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Watch — Psychology Professor Allyson Mackey Recaps New Education Research Showing Kids Give Up Easier If Parents Step In To Help

February 22, 2021

Most parents know that if they want their child to learn how to do something they need to resist the overwhelming temptation to step in and do it for them. Now, new research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that is not just true for the task at hand, but for how well children will persevere throughout their life. In an experiment conducted pre-pandemic, children who were given a preliminary puzzle and struggled for a short time before lab technicians took over and solved it for them persisted in a second — and harder — task for half as long as children who had been guided by teaching in the first puzzle or kids who received no preliminary assignment. (Read more about the full findings here) Allyson Mackey, a psychology professor at UPenn who co-authored the study, explains that during the pandemic parents are more exposed than ever to their children wrestling with assignments and so need to keep themselves in check. “If [children] learn from their parents that they shouldn’t try, either because they’re likely to fail, or because someone else will do it for them, then they won’t practice trying,” said Mackey, the mother of two young children. “That will have long-term implications for reward and motivation circuitry in the brain.”

—Edited by James Fields