal­lenge or attempt­ing to solve a prob­lem, chil­dren must first expe­ri­ence what does not work to help them fig­ure out what does work. Allow­ing chil­dren to exper­i­ment and keep on try­ing on their own even if they don’t get it right the first time gives them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to feel a sense of tri­umph when they do suc­ceed. Their tri­umph shows in their eyes and their smiles. Such tri­umphs are the build­ing blocks of pos­i­tive self-esteem.

Fail­ing to allow chil­dren to exper­i­ment and keep on try­ing on their own teach­es chil­dren to expect either (1) that they are not capa­ble of fig­ur­ing things out on their own or (2) that mak­ing the effort to do so is not important.

Your inter­ac­tions with chil­dren teach chil­dren either (1) to exper­i­ment, keep try­ing even when they are frus­trat­ed, and final­ly suc­ceed, and thus build their self-esteem or (2) to expect that they can­not suc­cess­ful­ly com­plete a task on their own, and thus erode their self-esteem. 

Chil­dren who feel that they are inca­pable expect them­selves to fail. This atti­tude leads to feel­ings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Chil­dren who are not allowed to keep exper­i­ment­ing on their own until they have dis­cov­ered what works will stop try­ing to do things by them­selves. They will lose their nat­ur­al curios­i­ty and per­sis­tence. They will learn to pas­sive­ly go along with the adult’s behav­ior rather than active­ly seek to solve prob­lems on their own.

Chil­dren do not mea­sure suc­cess in the same man­ner as adults. Chil­dren are more inter­est­ed in the process than the prod­uct. Successes—even the tiny ones that may seem insignif­i­cant from an adult point of view—are sig­nif­i­cant to chil­dren. Every suc­cess moti­vates the child to con­tin­ue learn­ing and con­tributes to the devel­op­ment of pos­i­tive self-esteem.

Chil­dren need many oppor­tu­ni­ties for spon­ta­neous, self-paced, child-con­trolled play. Play is the ide­al way for young chil­dren to learn. Read our blog on the ben­e­fits of block play!

Take our course Child Devel­op­ment and Guid­ance to learn more!

Let us know how we can be of addi­tion­al assis­tance! Call us: 1–800-685‑7610, Mon­day through Fri­day, 9–5 ET, or email us days, evenings, and week­ends: We’re here to help!

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