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 parenting stance most supportive of children developing 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.
Talk about Your Family’s Values: Connect the things your child does on a day-to-day basis to core family values. For example, talk about the importance of determination, hard work, loyalty, and commitment.
Emphasize the Impact on Others: Connect what your child is doing to other people so they can get a larger sense of purpose. Emphasize the social value of what they do.
Examples: For sports, emphasize their approach to learning a new skill, the importance of challenging the body, connecting with other people, and good sportsmanship. For the arts, you may emphasize the value of emotional expression and creating an emotional experience for others.
Encourage a Growth Mindset: Do not attribute accomplishments to intelligence or talent – why work hard for something you believe you cannot change? Teach your child that innate talent and intelligence do NOT promise anything, it is only with perseverance that people are able to accomplish their goals. Instill in your child the hope that with persistence they can grow. Praise your child for their tenacity and determination rather than being “smart” or “talented”.
Avoid a Focus on Outcomes: Focus your comments and feedback on your child’s approach to challenges (their behavior), rather than outcomes (failure or accomplishment). Teach your child that what matters is how they approach the world. Resist the temptation to improve your child’s approach, as constant intervention or criticism undermines confidence and interrupts the learning process. Perfection is not the goal.
Provide Support When Your Child Experiences Frustration: In order to learn in the face of adversity, and to increase your child’s optimism and hope, they will need your warmth and support. What you say to them, they will eventually say to themselves. Let them know 1) that you understand their frustration and that you can see that the situation is indeed difficult, 2) that you have faith they will overcome the situation if they persist, and 3) that you are right there with them to offer suggestions if they wish or to pick them up if they fall.
Failure as Opportunity: Teach your child that failure is nothing to be afraid of, it is not a permanent condition. Failure is not the end, but rather it highlights opportunities for learning, growth and connection. When your child struggles, provide support, remind them this could be an opportunity, and offer to brainstorm ideas with them.
Live It Yourself: Create a culture of grit in your family and live by it yourself. Model the setting of goals and priorities, and then sticking to it to completion. For example, set a “Hard Thing Rule” in your house, where every member of the family is working on something difficult for them that is both interesting and requires deliberate daily practice. Everyone must stick to their selected challenge for a set period of time, and no one is allowed to quit or change their goal midway. Try new things that do not come easily to you and talk about it.
Control Your Anxiety: Allow your child to try things and do them independently. Do activities with them, rather than for them. Remain focused on the positive and keep your criticism in check.
See the Spring 2020 Edition of Family Matters for more ideas related to interest and practice.
Written By: Dr. Sherry Van Blyderveen, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, New Leaf Psychology Centre
Reference: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance