In the ever-evolving landscape of parenting and education, one constant remains—our desire to see our children grow into strong, resilient individuals who can overcome life’s challenges. As parents and educators, we’ve always believed in the importance of ambition and determination. But it’s crucial to recognize their significance in teaching young children.
Picture a lively classroom filled with enthusiastic kids who have all sorts of dreams. However, there’s a problem in this vibrant mix: many of these students prefer instant gratification over working hard to overcome obstacles.
Teachers often find that the issue isn’t solely related to the students’ desire or ability to succeed; rather, it often pertains to their limited exposure to socio-economic opportunities that can help them cultivate ambition and determination. Ambition and determination are not elusive traits reserved for a fortunate few; they are qualities that can and should be instilled in every young heart.
This realization sparks a series of insights on how to impart these essential life skills to young children. I reached out to New Jersey reading and mathematics teacher, Susan Ben Abdallah, for her insight and tips.
Stay Focused On Your Goal
Early in life, we learn that setbacks are part of any adventure. It becomes crucial to teach children to stay focused on their goals, even when the going gets tough. By allowing children to encounter challenges and providing them with the time and basic materials to explore their interests, a transformation is witnessed.
“In school, we teach students and families about the importance of productive struggle, that students need opportunities to be challenged and learn how to work through these challenges. It is what helps them develop perseverance. In early childhood, another key principle is allowing kids to have time and basic materials to explore their interests, encounter challenges, and overcome the challenges,” says Ben Abdallah.
During a typical school day, teachers emphasize the significance of constructive challenges to students and their families by conveying the idea that students require the chance to face difficulties and acquire problem-solving skills. This process fosters their resilience. During the early stages of childhood development, another essential principle involves granting children the time and basic resources to explore their interests, confront challenges, and successfully overcome them.
Ben Abdallah shares an example. “Recently I watched a five-year-old use two shades of construction paper, scissors and a glue stick to create a wearable purse. When she encountered challenges, she didn’t ask for help, cry or give up, she preserved because she had been taught how to.”
Hard Work Pays Off
Ben Abdallah believes hard work and growth-mindset go hand in hand. She shares, “It is important for students to understand that we are not born with fixed intelligence and while some things may come easier to some people, hardwork is the way to make tasks easier for us. Hard work is necessary for success!”
It’s Okay To Be Different
“The uniqueness of each child resonates with us. We see the need to celebrate individuality and help children understand that their dreams can be distinct from others. We need to move away from the idea that academic success is the only important measure in a school. Trades, the arts and technology need to be added so that students have a wide variety of topics to explore,” says Ben Abdallah.
Celebrate Small Victories
The journey also teaches us the importance of celebrating achievements, no matter how small, as we work toward larger goals. “To make this concept tangible for students, we break down their goals into smaller, achievable steps. Together, we create visual aids like posters and digital documents to track progress. Celebrations need not be grand events; a positive phone call or a note home could work wonders. The crucial message is that hard work and small steps are integral to achieving dreams,” says Ben Abdallah.
As we reflect on our roles as parents and educators, we see a hopeful horizon. Teaching ambition and determination to young children is not just an aspiration; it’s a tangible goal. As we continue to evolve in our approach to education and parenting, let us remember that we have the power to shape ambitious and determined individuals who can navigate life’s challenges with grace.
By staying focused on goals, emphasizing hard work, celebrating uniqueness, and cherishing small victories, we can nurture these qualities in our children. The potential for evolution in our educational systems is vast, and by harnessing it, we can empower the next generation to achieve greatness, one determined step at a time.
Cheryl Olsten is the former publisher of two New Jersey magazines, New Jersey Life and New Jersey Health and Beauty. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband. Her role as a children's author marks the culmination of her background in visual arts and communication. This path has led her to a fulfilling place: creating cherished stories for children, particularly through picture books. Her passion for storytelling and collaboration with skilled illustrators breathe life into her narratives. Mimi and the Gold Baton, her second book, exemplifies her commitment to themes of resilience, unwavering determination, and heartwarming conclusions.