Let’s Get Gritty!

Are you gritty? Are your kids? I’m not talking about having gravel in your shoes from hiking in the desert! “Grit” is the term Angela Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania psychologist and researcher, uses to describe a high level of persistence. Taking on and sticking with a challenge, even when it’s not fun, is one of the highest predictors of success in life because mastering a challenge grows our confidence in our ability to handle the next one—and life is full of them!

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Duckworth summarizes her research about what makes grit so important and how to grow it in ourselves and our children. There’s too much to address in one article so I will spend the next couple of months highlighting what I consider her most important points.

Duckworth encourages parents to look at school as a place to practice “getting gritty.” As you assess your child’s performance, maybe you’re noticing that he’s sailing through without a lot of effort. Easy A’s feel good in the moment, but the longer kids go without a challenge, the more they are at risk of giving up too quickly when they encounter something difficult. Talk to elementary teachers about adding some challenging assignments that will require more time and effort. Junior and senior high counselors can guide your child toward honors level classes that provide opportunities for digging deeper into his grit reserves.

If your child is struggling in school, he needs you and his teachers to work together to help him learn persistence. When you hear, “I can’t do it!” respond with, “I know it’s hard. Let’s figure it out together.” Then help him set up appointments for getting assistance from the teacher outside of class, retaking tests, redoing assignments, whatever it takes to master that tough curriculum!

It’s a very natural reaction to avoid what is difficult, and many kids do that while their parents groan about how their children don’t know how to work hard. Rather than groaning, parents need to get gritty themselves, and insist (kindly and firmly) that the kids learn how! Children who are taught to face and master a challenge gradually think of themselves as able to face and master challenges. Teaching grit skills takes parents’ time up front, but gradually, kids will take on the hard work themselves because they will have experienced success and will want more of it. When that happens, it’s gratifying for parents and kids alike!

So…gritty kids need gritty parents. Make a family rule that says: No giving up! Talk about the challenges you face (and the ones you faced when you were young) and how you’re conquering them, and support your children in conquering theirs. Work together, be a team, and make 2017 the Year of Grit!

Eva Dwight is a parent, family and personal coach.  For more information, go to www.creativecoachingconversations.com.