Teaching Kids GRIT
I recently came across this 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 studies she made afterwards was that IQ, socioeconomic status, and a sense of security in school, did not particularly translate to successful children. The differentiating factor was GRIT. This brings us down to providing practical examples of how to help your child succeed by instilling GRIT. But before we go into that, we thought we’d get some definitions of GRIT from various sources….
What exactly is GRIT?
- firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
- Grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” (Wikipedia)
- firmness of character; indomitable spirit (Dictionary.com)
To help gain a better understanding of Angela’s findings relating success to grit, watch her Ted Talk here:
How to help your child succeed by instilling GRIT:
We’ve heard Angela’s talk. Now what exactly can we do to instill grit in our children? Here are some practical examples of what we can do and say to our children….
1. Encourage them.
Kids can easily get frustrated. But the important thing is for them to learn to try again. As parents, we are their biggest cheerleaders. So we should always encourage them to pick themselves up when they fall. Words we can use to encourage our kids:
- “Try again”
- “You can do it”
- “Have another go”
- “Begin and begin again”
2. Don’t let them quit easily.
- Let them learn to play an instrument.
- Get them involved in sports.
- But the key is to let them stick to it. Every instrument will need practice to get better. But at some point, kids will complain of having to practice all the time. Encourage them to carry on, because this not only makes her GRITTIER, but it also instills other virtues, such as perseverance, hard work and patience.
3. Let them see their work or task through from start to end.
We often love starting new things. But when the excitement runs out, it could be a chore to finish what we started. The same is true with our kids. Let them finish what they start.
- Activities to encourage them to finish what they’ve started:
- Work on a difficult puzzle as a family
- Lego or other construction toys
- Creating crafts
- Cooking/baking together
- Pack away. Encourage kids to pack away before moving on to another toy. Toddlers as young as 1 can be taught to pack away, by putting their plate or spoon in or near the sink after eating.
- House chores. My 9-year old daughter’s task is to clean up after meals. This involves: putting dishes in the sink, wiping the table and cleaning the crumbs off the floor with a hand held vacuum. Oftentimes, she does some shortcuts and tries to skip a step or two. So I continuously remind her to finish all her tasks from start to end (even if it is faster for me to do it, rather than having to constantly remind her).
4. Allow them to make mistakes. And let them learn from it.
- Toddlers often have a mind of their own. And just like adults, sometimes it is best they learn from their mistakes. If they fall off a chair, after your repeated requests for them not to stand on the chair, they will never get it until they do actually fall.
- When your child forgets his sports uniform at home, don’t run back to school midday to hand their sports uniform. If they forgot it, allow them to suffer the consequence of forgetting in school. This becomes a lesson for them not to forget the next time around.
5. Let them persevere to finish a job well.
A sloppily done job is as bad as a job not done at all. So encourage the kids to always do their best, whether it be with homework or house chores. Things we could say when it comes to homework:
- “Rub it out and do your best work this time”
- “Have you edited your work?”
6. Let them do the hardest thing first.
This goes hand in hand with delayed gratification. If a child is expected to do homework and set the table in the afternoons, let him do that first, before he goes off doing the stuff that he wants to do like playing or watching TV.
7. Get them to help out in the community or society.
- Some schools or churches sometimes ask for help to do tasks like gardening or painting. Get older kids involved in these. They not only become grittier, but they also learn to be generous of their time and energy.
- If feasible, allow them to go on an overseas outreach program to build homes for the poor or teach English to kids in a third world country. In these sorts of experiences, they will learn grit, generosity, perseverance, hard work and many other virtues. In addition to that, their eyes will be opened to the reality of other people in different parts of the world.
8. Get them involved in outdoor activities.
There are many outdoor activities that encourage grit and resilience. Some ideas:
- 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
9. Let them learn to say ‘NO’ to themselves.
Saying ‘No’ to ourselves is a practice in self-control. If we do things we ought to do, instead of what we want to do, we instill grit. If we control our cravings, instead of giving in to them, we learn to develop grit. And the same goes for our kids. Some ideas to help them say ‘no’ to themselves…
- Limit screen time. Have a set amount of time when they can watch TV, play with the iPad or other video games.
- Avoid snacking. If they can, kids will eat every 10 minutes. Encourage them to eat during the times you set: for most of us, that is breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
- Go to bed at a fixed time. Get up at a fixed time.
- Smile, even when you don’t feel like it.
- 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. The grittier they are, the better chances they have at success in their lives. So let’s help our kids get grittier.