You want your kid to be smart, athletic, and talented. But will that add up to success? Are you raising a gritty kid? Being a mom of four, the idea of success has often crossed my mind. I ask myself if I am doing everything I can to ensure their future success. I wonder how can I help my kids so they will go on to meet the challenges of life with bravery and grace.
Does hard work counteract any lack of talent your kids have? Can you teach talent? With these questions in mind, I recently dove into the New York Times Bestseller “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth Ph.D. She has been studying the science of success since 2005. What she found is that success is closely tied to grit. She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” In other words, grit means being passionate and persistent enough to keep going, even when goals are difficult. Even with failure.
Notice that Duckworth doesn’t say that success is measured by talent. Which is good news for us parents. Because although it’s hard to teach talent, it is possible to teach grit. It won’t be easy though. Most of us are programmed to believe that our talent and intelligence is fixed. We even reinforce those ideas to our kids with phrases such as, “You are so good at math” or “You have always been amazing at drawing.” They sound nice sentiments, but kids can lose the important message that if you want to be successful at something, it takes more than talent. It takes grit. What does it take to raise a gritty kid? Try these ideas:
Find their passion
A big piece of the grit equation is passion. If your child isn’t passionate, or at least interested in what they are doing, they won’t be motivated to pursue it with dogged intensity. In younger years, this might mean letting them try different activities. Help them find things that set their interest and heart on fire. Let them choose what they enjoy.
Make them stick to it
During her research, Angela Duckworth found that finding fun activities isn’t enough to develop gritty kids. Instead, your child needs to be able to stick with an extracurricular for more than just a month or two. The magic number? At least two successive years. While that might not always be realistic for younger kids, encourage your teens to stay with an activity for two years or more. That stick-to-it attitude will help them develop grit that will translate into other areas of their lives.
Create a gritty culture for gritty kids
Raising gritty kids means creating a gritty culture in your family. Create a vision. Establish a family motto. Recite quotes that encourage your family to work hard and keep trying when the going gets tough. You can create a culture of support for one another. Part of this includes cultivating a growth mindset for yourself and for your kids. Instead of talking about talent as if it is a fixed point, discuss how hard your kids have worked when they achieve something difficult. Remind them that they can be better and work harder. Praise the effort they put into their activities, not the outcome.
Need ideas for communicating with your kids. Check out “Your kids want to talk to you. 10 tips for better communication”.
One of the best ways to encourage gritty kids is to show them. Show them what passion and perseverance do in your life. They are watching and they’ll see how to keep working and keep trying, by how hard you work and try. Not only will they notice your grit, but they’ll also start to emulate it as well. Don’t give up. Be quick to point out what it means to fail and struggle, but keep trying.
Hard Thing Rule for gritty kids
Although she’s quick to admit that there needs to be more research done on parenting for grit, Duckworth offers her own solution for helping kids develop grit. It’s one she uses with her own kids. The Hard Thing Rule for gritty kids. Her rule has four main components. They are:
- Everyone has a hard thing. Outside of work and school, every member of the family is required to participate in one hard thing. For mom and dad, this might mean taking up yoga or running. Kids can choose an extracurricular activity such as music lessons or dance. The important thing is that everyone has something hard that requires deliberate daily practice.
- You are allowed to quit your hard thing, but only at a natural stopping point such as the end of a season. No one is allowed to quit after a hard day, a major loss, or because they are just “too tired.”
- You get to pick your own hard thing. It’s hard to be excited about going to soccer if you hate it. Let your kids choose their own hard thing.
- For teens on up, you must commit to a hard thing for at least two years.
Developing a family culture of grit and teaching your kids to be gritty isn’t easy. But as you work to encourage passion and perseverance in your kids, they’ll become grittier. Which means great things for their future success in life.