Determination and Resilience

Determination (or grit) and resilience are two similar but distinct skills. 

Determination means having an "I can do this" and "I won't be easily defeated" attitude from the get go. It means being persistent and putting in effort to achieve a goal. 

Resilience on the other hand is something that occurs after one has already encountered a setback. Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges and bounce back.

"[Resilience] is not something that people either have or do not have; resilience is learnable and teachable and as we learn we increase the range of strategies available to us when things get difficult." Rae

I can't do this. This is too hard. This is impossible. I give up. I don't like this game anyway.

This approach didn't work, lets do things differently, what can I change? What else can I try?

1. praise persistence

Praise the effort - not the outcome. Andrea explains that this is important because we don't want children to "base their value and worth based on outcomes of performance, i.e. “I won that game so I’m valuable”". Instead of praising a child for winning a game, we should praise the fact that they used good strategy and thought through carefully what it was that they were going.


Furthermore when we praise talent, ability or intelligence (e.g. 'you're so clever', 'you're so good at chess') "we run the risk of comparison [as] in this mode, there is always someone better, and someone worse at something." Persistence on the other hand is a "[choice] the child can make at any time for anything." 

2.stress that the challenge isn't impossible

SmartGames is a wonderful games company where each of their products comes complete with a booklet of challenges of ascending levels of difficulty. Each challenge also has the answer on the back. In my after school clubs, I photocopy the challenge cards to give to the children and keep the challenge booklet myself. (I think that giving the children the challenge booklet which contains the answer would be a big mistake as it would provide them with a temptation to cheat and/or give up and look at the answer as soon as they start to find the challenge difficult). 


The good thing about the answer booklet however is that if the children knows for sure that there is a solution (which I have access to) then they will know that the challenge isn't impossible. Another benefit is that if a child is really struggling with a challenge - has been putting a lot of effort in but still isn't close to finding the solution - then I am able to give them a helpful pointer. In the game below (Hide and Seek Safari), I can help the child by revealing where one of the pieces goes.


3. model perseverance

Other challenges don't come with an answer book. Katamino, for example, has pages and pages of different challenges but not an answer in sight. This can be a good learning opportunity too. If the adults don't know the answers then they can work with the children on the challenges together. If a child sees that the adult doesn't know the answer, tries multiple possibilities and doesn't get frustrated then they can learn that it's normal not to find the answer right away and it isn't something that they need to get frustrated about.

Example: Katamino

How do you play?

  • Katamino is a puzzle made up of various different shaped pieces, each one the size of 5 squares on the board.

  • Players start the game by placing the board divider at level 3 which creates a 3 by 5 grid of 15 squares.

  • Players choose a challenge from the challenge book which tells them which three shapes they will need to select.

  • Players need to find a way to fit these three shapes in the given space.

  • When they have done that, they take an additional piece (stated in the challenge book), move the board divider to level 4 and arrange the shapes to fit into that space (and so on and so forth).

How does it help to improve determination and resilience?

In Katamino the correct solution is far from obvious. The only way to solve the puzzle is by exploring multiple possibilities which teaches children not to give up if they can't find the answer straight away. Some strategy can be used - the children/students can consider which pieces will be harder to place, which will be easier and consequently where they might fit on the board - but ultimately the puzzle involves lots of trial and error

Katamino is a puzzle that gets progressively harder with each level. This can help to improve self-confidence in one's level of competence - "if I can do level 3 then I'm sure that I can do level 4, and if I can do level 4 then level 5 will be even harder but I'm definitely going to have a go at it."


Example: Match Madness

How do you play?

  • Each player is given five rectangular blocks. Each long side of the rectangle has shapes and colours on it.

  • Players select a challenge card and then need to recreate the pattern shown on the card with their blocks

  • This can be played as a puzzle (with a child/children trying to find the solution) or as game (each child is given their own blocks and they need to see who can find the solution the fastest).

How does it help to improve determination and resilience?

Like Katamino, there is no obvious solution. Players must explore multiple possibilities.