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The importance of grit in children & how to nurture this value
Suzi Kuban
April 24, 2018

The importance of grit in children & how to nurture this value

When passion meets perserverance

How to develop grit in children

Not having an article about grit on a childhood skills development blog is like not listing chocolate in a chocolate cake recipe. One just cannot exist without the other!

What is grit?

Grit has been the buzzword for parents and schools ever since Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk in 2013.  

In case you don’t know her, she is the psychologist and researcher who coined the term ‘grit’. Her research found grit is the difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she states, “Natural talent is nothing without grit”. Psychologists even link grit with happiness and success.

With these bold statements, it is no wonder parents and teachers around the world are focusing on this one value over others.

In this article, you will discover a few simple ways to positively nurture the value of grit in your child/students.  

Three different ways to increase levels of grit

1. PASSION

Duckworth says “To be gritty, in my view, is to have passion and perseverance for something in your life. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily engage in all possible pursuits with equivalent passion and perseverance” 

From this statement, one can surmise that we cannot measure a child’s level of grit solely based on grades, attendance, and homework for every subject (or even any subject in some cases!). Grit needs to be considered in the context of a passion/interest or goal.

In Duckworth’s research, she specifically studied the people in professions and events that require high-interest levels - (novice teachers in tough American neighbourhoods, Spelling Bee participants, and United States Military cadets). Therefore it is no wonder Duckworth found grit to be the most significant predictor of success in these situations.

“To be gritty means to pursue something with the consistency of interest and effort. Some people choose not to pursue anything in a committed way, and that, to me, is lack of grit,” says Duckworth 

Therefore, one way to support the development of grit in your child or students is to help them discover a passion and facilitate opportunities for them to explore and participate in the subject/activity further. If the interest grows, encourage them to create long-term goals and plans for which they can become gritty over.

Next week we will be exploring the subject of passion so make sure you sign up for our newsletter

Passion helps develop grit
Encourage children to deep dive into a passion

2. PRAISE

Praise effort over outcome!

For sure you have heard this piece of advice before, it’s been around for generations - it’s what I do for my children, what my parents did for me, and what my grandparents did for my parents. But perhaps if you can understand how it's linked to grit, you will invest extra energy into consciously praising the journey, not the destination.

If you continuously praise a child for being smart, it can result in them developing something called a “fixed mindset” – which is the belief that their basic qualities, like intelligence, are fixed traits that cannot be changed. They will resist putting in the effort to develop their skills or understand a subject further, as their belief is they are simply no good at that subject, and no amount of persistence will change that fact.

However, if we praise a child for effort and progression, we can foster a “growth mindset” – which is the belief that their ability to learn and develop new skills can change when they apply effort and focus. Duckworth believes that “when kids understand the brain grows in response to a challenge, they’re more likely to persevere when they fail” i.e. develop grit!

Mindset is an idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Learn more by watching her TED Talk

Effort is more important than outcome!

3. EXAMPLE

Here is another oldie but goodie – “lead by example”.

Considered to be the foundation of effective parenting, leading by example helps a child develop particular values and behaviours through observing and modelling others. This includes grit!

Duckworth suggests being surrounded by people with both passion and perseverance towards their goals, helps to nurture the mindset required to increase resilience and grit.

Young children are like sponges, soaking everything up around them, so in this instance focus on your words and actions. For example, if they fall, encourage them to get back up and keep trying (and don't forget to praise the effort!) Helicopter parenting beware!

When it comes to teens, you need to take a different, more open approach. Our in-house Skills 21 experts have suggested the best method is for a parent or teacher to learn all they can about grit so they can become gritty themselves. Teens can spot a fake miles away! Over time develop regular two-way conversations with you teen about your goals and journey to achieving them, as well as theirs.

Do not forget! You should avoid telling them what to do, preferably you will coach them towards managing their frustrations and setbacks with open-ended questions and reflections that get them thinking.

Read our Arc Skills blog on developing grit in yourself 

Be part of their journey towards grit

Is grit the most important virtue?

Grit is an outstanding value to have – the research proves it! But be mindful that grit is not the only value that is important. 

Would you rather your child be gritty or kind? Positive or persistent? Truthful or determined? Luckily you don’t have to choose just one. You can use the three tips shared today to develop a holistic range of values that will help your child successfully navigate their life path.

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References

Angela Duckworth, Grit Q&A

Angela Duckworth, TedTalk, Grit the power of passion and perseverance

Carol Dweck, TedTalk, The power of believing you can improve