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New Research: When Parents Back Off, Kids Become Resilient


What kind of study was this?

This article presents two types of studies: an observational study (that just observes and measures how kids perform without manipulating anything) and an experimental study (that randomly assigns kids to different groups that are exposed to different conditions).

What did researchers want to know?

They wanted to know how common parenting behaviors, like completing a child’s task or solving a child’s problem, affect children’s persistence in the face of challenge.  

What did the researchers actually do?

They started with an observational study where researchers watched parent-child interaction as children (ages 4-8) solved puzzles. They measured various types of parent behavior such as encouragement to persist, encouragement to quit, direct instruction, taking over, and asking teaching questions.

In a separate experimental study, researchers asked children to complete a puzzle and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions: 1) an adult took over when the child ran into problems; 2) an adult helped indirectly by asking teaching questions and offering encouragement; or 3) there was no adult interaction. Then they had the kids work on a second puzzle alone and measured how long they persisted at the puzzle.

What did the researchers find?

In the first study, they found that parents who took over for their kids, rated their kids less persistent. In the second study, they found that kids who were in the “adult takes over” group, didn’t persist as long as the kids in the second and third groups. Interestingly, there was no difference in persistence between the second group that received encouragement and teaching questions and the third group that received no adult interaction at all.

What does this mean for parents and kids?

Less may be more when it comes to helping kids with challenging tasks. Obviously, if there is time pressure or the situation is high-risk, then building persistence becomes way less important. But in normal educational and play environments, less adult intervention may build resilience in kids.

Original article: Leonard, J.A., Martinez, D.N., Dashineau, S.C., Park, A.T. and Mackey, A.P. (2021), Children Persist Less When Adults Take Over. Child Dev. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13492

New Research: When Parents Back Off, Kids Become Resilient

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New Research: When Parents Back Off, Kids Become Resilient

When parents take over tasks and solve problems in which kids are engaged, kids are more likely to give up on future tasks and problems.

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What kind of study was this?

This article presents two types of studies: an observational study (that just observes and measures how kids perform without manipulating anything) and an experimental study (that randomly assigns kids to different groups that are exposed to different conditions).

What did researchers want to know?

They wanted to know how common parenting behaviors, like completing a child’s task or solving a child’s problem, affect children’s persistence in the face of challenge.  

What did the researchers actually do?

They started with an observational study where researchers watched parent-child interaction as children (ages 4-8) solved puzzles. They measured various types of parent behavior such as encouragement to persist, encouragement to quit, direct instruction, taking over, and asking teaching questions.

In a separate experimental study, researchers asked children to complete a puzzle and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions: 1) an adult took over when the child ran into problems; 2) an adult helped indirectly by asking teaching questions and offering encouragement; or 3) there was no adult interaction. Then they had the kids work on a second puzzle alone and measured how long they persisted at the puzzle.

What did the researchers find?

In the first study, they found that parents who took over for their kids, rated their kids less persistent. In the second study, they found that kids who were in the “adult takes over” group, didn’t persist as long as the kids in the second and third groups. Interestingly, there was no difference in persistence between the second group that received encouragement and teaching questions and the third group that received no adult interaction at all.

What does this mean for parents and kids?

Less may be more when it comes to helping kids with challenging tasks. Obviously, if there is time pressure or the situation is high-risk, then building persistence becomes way less important. But in normal educational and play environments, less adult intervention may build resilience in kids.

Original article: Leonard, J.A., Martinez, D.N., Dashineau, S.C., Park, A.T. and Mackey, A.P. (2021), Children Persist Less When Adults Take Over. Child Dev. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13492


What kind of study was this?

This article presents two types of studies: an observational study (that just observes and measures how kids perform without manipulating anything) and an experimental study (that randomly assigns kids to different groups that are exposed to different conditions).

What did researchers want to know?

They wanted to know how common parenting behaviors, like completing a child’s task or solving a child’s problem, affect children’s persistence in the face of challenge.  

What did the researchers actually do?

They started with an observational study where researchers watched parent-child interaction as children (ages 4-8) solved puzzles. They measured various types of parent behavior such as encouragement to persist, encouragement to quit, direct instruction, taking over, and asking teaching questions.

In a separate experimental study, researchers asked children to complete a puzzle and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions: 1) an adult took over when the child ran into problems; 2) an adult helped indirectly by asking teaching questions and offering encouragement; or 3) there was no adult interaction. Then they had the kids work on a second puzzle alone and measured how long they persisted at the puzzle.

What did the researchers find?

In the first study, they found that parents who took over for their kids, rated their kids less persistent. In the second study, they found that kids who were in the “adult takes over” group, didn’t persist as long as the kids in the second and third groups. Interestingly, there was no difference in persistence between the second group that received encouragement and teaching questions and the third group that received no adult interaction at all.

What does this mean for parents and kids?

Less may be more when it comes to helping kids with challenging tasks. Obviously, if there is time pressure or the situation is high-risk, then building persistence becomes way less important. But in normal educational and play environments, less adult intervention may build resilience in kids.

Original article: Leonard, J.A., Martinez, D.N., Dashineau, S.C., Park, A.T. and Mackey, A.P. (2021), Children Persist Less When Adults Take Over. Child Dev. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13492


What kind of study was this?

This article presents two types of studies: an observational study (that just observes and measures how kids perform without manipulating anything) and an experimental study (that randomly assigns kids to different groups that are exposed to different conditions).

What did researchers want to know?

They wanted to know how common parenting behaviors, like completing a child’s task or solving a child’s problem, affect children’s persistence in the face of challenge.  

What did the researchers actually do?

They started with an observational study where researchers watched parent-child interaction as children (ages 4-8) solved puzzles. They measured various types of parent behavior such as encouragement to persist, encouragement to quit, direct instruction, taking over, and asking teaching questions.

In a separate experimental study, researchers asked children to complete a puzzle and randomly assigned them to one of three conditions: 1) an adult took over when the child ran into problems; 2) an adult helped indirectly by asking teaching questions and offering encouragement; or 3) there was no adult interaction. Then they had the kids work on a second puzzle alone and measured how long they persisted at the puzzle.

What did the researchers find?

In the first study, they found that parents who took over for their kids, rated their kids less persistent. In the second study, they found that kids who were in the “adult takes over” group, didn’t persist as long as the kids in the second and third groups. Interestingly, there was no difference in persistence between the second group that received encouragement and teaching questions and the third group that received no adult interaction at all.

What does this mean for parents and kids?

Less may be more when it comes to helping kids with challenging tasks. Obviously, if there is time pressure or the situation is high-risk, then building persistence becomes way less important. But in normal educational and play environments, less adult intervention may build resilience in kids.

Original article: Leonard, J.A., Martinez, D.N., Dashineau, S.C., Park, A.T. and Mackey, A.P. (2021), Children Persist Less When Adults Take Over. Child Dev. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13492

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