Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

How to Use the 'Batman Effect' to Teach Kids Perseverance

This simple strategy teaches kids not to give up.

Source: Fotolia

It's tough to teach kids perseverance and mental strength in the modern world. Technology allows for instant gratification and our digital devices offer an easy escape when things get tough.

Kids have shorter attention spans and less patience than ever when things aren't going their way. The good news is, perseverance is a skill that can be learned, even in the age of electronics.

Although there are many mental strength exercises that will teach your kids to stay the course, the Batman Effect is a fun and simple way to show kids they're stronger than they think.

Why Perseverance Matters

Why would you want to be able to keep going when something is painful, boring, or frustrating? Well, studies show people with perseverance do better in almost all areas of their lives.

A 2003 study published in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies found that the ability to push through discomfort is linked to higher intelligence, more academic achievement, and better work performance.

Without perseverance, kids may grow up to become adults who quit whenever they encounter a challenge. That may mean quitting a job when they don't get the first promotion they seek or ending relationships every time they encounter communication difficulties.

How the Batman Effect Works

Telling your child to pretend to be Batman, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, or another hardworking character could increase her ability to persevere, according to a 2016 study published in Child Development.

Researchers tested this theory on 4 and 6-year-old children. They assigned all of the children a boring task on a computer.

The children were told to work as long and as hard as they could—and they were warned the task would be boring. But, they were also told they could take a break whenever they wanted to play a fun game on a tablet.

The children were divided into three groups:

  • Group one - Researchers instructed them to periodically ask themselves, "Am I working hard?"
  • Group two - Researchers instructed them to refer to themselves in the third person. They periodically asked themselves, "Is ______ working hard?" (they filled in the blank with their own names).
  • Group three - Researchers instructed them to pretend they were a hard working character like Batman or Dora the Explorer. They were given a prop, like a cape, to remind themselves to act like their character. Then, they were told to periodically ask themselves if their character was working hard, such as, "Is Batman working hard?"

The children who referred to themselves in the first-person took the most breaks and struggled to get through the task. The children who referred to themselves in the third person did a little better—most likely because they were able to separate themselves from their emotions by referring to themselves in the third person.

The third group performed the best. Researchers suspect taking on the characteristics of a hard-working character gave them confidence that they could keep going.

How to Use the Batman Effect in Your Home

Whether you're trying to motivate your child to clean her room or you're attempting to get her to finish her homework, the Batman Effect might give her the edge she needs.

Identify one of your child's favorite characters—make sure it's someone who is hard working, like Rapunzel. Then say, "Pretend to be Rapunzel and do your work the same way Rapunzel would do it."

Check in on her periodically by asking, "How's it going in there, Rapunzel?" You'll likely find she's able to perform better than usual.

Each time your child successfully perseveres, she'll build the mental strength she needs to do hard things. And the more confident she becomes, the more challenges she'll tackle.

More from Amy Morin
More from Psychology Today
More from Amy Morin
More from Psychology Today