Grit is the passion and perseverance to strive for long-term goals despite discomfort. This includes working hard, enduring struggles, and trying again in the face of failure. Grit is not only a better predictor of future earnings than intelligence and talent, it is also a better predictor of future happiness.
The most supportive parenting stance used in helping children develop grit has been referred to as “wise parenting.” The “wise parent” is one who is warm and supportive (kind and helpful), respectful (of your child’s identity, point of view, privacy), and demanding (holds expectations and accountability regarding family rules and values without punishment). This has also been referred to as “love, latitude, and limits.”
The main ingredients your child needs to grow grit are interest, practice, purpose, and hope. If you would like to help your child develop grit, consider the suggestions below.
Create Opportunity: Introduce your child to a variety of new experiences. For example, before choosing what instrument they will play, let them see, hear, and touch a variety of instruments.
Invest and Commit to Your Child’s Interests: The greater your child’s interest in an activity, the more likely they will persist. Help your child choose an activity they are most interested in, and then commit to investing and supporting them in developing that interest. Have at least one extra-curricular activity that you enroll them in year after year. Invest extra time helping them develop the skills necessary for this particular activity.
Insist That Your Child Honors Their Commitments: Acquiring a new skill is often initially exciting— when learning happens quickly—but after which further skill development usually becomes effortful and less noticeable. It is at this time that you will need to emphasize practice and offer greater emotional support, while remaining firm that your child persists. Insisting that your child honors their commitments, rather than quit, allows them the opportunity to experience the benefits of persistence, learn how to better tolerate frustration, and emphasizes the family values of loyalty and commitment.
Allow Your Child to Experience Manageable Frustration: Learning from challenges and failure are key for children to make the connection that achievement does not come easily. Only when we experience frustration first-hand can we learn that effort can lead to learning. Frustration is an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity to learn how to overcome challenges. Create situations where your child must undertake tasks just a bit above their skill level and encourage them to try what they cannot yet do. Encourage risk taking and put challenges in front of them. Praise their bravery. Tell your child when you personally take risks, too, and explain how you handle failure with dignity.
Provide the Necessary Support to Overcome Frustration: Repeated failure—especially without the experience of overcoming the failures—can discourage a child from taking on challenges in the future. Be sure to work with and support your child in overcoming their failures. Teach them the skills they need to be successful, and then offer emotional support as they tackle the challenge again independently.
Set Goals Together: Encourage your child to set goals and support them in developing a plan to achieve those goals. Establish daily routines that allow for practice and eventual attainment of those goals.
Teach a Process: When faced with challenges, help your child set a small specific goal related to their performance, help them to focus on this goal and strategize how to achieve it, and encourage them to seek feedback on this particular aspect of their performance from others. Once they have attained their goal, set another small specific goal and continue with the process.
See the Summer 2020 Edition of Family Matters for more ideas related to purpose and hope.
Reference: Duckworth, Angela. Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner, 2018. Written by Dr. Sherry Van Blyderveen, Clinical Psychologist, with New Leaf Psychology Centre. www.newleafpsychology.ca Also on Facebook and Twitter