Understanding Your Child’s Temperament: Persistence
While watching my toddler grandson try to insert an octagonal shape into a circular shape-sorter slot, I was reminded of the persistence trait. He was determined to make the piece fit even though he was not being rewarded for these attempts. This is highly persistent behavior.
A child low on the persistence temperament scale would be more likely to try once or twice and then move on to something he’s more able to accomplish.
As with all temperament traits, there are helpful things and not-so-helpful things about both ends of the persistence trait.
A very persistent child
- May have a hard time leaving an unfinished project behind. If the project needs to be interrupted, give this child an advanced warning: “We are going to leave in a few moments. You’ll need to stop working on this when we go.” Be sure to add, if possible: “We’ll save it and you can get back to it when we return.”
- May take on challenges that are beyond his skill level. It’s helpful to break down the task into smaller steps that he can do. “Let’s see if we can get these three puzzle pieces to fit together first. Then, let’s figure out another piece that might fit with them.”
- May do things the hard way because he doesn’t like to ask for help. Directed encouragement might be helpful: “I think you’re very clever to try this by yourself. I think if you turn that puzzle piece just a little, you might make it fit.” Or, “I’m so proud of you for wanting to do this on your own. It took me a while to learn how. Here is something I tried when I was learning.”
- May have difficulty moving away from something that has captured his interest even if that thing is harmful. Small children have little sense of danger or understanding of the value of property or the feelings of others. It is up to parents to keep them safe and prevent them from harming others. Remain firm, even in the face of your child’s persistence. If you give in to stop the upset, you’re teaching your child a lesson that will not be helpful for either of you.
A child with very little persistence
- May become frustrated with and give up easily on simple tasks. Break tasks, even those that are easily within your child’s skill level, into smaller steps. Make sure your directions are clear and understood by your child. Encourage and acknowledge the accomplishment of each step.
- Tends to stick with things he knows well and avoids unfamiliar things. When your child has mastered a particular task, add small adjustments to encourage him to press his accomplishment forward.
- May struggle with and give up on learning new skills. This often displays itself when learning self-help skills, like putting on his own jacket or tying his own shoes. Again, these skills are best taught in very small steps for the child who is not persistent. Maybe you can put the jacket on and start the zipper and have him finish zipping. Or maybe you can encourage the child to tighten the laces on his shoes for you and then you will finish tying them.
If you’d like to find out what your child’s temperament scores are like, email the child’s date of birth and your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.