I recently came across a Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth entitled “The Key to Success? Grit.”
Angela left a successful job in consulting to become a 7th grade math teacher in New York. What she realized from this experience and from research she conducted afterward is that IQ, socioeconomic status, and a sense of security in school did not particularly translate to successful children.
The differentiating factor was what she calls “grit.”
What exactly is Grit?
- firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
- perseverance and passion for long-term goals. (Wikipedia)
- firmness of character; indomitable spirit. (Dictionary.com)
To gain a better understanding of Angela’s findings which connect success to grit, check out her Ted Talk:
How to Set Your Child Up for Success—Tips for Instilling Grit in Kids
1. Encourage them to keep trying.
Kids can easily get frustrated, but it’s essential for them to learn to try again.
As parents, we are our children’s biggest cheerleaders. So when they fall—which they inevitably will, and that’s not a bad thing!—we need to encourage them to pick themselves back up again. Simple phrases like “Why don’t you try again?” or “Let’s give it another shot!” go a long way.
2. Don’t let them quit easily.
Your kids are probably involved in some activities, whether it’s playing an instrument, participating in sports, or attending the after-school engineering club. It’s important that, whatever the activity is, we parents encourage our kids to stick with it.
Every instrument requires practice; every sport requires hard work. And at some point, most kids will complain about all that practicing and hard work!
If there isn’t a legitimate reason to allow them to stop the activity (i.e. if they just don’t like that it’s cutting into their TV time!), then encourage them to carry on, because this not only makes them “grittier,” but it also instills other important virtues, such as perseverance, hard work, and patience.
3. Let them see a task from start to finish.
We often love starting new things, but when the excitement runs out, it becomes a dreaded chore to finish what we started.
Our kids often face the same struggle, but in order to be successful, they need to understand the importance of finishing what you start.
Some simple activities that help kids see a project through to completion are: working on a difficult puzzle together as a family, building something out of Legos or other construction toys, creating crafts, cooking or baking together, and household chores.
4. Allow them to make mistakes—and then learn from them.
It can be hard to resist the urge to rescue our kids when they’re in trouble, but sometimes—when there’s no real danger, of course—we need to let them make their own mistakes.
That might mean your 5-year-old falls off her chair, even after your repeated requests that she not stand up on it.
That might mean your child goes without his sports uniform that he forgot at home, because you aren’t going to run back to school midday to take it to him.
The world isn’t going to stop spinning if these mistakes happen, and they can lead to lifelong lessons that are far more meaningful than the ones we try to instill in our children simply by telling them.
5. Teach them the importance of a job well done.
In the “real world,” sometimes a job completed sloppily is just as bad as a job not completed at all.
So when your daughter is tempted to rush through her math homework just for the sake of finishing it, encourage her to slow down and give it her best effort. Or when your son shoves his clean laundry in his drawers without bothering to fold it, prod him to try a little harder next time.
6. Support doing the hardest thing first.
“Work before play” is what they say, right?
Delayed gratification is an invaluable life skill. If your child is expected to do homework and set the table in the afternoon, make sure that happens before he goes off to do the things he wants to do, like playing or watching television.
7. Encourage community involvement.
There are always ways that kids can get involved in community service and volunteering.
Sometimes schools or churches need help with tasks like gardening or painting, which are perfect for older kids. Younger kids can help take part in canned food drives or collecting donated clothing.
Getting involved in community service activities not only helps children become “grittier,” but it also teaches them to be generous with their time and energy.
When your child is older and mature enough, you could also allow them to go on a trip or outreach program to do something like build homes for the poor or teach English to those who want to learn to speak it. In these sorts of experiences, they will learn grit, generosity, perseverance, hard work, and countless other virtues. In addition, their eyes will be opened to the reality of life for people in other parts of the country or world.
8. Get them involved in outdoor activities.
There’s something about the great outdoors that encourages grit and resilience in a way that indoor activities simply can’t.
- Go camping. Rough it up, enjoy the beauty of nature and the simple pleasures of life.
- Get kids active by joining junior triathlons or mud runs.
- Go for long walks or bike rides together.
9. Let them learn to say “no” to themselves.
Saying “no” to ourselves is essentially a practice in self-control.
There are times when we should do what we ought to do, instead of what we want to do, and those times help instill grit. This is true for both kids and adults.
Some ideas to help children learn to say “no” to their immediate cravings and desires:
- Limit screen time. Help them see the importance of having a set amount of time when they can watch tv, play with the iPad, etc.
- Avoid snacking when not truly hungry. If they can, many kids will eat every 10 minutes!
- Encourage a regular schedule, going to bed and waking up at regular times.
- Set aside time every day to pray.
Instilling grit in our kids early on will help ensure they grow up grittier as they get older. And the grittier they are, the better chances they have at success in their lives.
Have you heard of this idea of “grit” and its relation to success? How are you helping to set your child up for success?
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